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Fine art of guiding investments into India

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on January 11, 2018

Deepak Bagla, CEO and MD, Invest India

DIPP’s ‘private company’ Invest India has won commitments of $68.55 b from foreign firms

Deepak Bagla tosses a thick file on the coffee table. The file has the name of a large aircraft manufacturer across it in big, bold letters.

“This file,” explains the former investment banker, “contains granular details on 106 parameters for 14 different locations in the country.” A quick flip of the file reveals data on water availability, rail and road links and talent pool.

“If we had been a consultancy such as McKinsey, we could have charged millions of dollars for this document,” says Bagla.

The ‘we’ is Invest India Ltd, the Centre’s official vehicle to promote and facilitate investments, and Bagla its Managing Director and CEO.

Invest India doesn’t charge a dime for its well-researched reports. In the last 18 months, it has handled 70,000 proposals, leading to commitments of $68.55 billion, mostly by foreign firms. These investments will happenover the next few years. As much as $4.5 billion has already come into 222 projects including by Kia Motors, Peugeot, Thyssenkrupp, and Sany Heavy Industries (China).

Importance of being ‘private’

Much of Invest India’s success comes from the way it is structured.

After the NDA government assumed office and launched its Make in India programme, the Centre picked out a small team that used to function from the office of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and converted it into a not-for-profit company, Invest India Ltd.

Since public sector rules make a government-owned company sclerotic, Invest India was made a private company, with the government holding 49 per cent stake. The other 51 per cent was held by FICCI; thereafter, the chamber shared it equally with CII and Nasscom. The government’s 49 per cent is held by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, and the Secretary of DIPP is the de-facto Chairman of Invest India. It works out of Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, where the Ministry of Commerce is housed.

Looking for an operational head for the company, the government zeroed in on Deepak Bagla, who had had stints with the World Bank in Washington DC, Citibank’s Global Corporate and Investment Banking Division, and 3i Private Equity, where he helped it start an India-dedicated fund. At Invest India, Bagla was given a free hand to frame operational rules and to hire people.

The advantage of ‘private’ becomes evident even as you walk into the Invest India’s office. The interior is posh and shiny. Corridors are brightly lit, and conference rooms are equipped for tele-conferencing, with coffee kiosks and almond bowls completing the picture.

There are nodour -looking bureaucrats walking around with bulging files or uniformed peons. Instead, there is freedom in the air — right from the way the employees dress to their easy ways in the presence of the Managing Director.

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A learned coterie

The company has a hundred employees with the average age of 29. Many among the staff, mostly comprising management post-graduates, have quit well-paying jobs to join the company.

For instance, Assistant Vice-President Shankar Ranganathan, an IIM-Calcutta alumnus who had worked for consultancies such as Bain and Company and AT Kearney, joined Invest India taking a 75 per cent pay cut.

Another Assistant Vice-President, Madhumitha Ramanathan, used to work for Goldman Sachs, and Yash Gandhi was on the rolls of Citibank’s investment banking division and Edelweiss Capital. Almost everyone has taken a pay-cut to join Invest India. “I wanted to do something for the country,” said Varda Taneja, who handled Peugeot’s entry into India.

It has also helped that Invest India has direct access to the Prime Minister’s Office and could use that clout to pass smoothly over bureaucratic roadblocks.

Laurels from investors

Deepak Bagla speaks about how Peugeot was won over. It all started with a small news item in Financial Times about the French company wanting to invest in Morocco. Invest India got into the act, and with some push, managed to make a presentation in Paris. Before long, the car-maker was driving into India.

Investors seem pleased with Invest India’s work. Danish wind turbine company Vestas says Invest India made it possible to set up a blade factory in Vadodara in just 15 months. UAE-based NMC Healthcare, founded by BR Shetty, looking to invest $2 billion to set up ‘medicities’ in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, speaks glowingly of how Invest India guided it at every stage. A spokesman of the Spanish wind major, Gamesa, which set up a plant at Nellore in January, is all praise for the Invest India team.

Perhaps, Invest India team gets its persuasiveness from Bagla. He says his pitch to foreign investors is simple: One, an Indian born in 2005 will spend $187,000 in his lifetime. And, multiply that by 1.5 billion.

Two, the pace of urbanisation, which he puts like this: India will need to create a city the size of Chicago every year for ten years.

And, three: India has some 300 million internet users. The first 100 million happened in ten years, the second in three and the third in eight months. Do you want to ignore this market?

The $68.55-billion committed by foreign investors shows that the pitch is working.

Published on May 11, 2017

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