The easy availability of electricity is a critical enabler of socio-economic growth in India, writes India Inc. CEO Manoj Ladwa.

The basic building block for sustained economic growth is now in place. From a chronically electricity-deficit country, India has, in a space of three short years, turned the power sector around – so much so, that not only does the country now have surplus power, it is also exporting electricity to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed Piyush Goyal as Minister of State for Power, Coal, Mines & Renewable Energy (Independent Charge) in 2014, India was reeling under a massive deficit of 87 billion Kwhs or 9 per cent of demand. Result: the economy was suffering long, daily power cuts and the use of diesel generators for back-up that sapped productivity and ate into corporate profitability.

There was little light visible at the end of the tunnel as India’s state-owned power distribution companies, or discoms as they are called, were also bleeding. With cumulative debts of more than $50 billion, they were having to borrow money just to keep their operations running, thus, pushing them further into debt.

This turnaround has made it possible for the Indian government to announce that it would be in a position to fulfil its election promise of providing power for all by next year – a full year ahead of schedule.

This is an incredible achievement. The easy availability of electricity is a critical enabler of socio-economic growth. Being the basic building block of prosperity, power is also the key enabler of several flagship schemes announced by the Prime Minister. There can be no Make in India, Digital India, Start-up India, Skill India or even Swacch Bharat without the provision of adequate electricity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of an educated and empowered nation would also have come to nothing without adequate electricity. Power, as we all know, is sine qua non for children to study, do their homework and prepare for examinations.

The rejuvenation of the power sector will have an impact far beyond the remit of the ministry itself as will help change the lives of millions that currently live, or till recently lived, in darkness.

Power, arguably, is the most critical component of the Prime Minister’s promise of providing jobs for the 10-12 million youth who join the Indian workforce every year. Key to accomplishing this goal is the aim of increasing the share of manufacturing from 18 per cent of GDP at present to 25 per cent of GDP by 2025.

Among several constraints that are holding up the growth of the manufacturing sector was the lack of adequate power to run the machines in thousands of small and medium enterprises that form the backbone of any economy and are the main incubator of the millions of low skilled jobs that really bring prosperity to people at the bottom of the pyramid. I have purposely left out large and heavy industries because they can afford to set up captive power plants or make provisions for back-up power from diesel generators.

But Minister Goyal himself will admit that his job is only half done. Almost a quarter billion Indians still do not have access to electricity in their homes. Turning this situation around and providing power to fuel the expected manufacturing boom in the coming years will consume the current surplus and call for additional sources of electricity.

This is where the Prime Minister’s ambitious target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 will come into play. Achieving this target will not only to enable India to meet its emission goals under the Paris climate accord but also to meet the additional demand that improving economic growth and rising numbers of power consumers will generate.

There will be challenges, for sure. Financing large projects in India remains an issue as the banking sector, which is in the throes of a bad loan crisis, is unable to provide large volumes of credit. Then, the issue of balancing the infirm power that wind and solar plants generate – the potential this has to destabilise the grid – has not yet been resolved.

But neither of these problems is insurmountable and there is every reason to be optimistic that solutions will be found.

This edition of ‘India Investment Journal’ tracks Minister Goyal’s mega power challenge as he travels around the world to scout for investments, besides the usual cross-sector coverage.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

A leading consultant analyses the factors that have made investing in India easier and a more rewarding experience as long as investors go in with a level of preparedness.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently altered its predicted growth rate for India slightly downward to 6.8 per cent, but this is still attractive compared to the sluggish rates of growth elsewhere in the world. Foreign investors’ confidence in India has also recently improved, making it the eighth most attractive destination for foreign direct investment (FDI). Meanwhile India’s ranking in the World Bank’s league table for ‘ease of doing business’ is rising, albeit at 130 the improvement isn’t over yet!

These changes have been strongly influenced by the government’s attempts to make India a more attractive market by, for example, implementing demonetisation in November 2016, increasing online transactions and the planned introduction of a common nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July.

Make in India, one of the flagship initiatives launched under Prime Minister Modi, has led to a step change in FDI inflows, writes an investment facilitator.

The total FDI inflows into India stood at $60.1 billion in 2016-17 — the highest ever in a single year. Compared to 2013-14, this represents a 75 per cent increase. India’s achievement is even more stark when compared to falling global FDI flows as highlighted by UNCTAD. More importantly, Make in India has enabled long-term structural changes such as opening new sectors for FDI, increasing the ease of doing business, cutting the red tape and improving the physical infrastructure.

India can learn a lot from South Korea’s ascent from poverty in the 1950s to the ranks of the most technologically advanced societies especially in the fields of manufacturing, defence technology, electronics and skills development. And India can, in turn, help South Korea in areas like software and space technology that it excels in.

It is a warm and deepening economic and strategic partnership that could well become the template for India’s engagement with other geographically smaller but economically dynamic Asian Tigers.

South Korea has been in the news in India recently for three separate but loosely connected developments, all of them positive.

India’s Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, has described the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) Masala Bond debut on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) as a sign of India’s growing attraction among global investors.

The rupee-denominated National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Masala Bond issued with much fanfare by the Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, in London recently marks the largest ever five-year issuance and has been described as the “largest inaugural transaction in the Masala Bond market”.

It took its time coming, but in the end Bharat (more on that later) trumped the so-called political experts from New Delhi’s gin-n-tonic cocktail circuit. And how!

The recently concluded round of elections to five Assembly assemblies returned a verdict that can only be described as a thumping endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership of the country.

The final tally reads BJP: 4 states; Congress: 1 state. We will now have BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and BJP-led coalitions in Goa and Manipur. The Congress won Punjab thanks to the personal charisma of Captain Amarinder Singh, the former Maharaja of Patiala and the party’s chief ministerial candidate, as well as the two-term anti-incumbency of the government in which the BJP was the junior partner.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has carefully nursed the country’s economy back to sound health.

He is equally at home rubbing shoulders with the world’s leading industrialists and investors in Davos, London and Singapore and inviting them to invest in India as he is strategising the nitty-gritty of how to win elections in hinterland Indian states. And all this when he isn’t dispensing advice to some of the thorniest legal problems of the land.

The Budget has allocated almost $90 billion for building new infrastructure. This will help restart the stalled private investment cycle and spur demand but the absence of serious efforts to resolve the non-performing assets (NPA) problem in the banking sector will hurt.

Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley, who reiterated his earlier statement that private investment remains sluggish despite incentives, has done his bit to revive the entrepreneurial instincts of private entrepreneurs, both domestic and foreign, by announcing a massive $90-billion infrastructure building programme – covering roads, highways, railways, inland waterways, ports, rural infrastructure, broadband, toilets and more – that promises to boost corporate top and bottom lines, create jobs and fuel a consumption and demand revival.



He has also addressed the demand side by lowering income tax rates in the lowest slab from 10 per cent to 5 per cent.

Foreign investors often complain about India’s byzantine bureaucracy and demands for unaccounted cash to grease the system and speed up decision making.

Though ministers and senior bureaucrats in New Delhi no longer make such demands, there are reports that there has been little improvement in the lower bureaucracy and in some states.