Deloitte India CEO Venkatram puts to rest concerns over falling demand, lauds govt’s reform agenda

With the reopening of the economy firmly afoot, India needs to start searching for post-Covid winners and zones of opportunity therein, Deloitte India CEO N Venkatram said, adding that many sectors will emerge as winners aided by an immense pent-up demand.

Despite the mounting Covid-19 cases, unemployment numbers and choked incomes, there has been robust demand in industries such as auto, white goods and smartphones ahead of the festive season.

“Whether I look at retail, automotive or fashion, all these things are going to come back to normal. I do not believe that we need to worry about demand anymore,” Venkatram said in an interview to ET now.

Land and labour reforms

Talking about the recent land and labour reforms, the Deloitte CEO said that the measures taken by the government are quite favourable for investment by the MNCs.

“When you look at the ease of doing business index, we were below 100 in the area of labour and this(labour reform) should pull us up substantially. I believe the multinationals will look at this very favourably in terms of making investments,” he said.

Venkatram, however, said that availability of land and the ease to use the land are still important concerns for industry.

He also said that recent farm laws have unlocked opportunities for food processing, which can become a major area of export and a suitable expertise for a country like India.

Ease of doing business & entrepreneurship

Venkatram said there is a potential for latent entrepreneurs to bloom with the government’s focus on ease of doing business in the country.

Growth of governance in banking, investment in infrastructure and foreign capital can help the sufficient entrepreneurship that already exists in India, according to Venkatram.

“This is a journey on which we cannot walk alone… India will have to take assistance from its friends overseas,” the Deloitte CEO said.

Venkatram also hopes to see the emergence of more ground-up businesses, as he claims that most major investments in recent memory have been in established businesses that have gone bankrupt.

“We would like to see more people who in the old days were called industrialists, people who actually built businesses from the ground up,” he added.

Similarly, with ease of doing business becoming a talking point for established corporates and entrepreneurs alike, logistics is where the elbow room exists, Venkatram said.

Data goldmine

As the second most populous country in the world, India promises to be a goldmine for data collection.

Venkatram pointed out the possible exploitation in data from countries like India being used for others’ benefit. “We need to again keep thinking about how we can use this for the public good… I do not think it is right to restrict use of data or to set such tight data privacy laws that we are all nervous about what we look at or even to turn the page. But we should see if that data is being used for a larger public good,” he warns.

Human capital

One of the most important investments immediately post-Covid would be in human capital, the Deloitte CEO said.

“If any of us is thinking that when things get back to normal, all our employees are going to stay with us, we are probably in for a rude shock,” he said, elaborating that before looking at investment in plant and machinery, the first investment should be in human capital. He outlined the necessity to look at aspects of mental wellness and retaining and rewarding employees, before aiming at building a more digitized and virtual organization post the pandemic.

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