The US must stop trying to create WTO hurdles in the path of global growth, writes India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.

The world seems to be standing on its head… well, almost. The free trade evangelists of yesterday have turned protectionist. Just look at the US under President Donald Trump. His America First agenda is actually a thinly-veiled protectionist programme that seeks to shield American companies from the competitive headwinds that they were in large measure instrumental in unleashing around the world.

The New Year promises to continue the upward swing in foreign direct investment (FDI) flowing into India, according to the country’s main investment promotion agency.

India’s investment climate has never been better. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to reform-perform-and-transform has conclusively catapulted India into a higher orbit. The last 12 months saw India break into the top-100 club, on ease of doing business, receive a record FDI of $60.1 billion and earn an upgrade in its credit rating from Moody’s.

India’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, Suresh Prabhu, has taken a vehement stand in favour of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and told ‘India Investment Journal’ that the US will come around to its views on food security for the world’s poor.

India has been fighting a battle to protect what it believes are the basic principles of multilateralism on which the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is built. Commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu was in the UK in January, just weeks after a fraught ministerial meeting of the organisation in Buenos Aires which ended in no substantial agreement.

The Narendra Modi government’s relentless efforts to boost domestic manufacturing and generate millions of new jobs in the country are slowly beginning to bear fruit.

The Narendra Modi government’s Make in India initiative seems to be paying dividends. For the first time ever, domestic production of electronics exceeded imports. The domestic output of electronics in 2016-17 was $49.5 billion compared to $43 billion of imports.

India crossed the $300 billion mark at a time when the global economic slowdown has had a dampening impact. This speaks volumes of the opportunity India as an investment destination has to offer and how timely market reforms are creating a positive ecosystem for the international investor.

The government of India has taken up a series of measures to improve Ease of Doing Business in the country. The emphasis has been on simplification and rationalisation of the existing rules and introduction of information technology to make governance more efficient and effective. Today the international investor is all ears to the India story as never before. Almost every decision-making meeting globally has India on its agenda.

As Swedish retail giant IKEA gets set to open up its first India store in Hyderabad this year, ‘India Investment Journal’ catches up with IKEA India’s Deputy Country Manager Patrik Antoni to see how the New Year is likely to pan out for the company.

How do you view 2017 for the company in India?

Very exciting times as we are working towards opening our first India store in Hyderabad by end 2017. Many people in India will soon have access to our home furnishings offer and a unique IKEA shopping experience.

India is a very important market for IKEA. We have been here for 30 years sourcing products for our stores around the world. We are learning a lot from India and we strongly believe that India will influence IKEA globally in a very positive way, both in terms of a retail market and also growing our sourcing landscape with new suppliers, new categories and new materials. We plan to open 25 stores by 2025 in the major Indian cities. So far we have bought land in Hyderabad and Mumbai, we are in parallel looking for sites in the four prioritised cities- Delhi NCR, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

As Managing Director for South Asia and Vice-President, Sales & Marketing Group, of Intel Corporation, Debjani Ghosh is responsible for establishing new growth areas for the US-headquartered tech giant in the region. She works with governments and industry in South Asia to establish policies and initiatives that help accelerate the adoption of technology in the region, especially as an enabler of inclusive growth and development.

Two years into the Digital India, what is the experience of tech collaborators like Intel?

For nearly two decades now, Intel has been committed to digitally transforming India into an empowered society and knowledge economy with a focus on education, skill development and innovation. Now, with the government’s vision for a digital India, we’ve got a higher impetus to drive the next wave of computing among non-urban users, and make an impact at the grassroots level. Our experience shows that public private partnerships and local innovation are two of the key components to achieve the Digital India goals.

Charles, Prince of Wales threw his weight behind a new Education Development Impact Bond (DIB) for India during a recent tour of the country.

A new $10-million DIB has been created by the British Asian Trust (BAT), founded by Charles, Prince of Wales to fight poverty in South Asia, and is designed to improve learning outcomes for thousands of marginalised children in India.

A relatively slow-moving solar market in India is showing some signs of promise.

The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has announced a 1,000 MW tender in order to allocate rooftop solar projects on government buildings across the country. This is the largest ever rooftop solar tender announced in India till date. Riding on the success of a previous 500 MW rooftop solar tender announced in April 2016, SECI has now doubled the allocation size. This is a welcome move in a market that has historically struggled to take off for a host of reasons. As per official statistics, the rooftop capacity in India stands at 382 MW. This includes only those projects that have been subsidised by the MNRE. The non-subsidised market appears to have crossed 1,000 MW.

Giant strides have been made in digitising the Indian economy and improving internet penetration, but more conviction is required to get Smart Cities off the block.

The year 2017 was a landmark year for digitisation of the economy in India. Following the demonetisation exercise of November 8, 2016, when 86 percent of liquidity in the system present in the form of Rs 500 and Rs 2000 currency notes, was sucked out in one stroke, the usage of digital modes of transaction has seen a quantum jump.

Start-up India is beginning to show results but these are still early days. The eco-system has to mature further before the benefits percolate down to all sectors of the economy.

For all those who wring their hands and complain that there is little by way of cutting edge scientific breakthroughs coming out of India’s vibrant start-up community, consider this: Deepak Solanki, a young Indian IIT Bombay and IIIT Hyderabad graduate, and his team are making waves the world over with their work on light fidelity (Li-FI), which uses LED bulbs to provide high-speed internet that can be up to 100 times faster than Wi-FI. The term Li-Fi was first used at a TED Global Talk in 2011 by University of Edinburgh Professor Harald Haas.