GE's Outgoing India Head Upbeat About Reform

The spirit of reform is here to stay regardless of politics, says outgoing CEO Scott Bayman.

Scott Bayman, General Electric's outgoing India CEO says he is confident politics won't alter the course of economic reform that has changed the face of a country he made his home for 14 years.

Bayman, 60, whose retirement was announced on May 22, took the helm of company in India two years after a bankrupt government reversed decades of socialist-style economic policies that shut the doors on foreign investors and fettered private enterprise. He has watched a variety of coalition governments driven by factional rivalries come and go and witnessed the transformation of the nation of 1.1 billion people into an emerging economic powerhouse.

"I have been here through six governments and five prime ministers," New Delhi-based Bayman said on May 22. "Certainly I can say today that liberalization is not dependent on any one political party."

During Bayman's Indian tenure, overseeing businesses ranging from jet engine sales to consumer loans and water to power plants, the pace of economic reforms has varied as the nation passed through an era of coalition governments.

The spirit of reform is here to stay regardless of politics, said Bayman, who swears by the potential of an economy that has expanded at a yearly pace of 8.5% for the past three years -- the most after China. "I think this country has a terrific future," the GE executive said. "For an emerging economy, the country risk is very attractive -- you got a very strong regulatory environment, the rule of the law, a strong domestic market. India isn't very dependent on exports so it can sustain an external downturn better than most. And manufacturing is proving to be a powerful force, as much as IT-enabled services."

For General Electric, India has become the fastest growing market in the world, after once being an often frustrating place to do business. "We have got growth pretty much across the board," Bayman said. "Infrastructure first, jet engines, oil and gas, energy, healthcare, financial services... we are not dependent on any one particular business."

From one billion dollars of sales in 2005, GE India expects to log close to three billion dollars in revenue this year, a figure that it expects to swell to eight billion dollars by 2010, Bayman said.

Bayman will hand over his job to Tejpreet Singh Chopra, a 10-year GE veteran and the first Indian to be given the conglomerate's top job in the country.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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