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News18 Rising India | India Progressing at Much Faster Rate Than Others, Says Former Cisco CEO

When you look at the future of India, you have 1.3 billion of people with the average age of 26, and it’s a group which is extremely hard working. Your government is working towards creating the environment for job creation and raising the standard of living at par with other world powers.

Rounak Kumar Gunjan | News18.com@Rounak_T

Updated:March 19, 2018, 8:49 AM IST
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News18 Rising India | India Progressing at Much Faster Rate Than Others, Says Former Cisco CEO
File photo of former CEO of Cisco John Chambers (Reuters)
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Hours before News18’s Rising India Summit, JC2 Ventures founder and CEO John Chambers said that India’s growth story will be an example to the rest of the world and the country is growing at a rate much faster than others.

Chambers, also the former CEO of Cisco, headed the company’s teams in India that brought him closer to the ground realities of the country.

“Everything about the country excites me,” he exclaimed, in an interaction with News18.com. The summit will be held in New Delhi on March 16 and 17.

Edited excerpts of the interview:

What is your version of a rising India?

Everything about India excites me. I headed world headquarters of Cisco in India almost 15 years ago and three years ago I met Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was elected. I felt that he could be one of the greatest leaders in the world, and he turned out to be one.

When you look at the future of India, you have 1.3 billion of people with the average age of 26, and it’s a group which is extremely hard working. Your government is working towards creating the environment for job creation and raising the standard of living at par with other world powers.

In my opinion, when you look at India over the next 10 years, the GDP will grow with good execution. Perhaps, over 10 per cent for a decade. I know that three years ago there were a lot of challenges, but now the people looking at India are way more optimistic.

What are the hurdles in a run up to India’s growth story?

There will be bumps along the way, there was and will continue to be. But if you look at the story in India and you look at the inclusive approach across all 29 states, the chief ministers and a prime minister like Modi, the problems can be easily overcome. He is among the very best in the world, a tremendous visionary genius. He wakes up every morning thinking about what can be done for the country.

He is among the very few leaders in the world who understand digitisation and interestingly India is among the three countries that are growing the fastest in their individual areas within the world and creating jobs.

I think the first thing India needs to work on, is to continue to move fast with timely changes. People naturally resist change. The strategies by Modi outline a dream about GDP growth of an extra two to three points. Digitisation will foster India’s growth. India will soon become the start-up engine for Asia. The plans to come up with smart cities in 760 villages across 29 states and territories to empower young people and innovation for the future is commendable, but the key is how do you keep the momentum going.

Also, people in India are impatient. You've got the biggest aircraft carrier in the world and expect the prime minister to be able to do something about it in a jiffy.
For example, demonetization or the goods and services tax (GST), things which were so fundamental to the future. All of those things help with modernization and development of the country as a whole. Yet all of us and certainly critics say things should happen faster.

Any business leader will tell you that it takes one to three years to implement them.

How do we bridge the gap between rural and urban development?

Inclusive growth is the key to developing any nation. I am sharing with you the same discussion that is an issue in France as well. There they have decided that you have to make it inclusive of all the people in the country. So to think about India and the venture capital being focused on just nine cities is not helping at all. So we've got to get that venture capital spread across all 29 states. It has to be a program of how do we enable that to make it easier for startups to engage with that even further.

India made the biggest move in the world in ease of doing business but we still have a way to go. Chief Ministers need to take responsibility in their states to say how we make it a start-up state. How do we make it inclusive? Similarly in a very positive way, competition needs to prop up.

What are the positives and negatives for a foreign business investor in India?

As a business investor, the startup culture which is increasingly becoming popular in the country encourages me. I have my own money invested in a few start-ups in India. With policies like Start-up India, Make in India and Digital India there are prospects of tremendous growth in the country.
India is going to be a model for growth in front of the entire world. In the last ten years India has developed from a country that used to pose many challenges to one that solves them.

However, as an investor something that makes me nervous is the pace of change. India needs to find a momentum to surge ahead under the able leadership of Prime Minister Modi.

He is the best leader there ever can be, I can bet my life on him.
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