India: Start- Up Nation or Mature Economy
On Wednesday evening, March 15, the day after a snowstorm hit New York City, an audience of Baruch alumni, students, staff and others gathered in the Newman Vertical Campus for India@Baruch. It was the third such event in the series, following Brazil@Baruch in 2015 and China@Baruch in 2016. Organized by Baruch College’s Office of Alumni Relations and College Advancement, the panel included a notable group of speakers with significant, working experience in the Indian economy.
Myung-Soo Lee, Vice Provost of Global Initiatives, welcomed the audience to the event. He described the history of the @Baruch series and Baruch College’s commitment to expanding global perspectives among students, faculty and staff. Vice Provost Lee also mentioned the significant international student population from India, as well as many students of Indian heritage. He explained that Baruch College’s links to India would be expanding in the fall with a new, joint Zicklin School of Business/Mumbai Chamber of Commerce program offering a Master of Science degree. Vice Provost Lee then introduced President Mitchel Wallerstein, Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das and panel moderator, Guarav Verma.
President Mitchel Wallerstein extended a warm welcome to guests. He expressed his great admiration for India and remarked on the great deal of time he had spent there. President Wallerstein spoke about Baruch College’s diversity and the thousands of alumni of Indian heritage. He looked forward to learning more from the distinguished panel members.
Opening remarks by Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, Consul General of India in New York described India and the nature of India/U.S. relations. She described India and the U.S. as the largest and oldest of democracies where a convergence of ideas and views existed. However, she believed an information gap remained and saw the value in these types of conversations. She remarked that the U.S. is the 6th largest investor in India. Trade between the two countries currently stands at approximately $110 Billion and is expected to rise to approximately $500 Billion by the end of the decade. She completed her remarks by noting the Indian government’s new initiatives, such as Start-Up India and Digital India, which aim to create new jobs and opportunities.
Vice Provost Lee introduced the evening’s panel moderator, Guarav Verma, (Baruch MBA ’03), Senior Director, U.S. India Business Council. Verma introduced a diverse panelists from private investment firms as well as major accounting firms: Anupam Ghose (MBA ’94) CEO of System Two Advisors, LP; Nishchay Goel, Managing Director of Mousse Partners; Vikram Kuriyan, Vice Chair and Chief Portfolio Strategist, K3 Advisors; Krishna Memani, Chief Investment Officer, OppenheimerFunds and Raj Tripathi, National Leader, India Business Group, Grant Thornton.
When Verma posed his “Start-Up Nation or Mature Economy” question to the panelists, he received a range of responses. Some weighed in on India’s 5,000 years of recorded mercantilist history as proof of a mature economy. Others mentioned the number of countries investing in India as proof of its maturity. One panelist suggested that India’s significant number of mature companies with some of the best management in the world was surely a sign of a mature economy.
Other panelists ventured that India’s room for growth and future potential was proof of its start-up qualities. He indicated that averages are unable to accurately reflect the diversity of India. While others suggested that as the fastest growing large economy, the question was irrelevant.
Panelists were quick to discuss the potential, including the education system, English as a major language, and the youthful population. Although the fundamentals are considered positive, other panelists pointed out the continuing challenges. Obstacles included the need for labor reforms, the numerous regulations and the sometimes arbitrary ways they are enforced.
The panelists segued into a discussion of the recent demonetization efforts as well as new government initiatives. Although one panel member suggested demonetization was a self-inflicted pain on the economy which inadvertently hurt the lower and working classes more, others thought it was necessary. One remarked that it provided a massive shift from the disorganized sector to the organized sector. Another example of the potential for reform was the legislation for a proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) which would attempt to streamline the current system of state taxes into a unitary one. The panelists were pleased with this reform and the potential for easy and efficiency.
After an insightful Q&A session with the panel, Ambassador Das and the audience, Vice Provost Lee concluded the evening with thanks to all participants and the audience, including Janet Rossbach, Donna Haggarty and their teams in the Offices of Alumni Engagement and Advancement. Lee gave special thanks to reception sponsor Anupam Ghose and Chef Hemnat Mathur of Haldi in Kips Bay. He invited all attendees to enjoy the Indian cuisine and the networking opportunities at the concluding reception.