Chandra Kochar, joint managing director and chief financial officer of India’s largest privately owned bank, $80 billion ICICI Bank, is bullish on India growth story. She contends that the growth in India is shifting from consumerism to manufacturing and infrastructure.
In the last five to seven years, India has grown on the basis of its knowledge economy and consumerism. The IT industry, and its related industries, provided jobs for Indians. As Indians earned more, they spent more, and that’s how consumerism drove economic growth as a whole and also led to a huge growth in the retail-credit and consumer-credit business in India. As we peak today, this growth in consumerism is leading to a huge investment cycle in India. Because manufacturing capacities have been fully utilized, and infrastructure needs to be established, people are now investing in manufacturing capacities and infrastructure. I estimate the Indian corporate sector has plans today to invest about $700 billion in manufacturing and infrastructure, which will be spent over the next three years. The next wave of growth for India is going to come out of capital investment.[IK@W]
The Indian government has already accepted a little dent in its prospective growth rate this year. It is widely believed that India’s internally driven growth, has increasingly decoupled its fortunes from the US economy. It is certain that an US slump will impact India to a lesser extent now, than it might have done a few years ago. Indian companies are more resilient than ever to a global downturn these days, with lower borrowing costs and healthier debt-equity ratios. Nevertheless, there are some challenges.
Inflationary pressures loom on the horizon. Inflation triggered by higher food and oil prices could deflate the rapid economic growth curve in India. The tight monetary policy of the RBI is related to inflationary pressures. With large-scale credit contraction in the Western markets, the growth plans and capacity expansion at Indian companies will find it difficult to access overseas credit .
The uneven growth in the middle to short term, with the states of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar having seen lesser growth than others, has led to increased social and political tensions. The increased spending on social sectors and populist largesses in the election year, including recommendations of a new pay commission, can also impinge on the growth story. This spending, however, can be met by the dramatic increase in direct tax collections (by over 40% in each of the last two years).
As a banker, Kochar can probably view certain propitious omens that most other economic commentators in this country cannot. The jury is, however, still out on her hypothesis and previsions of a sustained growth rate for the Indian economy.