Kapil Dua, Seamless CEO and Michael Green, Executive Director USA sit down for a chat around the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US and the significance of India as a dynamic market for global companies. The key takeaways include:
- India’s population has surpassed China’s, making it the world’s most populous country, with a large young population. This demographic makes India an attractive and dynamic market for companies.
- India is currently the fifth largest economy in the world and is projected to become the second largest within the next six to seven years. This growth makes India a hot economy and an ideal place for investment and partnerships.
- The US has been increasingly focusing on its relationship with India, strategically and economically, especially given the geopolitical situation with China. The shared values of democracy and the potential of the Indian market have drawn the attention of US companies.
- During the visit, the Prime Minister is expected to explore new initiatives, partnerships, and trade agreements, particularly in areas like defence, security, technology, and infrastructure. The US-India relationship is built on cooperation in these sectors.
- The discussion touches on the prospects of a free trade agreement between India and the US, indicating that while an FTA may not be expected during this visit, it remains an important consideration for both countries.
- The conversation also delves into the US-India relationship beyond India, suggesting that India’s strategic position in the Indo-Pacific region makes it an attractive hub for companies looking to expand into Southeast Asia and other neighbouring markets.
Overall, the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US is seen as an opportunity to strengthen bilateral ties, explore new partnerships, and further enhance cooperation in various sectors, with a focus on India’s growth potential and its role in the global economy.
Watch the full discussion here:
Read the full video transcript below:
Kapil I think in the context of Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming visit, but I think generally, in terms of India’s place within the world, can you share with us a few things about why India is such a dynamic market for companies in the US and around the globe to pay attention to?
Sure. As we know, India has just bypassed China in terms of population. So, we are now number one in the world for the population. But the good thing is that India is having the largest young population right now, which makes India a very dynamic environment for the marketplace for the world.
If I put it in the real inverted commas, say, for the US and India relationship, and particularly the Indian growth, India is fifth largest economy in the world now, but looking at the second largest in next six years, seven years, and what makes India the top most hot economy right now, which is the best place to be in so, I think this is the best time for India for the next six, seven years to kind of, reach out to the world and make sure that it is becoming a developed nation, and focus on various different elements of this from infrastructure to technology to various digital environment, AI, and I think we are in the best place right now.
I think Asia has been a focus for companies and organisations for a number of years now. And that has really been propelled by the growth of US companies and organisations in China. But given the geopolitical situation between the US and China, we’ve seen some major focus on the US India relationship, both strategically and economically.
India is front and centre of corporate strategies, many of the reasons you recently mentioned but the largest population in the world now at 1.4 billion people, over half of that population is under the age of 30. You have a very large young population that is interested in western products that is aligned to the United States. India is the world’s largest democracy by population and the US being the world’s oldest continuous kind of democracy. There’s lots of reasons why US companies and organisations are focusing more and more on the market.
Back to the Modi visit, what goals does the Prime Minister have in mind for his trip to the US?
Oh, I wish I could tell you all of that, I wish I was part of his team, looking at what they really want to sign up with us. But if we read across the lines and think of their number of new deals, you will see a number of new initiatives, the partnership arrangement, my biggest bet is on more trade agreements particularly focus on India, US defence and security alliance, particularly part of the court, which India is already part of with us and the other nations looking at it.
But further into the skills, the actor and the specific sector perspective of its, coming along from an area where you will see this visit is a second state visit for any prime minister in India in Indian history.
So there are many other things from, I would say, technology, AI, the infrastructure, where India does need the US and I’m very hopeful of having a number of such partnerships and deals coming out of this visit.
So what do you see from a US perspective, the US political environment, the US Corporation? How are they looking at this second ever state visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the US?
Yes. So Prime Minister Modi is, as you mentioned, taking his second state visit to the US. I think it says a lot that the first day is on International Yoga Day. The Prime Minister has made yoga pretty central to his own kind of personal practice. But it’s also something that is indigenous to India. So I think it’s important.
Modi has done an excellent job in exporting India to the world and he sees yoga as part of those exports, he sees Ira VEDA as part of those exports, he sees and recognises the strength of India’s services sector, particularly in the IT space, which is evidenced by I think it’s a third of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from Indian descent.
I think he will continue to focus on the strength, the strength that India has, and the strength of the US India partnership. After a day in New York, he will make his way down to Washington, DC. There’ll be a lot of pomp and circumstance around his visit. Before leaving Washington, I noticed there’s already Indian flags going up all around the White House, which is super exciting to see.
And he’ll have a very warm welcome by Joe Biden’s administration, where they will discuss security, cooperation, economic cooperation, because those are really the two bedrocks of the US India relationship. And I’m very excited to get to see Prime Minister Modi speak and address an invite -only audience on Friday at the Kennedy centre.
I understand we’ll also be welcoming in the diaspora community before he flies out of the US either Friday evening or Saturday morning.
I mean, Prime Minister Modi visit as you know, it’s upcoming and explain to me more about how you and Seamless as a part of the Sannam S4 Group, how have you done particularly in the past visits of the Prime Minister coming from India? And how do you help the US cooperate around this time? And what do you get from the Indian diet for around this time?
So at Seamless, part of Sannam S4 Group, we’ve been part of Modi, since he was running the Vibrant Gujarat summits. We’ve attended Vibrant Gujarat in years past. And we have seen these large visits and these large events as a great time to highlight the opportunity that is India.
And Modi does such a fantastic job of highlighting the opportunity that is India to the world. Because at Seamless, the largest part of our business while we’re still growing our expertise across Asia, is India. And we have five offices in India. And over on the Seamless side, over 70 staff members supporting clients across a range of sectors.
Our team is driven by certified accountants like yourself, corporate secretaries, HR professionals. And we’re doing our small part in this bigger picture of growing the US India relationship by supporting businesses, supporting universities, supporting nonprofit organisations with all of the compliance and operational support required to start up and scale up their teams in India. So over the years, we’ve supported over 300 organisations, we have about 30 to 50 active clients in the corridor that are utilising our services in that startup or scale up phase, so it’s really exciting to see the relationship to see India put up on a pedestal because that is our largest market and where we’ve made our largest bet as a company.
So Kapil, do you think anything will happen with India and the US in terms of a free trade agreement on this trip?
On this trip, I’m not so hopeful but I think the environment particularly in India, about the Free Trade Agreement, India is going on a free spree to sign up the the FTAs as they put it, in there is already signed up with the with the GCC with Australia and now India’s strength off the negotiation with the UK, which is going on for a long time as expected.
But these free trade agreements are very important for India and also the other nations when they work around. And, and I would say when we work at Sannam S4 Group and seamless around it, it’s particularly very important for a number of our clients, because it gives you easy access to the export import duties, the laws, the the cost of, operations, the cost of bringing your products or services in India or getting out of India goes down, and various compliances around it.
I am definitely up for having a very good FTA between India and the US. I don’t know if this is the right time, particularly this visit. I don’t think it could be the start of it. But looking at the election years for India, next year and for the US also next year. I think it will take more time.
I agree with that. I think it is very unlikely to see anything in terms of a free trade agreement. But it’s been something that has been discussed quite a bit in the US India corridor for a number of years.
I think the Biden administration has not been as bullish in signing FTAs and bilateral agreements or multilateral agreements, as the Indian government has, of course, the US has taken, the Trump administration took a much different tack when it came to trade. And Biden’s team seems to have not reverted back to the Obama administration, but instead looking for more of a transactional way, smaller ways, as opposed to major multilateral agreements or bilateral agreements, in order to support US organisations doing business internationally.
In terms of the elections, and it’s really exciting coming up next year, I believe in May. Can you give us a little preview of what we might expect and what those outcomes might be in India?
I wish I could tell you the straightforward answer or result of the next election however, I can tell you what’s happening on the ground. And currently what the government, the current government, which we call the party Janta party Alliance, the BJP, which is Prime Minister Modi’s party, he is the leader and he has been leading in the forefront in the last two elections.
So Indian elections are every five years, unlike yours every four years. So this is the fourth year of the second term of Prime Minister Modi. And looking at the election mood right now in India. I mean, BJP has Vince and losses at the state levels recently. But when we look at the countrywide election, and it has always been seen in the last, probably 567 years, that there is no opposition, there is hardly any opposition to defeat him, his leadership at the country level, there could be state level, smaller parties, even the Congress Party, which is the other opposition which has been led in there.
For many years, they have been working very strongly to come out of the woods of defeat in the last election and they are going very strongly now to start fighting strongly in some of those states. Like recently in Tamil Nadu they have won the state election, and which has hit BJP to some extent. But when you look at the mood on the ground, when you speak to the people on the ground, they still don’t see any opposition to Prime Minister Modi at the country level, which means next year in May, unless something drastically happens. We don’t see a big issue in Prime Minister Modi coming to power again.
So how would that play for the businesses? It will be very interesting, because the first two years, the five years each given to Prime Minister Modi was he had to unwind, he had to change so many laws, regulations, making sure that India goes towards the economic power of World Development putting money into the infrastructure and many other development areas.
Opening up some key sectors including higher education creating the international financial centres for example, like GIFT CITY and investing and further in the infrastructure, defence area, making India which he has done really well, given the next five years is really a big transform it will be further next level of which which Prime Minister Modi called in his last speech at the parliament, was more something called Amrita Khan, which means, it’s a Hindi word which means the ears of progress or prosperity to look for the next five years, and those years for prosperity will be the India’s time in the world.
So it’s more like telling the world we are here. And we are coming. And we want to work closely in partnership with you, in partnership with the US. And that’s what the upcoming Prime Minister state visit is looking forward to building up stronger and stronger ties in the political, particularly the volatile environment of the world right now, as we see the wars on the sides of Russia and Ukraine and the economic world surviving on the higher energy prices and so on.
India has been trying to work their way around. How do we still keep our GDP, our growth sector, our focus areas of development still going on? And how do we build relationships for further development?
I think the Modi administration, another five years will be excellent for business. I think it will be a welcomed opportunity for Modi to continue to execute on his vision to have continued continuity, in terms of the policies that he’s rolled out.
Pretty early on some of his key initiatives Make in India, he was very focused on ease of doing business index and seeing that continue to move in the positive direction for India.
I completely agree with you that in another five years, I think you’ll see many of the infrastructure projects that India has put into the pipeline will be near completion. We’ve seen many US companies, including Apple recently invest and open new stores, we’ve seen Foxconn with a major investment. So Make in India actually is starting to catch hold with these kinds of investments and the things that the Indian government has identified as being critical for achieving that initiative and critical for going back to the discussion about the young population in India, which has so many companies and organisations excited as a market.
But he has a big challenge on his hands as well to find jobs for all those young people. So Make in India the infrastructure, investment in order to kind of support that, having continuity for some of those efforts, I think will be super important to India’s growth in the 21st century in the position that many experts see in 10 2050 years from now.
I do hear that the US is right now very excited about Prime Minister Modi’s visit and looking at it will be beneficial for the US India trade corridor, the US corporations expanding into India, what do you see as US cooperations expanding beyond India? What do you see in this relationship between India and the US, particularly between Prime Minister Modi and Joe Biden? This relationship is taking the US Corporation investing to other Southeast or further regions via India and what do you see on the ground particularly the best of the relationship and then taking it beyond India?
So, a very interesting question. I think we have spoken to a company just recently that’s actually looking at their APAC office to be based in Mumbai, India or Delhi, India. So India is really well positioned within the broader world now the US calls it the Indo Pacific. I think that has really caught on in terms of positioning the Pacific to include the Indian subcontinent.
So I think you’ll see more and more countries as India’s market or more and more companies, as India, India’s market grows, have their hub for the region be based out of India, because, as you mentioned, there’s many other important markets in South East Asia.
You know, Mumbai is a two hour flight from Dubai and a five hour flight from Africa. So as we see Africa rise as a destination for US companies.
You know, India becomes more and more kind of central in terms of the broader map that many of these companies are looking at managing and growing into over the next several decades.