For American business, India is the new land of opportunity

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : From healthcare to technology to media, there is growing excitement in every sector in the United States about India, not just because it’s cheaper to do business in India but for the opportunities that a nation of 1.2 billion people with its growing economy offers.

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This came out loud and clear at Duke University’s second annual India Business Forum in Durham, North Carolina, as business leaders, professionals, alumni, faculty and students last week turned the spotlight on India.

“There is tremendous excitement about India,” Debu Purohit, professor of business administration and academic director, India, and one of the forum organisers, told IANS.

Looking at challenges of doing business with and within India from the perspective of either Indians in India or from that of multinationals, the focus was solely on a cost-driven argument, he said.

“The change that’s coming about is that there is now a reason to be in India for the Indian market,” Purohit said, noting that many of the students who wanted to start a company earlier chose California or the Silicon Valley.

“Now many of the students from India say that they want to start a company in India,” he said, though the point that “India is still a very difficult place to start a business was not lost among the people.”

With the recession slowing down growth in the US, India is now being seen not for just outsourcing but as a market for US products, he said. “And that’s a positive.”

“Everyone believed it was a good time to be in healthcare in India,” observed Nandakumar Jairam, Chairman & Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia Hospitals, India, who was one of the speakers in the panel on India’s evolving healthcare system.

He also saw an opportunity for Indians in President Barack Obama’s healthcare insurance reforms “to offer healthcare to people in the US, perhaps in greater degree than has been previously possible because that is becoming such a problem in the US.”

“The facilities in India are world class. The medical care by Indian professionals is globally known and understood. So this combination and the cost advantage, which is huge, provided enormous opportunities,” Jairam said.

Angela Chitkara, Founder & CEO, US-India Corridor, a public relations consultancy firm focusing on international companies with India exposure, said uniting the rural areas with the big city people was “a challenge not just for a media company but any company going into India trying to target the mass audience.”

“So how do you do it? We should be just thinking of going in and collaborating at a very local level. Why would you reinvent the wheel?” she asked, suggesting, “Why not team up with sort of Unilever on a very local level?”

“So there is consolidation that’s inevitable. People have developed the skill sets, they have more earning power, but retention across the border is still a problem,” Chitkara said, describing consolidation and sustainability as the challenge in the media industry.

Earlier, only Indians were thinking about moving back home. But now a lot of middle aged professionals who have businesses here are interested in taking advantage of business opportunities in India, said Manav Dange, a student co-organiser.

“On the flip side some of the challenges like infrastructure, education, corruption and political issues still remain,” Dange said. “But, overall, there is a much more positive view from non-Indians about making investments out there.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])