The buzz was unmistakable at the Taj Palace Hotel in South Delhi: While the world economy crumbles, India still holds out hope, top business leaders prophesied. Local demand will drive high single-digit growth and companies will expand and create jobs.
"India is still shining. Given the current situation, I am sure at least 150 finance ministers from all over the world will give their left hand and left leg to get that growth," said Bajaj Auto vice-chairman Madhur Bajaj.
Confederation of Indian Industry President and ICICI Bank managing director KV Kamath said India will grow 7 per cent this year and 6 per cent next year. Deloitte Global CEO James H Quigley said 6 per cent growth would be good for India. "This confidence is well placed because India is still growing," he said.
British Telecom chief technology officer Matt Bross talked of how the telecom major "is going steady here," even as the company is learnt to have planned massive job cuts in its global operations. Larsen & Toubro chairman & managing director AM Naik said his company would add 10,000 jobs here.
Amidst the pall of economic gloom all over the world, almost 800 business leaders from 35 countries today started to gather here for the three-day India Economic Summit, the 24th edition of the annual show hosted by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry. The message and the body language were clear: Everything is going right for India, the tight money market conditions and recent production cutdowns notwithstanding.
In the last few weeks, the US and German economies have contracted and China has reported a sharp drop in industrial output during October. Banks as well as manufacturing and service sector companies have announced steep job cuts. Top US automakers too are on oxygen. All this while, India's economic managers have said they are still hopeful of clocking annual growth of around seven per cent.
In this scenario, the biggest challenge before the country is to keep its confidence high, Kamath said and added this could be done by lowering interest rates further. Both industry and the government need to ensure that the growth momentum is not lost. "The need is to have a new financial architecture and avoid arbitrage across sectors," he said.
"In the current situation, the operative word would be protectionism but it is going to be competitiveness," said Ramalinga Raju, founder and chairman of Satyam Computer Services. He added that the world today has two special assets to leverage on to come out of the turmoil - knowledge and technology.
Keeping in view the current global situation, the summit is focusing on four areas - global shifts, managing risks, inclusive growth and future competitiveness.