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‘India, A Developed Nation By 2047’

US and India will be among the top three economies by 2050. US-India strategic partnership will benefit the businesses of both nations

Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta

Cisco executive chairman John Chambers, in an exclusive interaction with Suman K. Jha, says he sees immense potential in India’s future. He believes that India and the US will remain strategic allies, and will continue to grow together over the next three decades.

Edited excerpts:

Q: Do you think the world believes in India today?

Today, it does. Three years ago, it did not.
Q: It’s been 70 years since India’s independence. Why do you think we are at a stage where the world believes in India?
I think there is no simple answer to this. But I would just say what is different. We have been here since mid-1990s, well before others. What is especially different in the last three years is that earlier India was a slow follower, now, it has become a fast innovator. And the inflection point came with your prime minister. He is fearless in doing the right things for his people and the country. He also believes in partnering and creates a win-win environment. He is able to turn key concepts and strategies for future transformation into activities. He starts with hope and makes it possible than making it probable. He knows how to partner with businesses and his citizens.

Thereby, two leaders (US President and Indian PM) came together for a strategic partnership. On the US being India’s most important strategic partner, two years ago it was a different scene altogether. But now when I say it, people understand it. So I think, what has changed is almost everything. There is a vision in his (Modi) strategies. He is the most amazing leader, I have ever met. He knows how to create a win-win situation for all, and he is also a remarkable listener.

Q: Apart from the PM of India, you have also interacted with some of the chief ministers such as Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. You have a centre there, and are working closely with him. What  do you think is the perception of the leadership in the country?
It is extremely positive. If you look at the team the prime minister has put around him, be it finance, defence or trade, it is amazing.

So, when I look at your PM’s team, it’s very strong. Then, in each of your states, you have a new generation in terms of thinking. There’s also a very healthy competition among chief ministers to do well, be it Rajasthan, Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh; there is a vision for how you focus on citizen inclusion. Chandrababu Naidu is one of the finest leaders, I have met. He has a sense of urgency, and I really liked the way he tries to push things faster. He is attracting business and also boosting innovation. You have a leader at the national level with a fantastic team around him, and you have chief ministers, male and female, across the country that are taking good care of their individual states. So, I really like the leadership that India currently has.

Q: You are also a partner in India’s digitisation project. So, how do you look at its future? Do you think India can truly become a global leader in the digital world in the years to come?
I think, it’s not very far when India becomes a global leader in the digital world. The country already has a strategy for this, and is moving most of the areas to focus. So whether it is GDP growth, job creation, inclusive growth, a plan to build 100 smart cities, which is a vision to grow the economy without damaging the environment, I think the digital plan is the best in the world.

Q: What can India learn from countries such as the US and France in terms of startups, incubation centres, innovation, etc?
Well, I think several things. What the US does is to have a very strong ecosystem around startups. It is the venture capitalists who not only provide money to the companies but also help the country to grow. I am a venture capitalist now. As an executive chairman, I help a lot of startups to grow well. The second thing is, you have got to create an education system that prepares people to be able to create startups, and that is one of the main things that Cisco is doing. France has led by example in this area as well. I think if a national policy comes in place for this, India can do even better.

Q: You talked about the strategic partnership between India and the US. What’s the future of this relationship?
I think the future is going to be a model for the rest of the world. There are so many common areas of focus and agendas that are so important for our future. It could be an example of how this benefits businesses. There are hundreds of businesses in the US and India working towards a common goal and it can really be a model for businesses in the future. The strategic partnership is like the Internet in the early 1990s. It wasn’t until 1995 when people realised that the Internet is going to change the world. The strategic partnership offers an opportunity. We will see if we (Indo-US) can make it happen.

Q: I think you believe that by 2050, India and US would be among the world’s top three economies...
Yes, I do. I think they will be among the top three major economies.

US-India strategic partnership will benefit the businesses of both nations.

Q: India is turning 70 this year, and in the next 30, it will be 100. So, going by the present indicators, what kind of journey do you think we can travel in the next 30 years?
Well, going by the present indicators, I think you have an enormous, unlimited future. If you have the courage to align a very aggressive mission, have the courage to make decisions that other countries would not be able to do. I mean like you have the courage to ensure ease of doing business, you have the courage to demonetise your currency that worked out pretty well for India. You have the courage to understand that unless you have a goods and services tax, you would not be able to attract investments and simplify business processes. So, if India continues to lead, there is a very good future. The main thing is India’s success isn’t at the expense of the US; it’s India and US together, and that is one of the extremely exciting things about today.

Q: The next 30 years, do you think it is a journey that India can take along with partners like the US? Or you think there are possibilities outside, such as China and Russia also? Or that India and US will gel really well and there will be a cross of political spectrum consensus on the kind of ties or strategic relationship that we have, so we continue to grow and evolve together?
I think the most likely outcome is the last. We are aligned on so many goals, the oldest and the largest democracy, a win-win attitude between our countries. I think there are so many positives that we can be the strongest relationship and that is the most exciting thing. Let me answer your question very directly. Take Cisco’s example, acquisitions are hard but we do it very well. Strategic partnerships are similar; you don’t need strategic partnership of one-to-many, you need strategic partnership of one-to-one where you can move the top priorities of each company in a way to make difference in the top and the bottom line and the key strategy. The same is the thing with strategic partnerships between countries, it is nice to do multiple partnerships at the same time, but it’s more effective to do one-to-one. I am not talking just consistency of trade; I am talking true strategic partnership.

Q: So, do you think in the next 30 years India can become a developed country in the league of the US?
Yes, I do.

Q: You talked about areas such as technology, digitisation, education and human resources where India is progressing really well and will continue to do so. But then, what are the challenges that India needs to overcome, if it wants to progress even faster?
Well, it is the same challenges that I talked about in the US. With new technologies coming in, some jobs will be displaced, but you have got to create more jobs dramatically than are displaced. The education system has to change in terms of entrepreneurship, so that each citizen has a chance to participate in the future. It is about creating a startup nation. It is about accelerating the growth of startups, and the way you accelerate the education changes that need to be made.

Q: How do you see India 30 years down the line?
I think, the most likely scenario is of India being a leader not in emerging but in developed countries.

Q: And the US will continue to be a steadfast, committed and trusted ally?
I think, we have a chance to build a strategic partnership unlike any other in the world. I think the forum you are creating has an increased probability to make this success.

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