As many of the world’s emerging markets hit a downturn in growth and FDI inflows, India is proving to be a stubborn outlier. The country of 1.2 billion and the world’s most populous democracy is writing its own growth story, having been ranked as the number one destination for FDI in the first half of 2015 by fDi Markets – with $31bn in inward greenfield investment up to June – surpassing China by $3bn and the US by $4bn. And at upwards of 7%, it is also currently the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
Playing a part in this story is Sumit Jamuar, chief executive of London-based SBICAP UK, the UK investment bank subsidiary of State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest commercial bank. And Mr Jamuar does not underestimate the potential in India’s rise. “India is a $2.1tn economy estimated to double every five years. It is expected to be a $13tn consumer market by 2030 and have a quarter of the world’s skilled workforce by 2020. So when you look at those figures, it does get noticed,” he says.
SBI and SBICAP have been an integral part of financing India’s growth story, from infrastructure projects to policy formulation, Mr Jamuar tells fDi Magazine. “We have been consistently ranked number one across key categories, whether in India, Asia-Pacific or globally. So our focus in Europe and the UK is very much to support India-linked businesses and support India’s growth,” he says. SBICAP UK’s mandate is to build branches and deliver its services across key UK and European markets, both public and private. Mr Jamuar leads and builds those branches.
For businesses looking to take part in India’s growth story and access its market, SBICAP UK plays a vital role, according to Mr Jamuar. “We are here to facilitate two things: crossborder capital flows and crossborder business engagement, whether through financing, joint ventures or mergers and acquisitions, because we know all the clients back in India. Not only do we know the clients; we know the clients’ clients. So we have a very robust view of what is happening out there,” he says.
India’s rapid FDI ascent is being spurred by three core factors, Mr Jamuar explains. One is the presence of a stable central government and regulatory regime, responsible for India’s recent widespread easing of FDI regulations; the second is a federal system allowing for competition between India’s states; and the third is domestic demand-driven growth.
“India does require huge investment, given the size of its market and level of growth,” says Mr Jamuar. “Infrastructure and service sectors are prime opportunities and they both require capital. When you look at slowdown or turbulence in other markets, investors looking for a return or companies looking for new or growing markets are looking at India quite favourably.”
Easing FDI limits
Most recently, prime minister Narendra Modi has implemented a range of laws aimed at easing the business climate in India. FDI limits have been liberalised in many areas where foreign investment was previously not allowed, such as railways and single-brand retail, which now allow 100% foreign ownership. “Even areas of national strategic importance such as defence and insurance now allow 49% ownership,” says Mr Jamuar. “There is an understanding that FDI plays a critical role, so there is substantial focus around liberalisation and improving the ease of doing business.
“In sessions I have held between Indian officials and corporates investing in India, the overall sentiment is very positive and the intent to further investments there is also very strong. There is a policy level push, such as the Make in India and Digital India initiatives, but it is always important to get on-the-ground feedback from the people actually doing the investing and creating those jobs. And I was really encouraged to see this happening – that was very positive.”