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‘Modi In League Of Gandhi, Deserves Another Term’

In an interview with BW Businessworld, John Chambers, former CEO of CISCO, explains why he feels Modi deserves another term in office

Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta


John Chambers, former CEO of CISCO, a long-time Indophile, and a Narendra Modi admirer, explains why he feels Modi deserves another term in office in an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha.


PM Modi has completed four years in office. You are an outsider, yet you are not. What changes do you see in India, as you look on from the US?
I have been involved with India for over 30 years, so I have had a chance to look at India very closely. I made it the second headquarters for CISCO. I am tremendously excited about how the country is changing. As Chairman of the US India Strategic Partnership Forum, I have had a chance to see this change.

There are changes in new technology and changes in business models. In simple words, I would say that PM Modi has laid the ground work for the next 25 years. With the moves he has made on Digital India, Startup India, Manufacture in India — he has shown that he is a fast leader, fast innovator, rather than a slow follower. When the foundation laid is in the right way, when changes occur, they won’t slide back into the past.

Whether it’s Digital India, Startup, demonetisation, ease of doing business or GST, his accomplishments in the last four years have been comparable with the accomplishments of any other leader in the world. I would give him very high marks. I have met many global leaders, many times, and it’s with this experience I am saying this.

You have interacted with generations of Indian leaders. How do you compare PM Modi with PM Vajpayee and then PM Manmohan Singh?
Prime Minister Modi outlined a vision for India that is most exciting and challenging, and in an inclusive fashion for all the 1.3 billion Indians. He is a visionary and knows how to turn vision into strategy. He led India as an innovator, and not just a slow follower.

Something similar was witnessed during the times of Gandhi. India is the fastest growing major GDP economy and in a decade or two, India would be one of  the top three economies and a modern economy. He has done it in a much more inclusive fashion than other leaders.

He doesn’t care who the leader in the state is - he ensures that each of the 29 states get to participate. He has captured the minds of the young people in terms of what is possible.

Slowness is okay, but when the world is moving at a tremendous pace, you must have the ability and courage to disrupt. That is true of most companies in the world, and also countries.

I would put Modi as one of the top three leaders of the world, and maybe with the best vision. I said this three years ago. India I said, would be the fastest growing economy in the world, and it’s there – faster than the peers in Asia, North America, Europe.

Gandhi and Modi are the top two leaders of  India as I see them.

You would put Modi in the league of Gandhi. That is very interesting.
To accomplish what Gandhi did for India, Modi needs a decade. Indian young people, like American young people are very impatient. Changes require three to five years to implement. When you make large-scale changes with the limitations that you have, it takes time.

How would you evaluate earlier PMs like PM Vajpayee and PM Manmohan Singh?
I would say India in the pre-Modi era was a slow follower. India would not be where it is today and where it will be a decade and a half from now unless it is an innovator and a disruptor and risk-taker.

Gandhi was a risk-taker — implementing the vision and the aspirations he thought was right for his people. That is how I see PM Modi.

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cisco john chambers magazine 26 may 2018