As we have repeatedly stated in this column, India is one of the most attractive markets and the champion of growth among the world’s leading economies. It is on an exciting path of reform and turning out to be one of the most open and business-friendly in the region, but there is still much to do. These structural economic and financial reforms need to see the light as soon as possible so that foreign direct investment doesn’t shy away and the world markets strengthen their confidence in India.
Those who say nothing has been achieved are unfair and wrong, and those who insist that everything is fine and no further efforts need to be made, are hurting India’s bright future. There are some key aspects that need to be addressed to further boost India’s economy:
• Strengthen legal security in the country to give necessary guarantee to foreign and domestic investors
• Encourage entrepreneurship and private initiative with stimulus policies that have worked in India and abroad, including a business-friendly tax regime.
• Make India as comfortable as possible for FDI without hurting national interests
• Promote industries that are becoming the backbone of the nation’s GDP, like IT, technology-based industries and biotech among others.
• Ensure full and unconditional respect of international Intellectual Property (IP) legislation and protection, as it is an essential part of India’s success. Companies in the sector live and breathe thanks to intellectual property.
This is why the fact that India is among the top 11 countries on the US “Shame List” of IP hazards is potentially devastating for the nation’s economy. The issue needs to be urgently addressed not only by the authorities but also by affected businesses, the Chambers of Commerce and Industry associations and civil society. The country is by and large respectful of IP and the wrongdoings of a minority can’t and shouldn’t tarnish the country’s image and cast a shadow on the enormous efforts India has deployed to curb the theft and abuse of IP and prosecute those who have committed these serious crimes.
Compliance with these international standards are of the essence to cement India’s leadership in the IT industry and other industries that are IP-based. India’s most important wealth is human capital, the brain power of millions of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, inventors, industrialists, designers, doctors, biologists, researchers and entrepreneurs. They are the pride of India and of the world, and it is in their interest that this issue be courageously confronted and resolved.
India’s industry champions have fallen victim to two kinds of attacks: one, outright IP theft; second, being falsely accused of unlawful activities and then forced to pay outrageous compensations. India being on the “Shame List” is unfortunately a very effective argument for competitors of the country’s top players in this field. The recent example of the punitive compensations imposed on TCS of the Tata Group by a Wisconsin Grand Jury is a sad example of this. The list makes India’s IP-based industries a soft target for its rivals and puts this great nation alongside some of the planet’s most active transgressors of the international rules in this sphere, and that is simply not just, not to say outrageous.
India united has to face this challenge, which may not seem obvious to the layman but poses a phenomenal risk to the nation’s growth, prosperity and prestige. A well-structured strategy should be designed to counter the grave consequences of an exaggerated perception of a country that has progressed immensely in complying and enforcing the international rule of respect of IP. The legal battles are unfortunately inevitable, but so is the image war, the reputation battle, which India and its economy simply cannot afford to lose.
Aristegui is former Spanish ambassador to India