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Tuesday, Dec 02, 2003

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India-EU summit

At the fourth India-EU business summit, the European Commissioner for "external relations", Mr Chris Patten, made the criticism: "India retains the reputation of a hard country in which to do business with excessive red-tape, poor infrastructure and rigid labour laws". Putting on a brave front, India's Foreign Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, countered it saying: "Things have changed. Things have to change". The operative word in Mr Patten's statement is `retains', which implies that nothing really significant has been done by India to rectify the shortcomings.

It is obvious that India has a serious image problem which, if left to fend for itself, will continue to have a bearing on the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI). Industry associations, such as the CII, have done some loud thinking about sharpening the country's "image-making" skills. Efforts made by individual corporations and associations to present a proper image of India are no doubt useful but may not be enough. There is the example of the Japanese government and corporations working together to solve the image problem of Japan which had produced mostly shoddy goods after the Second World War.

The government and industry joined hands in the 1980s and with the emergence of successful companies such as Toyota, Sony and Honda, the image of Japan was turned around as one synonymous with technology.

The Indian government and industry should now work together to improve the country's image.

Kangayam R. Rangaswamy

Madison (US)

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