Subhrakant Panda, Managing Director of Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys Ltd, is the President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) – the country’s premier business and trade facilitation and promotion body. He was in London recently on a UK tour of the FICCI Forum of Parliamentarians, a bipartisan initiative for political outreach.
In this interview, the business chief covers a range of issues within the UK-India corridor, the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations and India’s unique digital infrastructure model as a public good.
How do you see a proposed UK-India FTA benefitting Indian industry?
What India offers is the unique advantage of a large unified domestic market and many other advantages like an enabling environment and a young working population. Equally, whether it is for Indian companies or for global entities looking to invest in India, that access to consuming economies is relevant, and that is where FTAs come into play.
I think from an Indian industry perspective, what we look at is a level playing field and understand that FTAs are all about give and take. Today, India and Indian businesses have the confidence to benefit from these FTAs in terms of market access and technology transfers.
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How is the FTA shaping up from a business and industry perspective?
Clearly both governments are engaged in intense discussions and 10 rounds have been completed. So, I would look at it from the point of view that both governments have to find common ground because like with any agreement, it has to be a win-win scenario. One which works for both sides and we hope that this is something that will be completed.
As a Chamber, we have offered whatever inputs we had to provide and some of our members have individually also provided feedback. So, based on that, we're comfortable that common ground will be found for an FTA which is broad based and works in the interests of both countries.
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What is the impact you see of India’s G20 presidency?
I think it is India's moment of reckoning because we are finally living up to our potential right through Covid and beyond. We are now the fastest growing large economy, and this is the outcome of sustained reforms, which are borne out of conviction. There has been a lot of focus through reforms and other measures to prioritise manufacturing, to attract investments to India, and for India to become part of global value chains.
It’s also from another perspective, which is what India brings to the table. It's not just the economic strength, it's not just the demographic advantage that we have with a young working age population, but this can all be put together for the good of not just India but the world at large. And that, indeed, is the basic theme of India's presidency – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the world, as one family.
The other important thing that India brings to the table is what we have proven in action, which is digital public infrastructure as a public good. So, some of the innovations that have gathered momentum over the past several years is really innovation which is tested on a large scale. And, that is what really sets India apart.
The Prime Minister has said that India is willing to share its experience, knowledge and expertise with other nations. That's where the concept of digital infrastructure as a public good is really being looked at with a lot of excitement.