NEW DELHI — General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt said he sees great opportunities in India as a manufacturing destination, lending high-profile support to prime minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” campaign.
Speaking in New Delhi, Immelt said the world’s biggest infrastructure group plans to ramp up its India manufacturing activities with “significant” projects in the rail, power, oil and gas, aviation and healthcare sectors.
Modi set out an ambitious plan last year to revive Indian industry by wooing foreign companies with the promise of making it easier to do business, to create 100 million jobs and raise the country’s global competitiveness.
“In many ways the opportunities in India are unique and give us the chance to grow our business in India maybe more substantially than any place in the world,” Immelt said in an upbeat address. “It is a process in India, it is never easy, (but) as time goes on we see great opportunities for a market this size.”
GE entered India in 1902 with the country’s first hydropower plant and already manufactures goods ranging from aircraft engines and wind turbines to medical imaging machines and freight trains.
After meeting Modi, the long-serving CEO, who has overseen projects in India for two decades, said he felt confident that reforms long sought by businesses were on the right track.
“We want (India) to be easier to do business with,” Immelt said. “We believe that prime minister Modi’s vision is the right vision and what we expect is just execution – better execution, more execution, faster execution. But his vision for the country makes it much more investible and I think allows us to think about the country for the long term.”
Modi’s government wants manufacturing to account for 25% of GDP by 2022, up from today’s 16%, and so reduce reliance on agriculture, which still accounts for almost half of all employment.
“Make in India” has achieved a few notable successes including a $5 billion plan by Taiwanese electronics firm Foxconn to build factories in the country and a pledge from General Motors to invest $1 billion to create an auto manufacturing hub.
The campaign still faces huge challenges, though, including patchy and outdated infrastructure, difficulties in acquiring land, and an offputting tax and investment regime choked by red tape.
GE reported net profit of $15.2 billion in 2014, a 16% increase on the year before.
India Purchases 37 Boeing Military Choppers
In related news, India cleared a $2.5 billion deal Tuesday to purchase 37 military helicopters from Boeing, on the eve of Modi’s visit to the United States.
The cabinet cleared the purchase of 22 Apache helicopters and 15 heavy-lifting Chinook choppers, a long-pending deal that was discussed during U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to India last August.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015