There has been this ongoing debate that it is the government that has been front loading capex. There has been a lot of talk of private sector appetite but much of it has not been realised.
The Government infrastructure program and spending that has served as steroids and that has saved our economy the last few years, there is no doubt about that. You have to also keep in mind that expectation on return on capital for the government is slightly different and longer than the private individual and one must understand and respect that.
No private sector individual is going to let go a business opportunity when it is right for the picking. We still live in a very uncertain world, but we are starting to see change. We saw some notable sectors like cement, construction, housing, grow… Equipment manufacturers orders grow. The next set of sectors… on an average the capacity utilisation across sectors in the last few months has been around 74-76%… We are headed towards that direction… the pause that we have seen in interest rates is also a welcome measure.
The pragmatism that we have seen with RBI over the last three years in India, I don’t see this with any other central bank in the world. So, we have a lot of positives, we just need a little bit of patience.
On how the geo-political situation is playing off! If you had to do a technology tie up, would you consider the friends’ approach, we are now talking about the US treasury secretary saying let us consider friends shoring or nearer shoring – are those now weighing much more on the minds of CEOs as they make business decisions on where to do business, who to do business with, and where to put your money, who to get your tech transfer with?
This is and will again vary from business to business. I am in the financial services business and for us the biggest driver is interest rates and inflation overseas and how they impact us. Just look at the last 2 days, with the US signalling a pause at least for some time in interest rates, our stock markets are up, and that impacts all of us… what we are looking for from the government, whether it is friend shoring, near shoring or enemy shoring is consistency of policy. Businesses are not built for a day; we build businesses for decades. So, if we know that this is the road, we can choose how fast or slow to go on a road. But if the road is going to have curves in that that we cannot see then that adds to risk. And if you add risk in business, then automatically businesses get more conservative.
So, to me that is important. For us, fortunately our business today is all domestic. The resilience we have seen in our economy has surprised some of us positively over the last few years, it has meant that we have continued to grow. And the quality of growth right now in the consumer sector, especially, is unparalleled. Lending and insurance sectors have grown very well. I keep hoping that we need to see India growing at 8, 9 or 10% and I think that is an opportunity that we are losing by not doing so. But if you look at India in 5 year snapshots, we have changed dramatically as a country towards the positive. Now we can do a lot more but I do see that change. I will also take a shot at what you mentioned earlier, when it comes to women, when I see women in our own companies, I see a big difference in the women over the age of 35 and under the age of 35 and this is a bit relating to our joint family system and its expectations, the younger lot are mostly from non-nuclear families. The husband and wife and their own kid, they have lesser pressures. There are many positives of the joint family system but for the older lot, this is the big difference. In the big families, I think this makes a big difference.
Sanjiv Bajaj is the younger son of iconic and late Rahul Bajaj, the former chairperson of Bajaj Auto. He is presently the CMD and CEO of Bajaj Finserv, and was till recently the president of CII.