In his opinion piece in The Indian Express, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, the co-founder of Info Edge India Ltd. (naukri.com), states that given the history of the private sector being regarded with ambivalence and mistrust, he was pleasantly surprised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent speech in Parliament in which the PM openly acknowledged the contribution and role of the private sector as an important engine of growth and employment.
“He didn’t merely extol the virtues of wealth creation, he actually eulogised wealth creators. His logic was simple: If you don’t create wealth you cannot distribute it. The creation of wealth is essential for growth, employment and the reduction of poverty. It took 73 years after Independence for a Prime Minister of this nation to acknowledge these facts openly — a gutsy move and a big departure from the past,” writes Bikhchandani. “This augurs well for government policy and future economic reforms in India.”
Looking back at the change, he points out that during the 70s and 80s —the high noon of the “Licence Permit Raj” — everything was the state’s business. “The intelligentsia viewed wealth creators pejoratively. Business meant unethical practices and evading taxes. Profit was a bad word and wealth was evil, even if it had been obtained through legitimate means and you were paying all your taxes,” he writes.
But, he points out, this discourse “was at odds with India’s ethos of respecting wealth creators”. It had been possible to be in business and be regarded as patriotic before 1947. Mahatma Gandhi’s Congress worked closely with big business. Sardar Patel was unapologetic about his linkages with wealth creators.
“India’s successes in many fields in the last three decades are linked to the private sector. If you look at the industries that have created growth, jobs, buzz and hope in the last three decades, the vast majority have been driven by private enterprise — airlines, banks, telecom, insurance, IT services, IT-enabled services, internet companies and others,” he asserts.
Looking ahead, Bikhchandani sees “a new wave” of innovation and enterprise in young India. “The success of the Mudra Yojana and Start-up India are living testimony to this fact,” he writes.
But he also has a caveat for India’s businesses. “Post the open support from the Prime Minister, it is also up to the private sector to respond — grow your business, pursue excellence, follow the law of the land and pay your taxes…Become good corporate citizens of India, else the public narrative might slip back into mistrust of the private sector.”