by Manik Mehta.
Posted on September 25, 2012, Tuesday
NEW YORK: Datuk Vijay Easwaran, one of Malaysia’s leading entrepreneurs, who attended the just-concluded Global India Business Meet (GIBM) 2012, an Indian diaspora global meeting focusing on doing business with India, urged the Indian Government not to ignore the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which form the backbone of future growth that would generate prosperity.
In an interview with Bernama here, Easwaran said: “The SMEs should be courted because they are an engine of growth. The big companies have their resources and they know exactly where the opportunities exist.
“Because of their smaller size and limited resources, the SMEs may not know about opportunities for them in other parts of the world.”
He said he had been told that some Malaysian companies had pulled out of India, saying it was a difficult turf to operate from.
Indeed, foreign investment flow to India has dropped considerably. He said he had discerned “discrimination” against foreigners in India whereas China, by comparison, treated foreigners differently.
Easwaran, who heads the Quest International Group of Companies headquartered in Petaling Jaya and with offices in Hong Kong, India and elsewhere, said India should not hesitate to carry out badly needed reforms to provide the much-needed economic jumpstart.
“I believe we need strong and pragmatic leadership at the centre (Federal Government) in India to accelerate the reform process which is vital to India’s growth.
“By closing certain sectors to foreign competition, India is, in effect, protecting inefficiency and minimising productivity.
“Punjab, which is called India’s granary, produces less rice than Thailand.
India continued to produce for decades the Ambassador car though it was a highly inefficient car.
“There is no justification, except political, to block foreign direct investment,” he added.
He also urged India to close the “gap” between itself and its Indian diaspora. “These are people who have strong emotional ties with India, and yet they are treated as outsiders.
“You have large Indian populations in a number of countries such as Mauritius, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore and now also in the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia.
“The Indian diaspora does not get any advantage by investing in India.
Indeed, persons of Indian origin sometimes have more advantages in investing in other countries.”
He was “excited” about meeting people of Indian origin from other parts of the world who had come to New York for the GIBM. “It’s a good networking platform,” he said.
Easwaran, who has authored several books, including the popular “Spheres of Silence” which was also talked about at the GIBM, said Indians in Malaysia have the advantage of being able to tilt the country’s political scale.
“There is no alternative to the Malaysin Indian Congress. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is vocal about his concerns for Indians and has done the maximum towards bringing them into the mainstream,” he said, adding the voices of the minorities are heard in Malaysia by all the political parties concerned.
Easwaran, who received the Business Excellency and Philanthropy award at the GIBM gala evening, sat next to Robert Blake, the Assistant Secretary of State, who represented Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Blake praised the “extraordinary achievements” of the Indian community in the United States where many Indians have risen to powerful positions not only in business and other professional areas, but are also, increasingly, entering mainstream politics.
He described the Indian diaspora as a “force to reckon with” and India as an “important strategic partner”. Two-way trade between India and the USA has surged to nearly US$100 billion, a figure which Blake termed as “still too small”.
India, he said, is not only an important trading partner but also an important partner in security issues. India is also being courted by the USA for its engagement in Afghanistan where it has invested huge sums of money, including in exploring iron-ore deposits in that country.
Blake said a trilateral Afghanistan-India-USA dialogue will be held in New York, with the details still being worked out.
At the GIBM, attendees heard a video message from Tulsi Gabbard, the first Indian American woman to run for a seat in the US Congress, on a Democratic ticket from Hawaii.
She has built a huge support base and all the local political pundits say that she can be assured of the seat.
Other panellists included Lord Meghnad Desai, a prominent development economist and an activist of the Labour Party of the UK who has taught at the London School of Economics, and Vijay Nambiar, the chief of staff of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. –Bernama