“We are building the Tesla of the East”
“I have spent my 30 years in the US and Europe. I understand their business, as I have done my business there. Transparency is very important and it is coming during the regime of the Modi government. Hence, over the last six years, the picture of the country at world stage has improved considerably. If the US President comes to India and shares the dais with our Prime Minister in front of a huge crowd, it means transparency has improved. However, labour law reforms have yet to take place and this is a very important aspect for a potential investor,” said Uday Narang of Anglian Omega Group in an exclusive interview with Deepak Kumar Rath. Excerpts:
At the very outset, tell us about the mantras of your successful life.
Healthy eating, healthy business, healthy environment, these are the mantras of my life. I own a website called Khelnow.com. I am the follower of Narendra Modi. When he became Prime Minister of the country, it was a defining moment for India. I came to India because India can provide better opportunities than other countries. I am very sensitive towards environment. This COVID-19 has taught us that we should not pollute and misuse the mother earth and environment.
You talk about Indian culture, which is not reflected in Indian business. How come you are deeply connected to Indian moorings?
I have been in India for the last 10 years and before that I was abroad. One should never forget one’s motherland. You can live in other parts of the world but your nationality, ethnicity are important. I am still an Indian citizen and I did not take any citizenship to live abroad, because I believe in the culture and values of India. As a businessman, I can say that India provides immense opportunities and India will be among the top three GDPs in the world in next five to seven years, as Union Minister Nitin Gadkari just said that India had enormous opportunities. Post COVID, you would see India is far ahead of countries like France, Italy and other European countries. I believe in Prime Minister Modi’s $5 trillion economy. Looking at its culture, values and potential, India is the right country to invest in. Talking about EVs (Electric Vehicles), I would say that pollution is the biggest concern right now and we are working on EVs to reduce pollution in cities and villages. They would be manufactured fully indigenously.
You just said that in the next five to seven years the Indian economy would be bigger than most of the European countries, but international rating agencies are predicting that India’s GDP growth would be below five per cent.
India is not limited to Mumbai and Delhi. It is a huge country. Still today, villages are not affected by COVID-19. There is absolute underestimation of our economy. We have the largest younger population. We have good education. We are a very hard working country. Hence, I think all the forecasts and ratings would prove to be wrong over the five to seven years’ span. These economists are undermining India’s strength.
Recently, PM Narendra Modi announced free ration for 80 crore people till November 2020. As a businessman, how do you see this? Don’t you think if people get their livelihood, they would do their work, as they were working in pre COVID-19? Would it not dent their talent and proficiency?
Let me tell you one thing, per capita income in the US for a family of five persons is $30,000. in Europe, it is $20,000, and In India, it is $2000. In Europe and the US, thousands of dollars are transferred directly to people’s accounts. We are only giving rice, wheat and pulse. Whatever happened to migrant workers in India is really deplorable and we should have done better. Now it’s time for us that we all should work on technology. In California, from Google, Adobe to Microsoft, Indians are CEO of these companies. If our brother can do things there, why can’t they do it here? And we can see this change. This is a huge country where everyone keeps his own opinion, which is not witnessed in countries like China. Therefore, it will take time to change the country. Now, the time has come we should invest in states like UP, Bihar and Odisha, so that those migrant workers, who have returned to their hometown, get the jobs there.
Lakhs of skilled labourers, who were working in diamond industries and handloom sector, have returned to Odisha. Can those industries not be shifted from Surat to Odisha?
This is happening across the world, not only in India. The whole world has moved down because of this Covid-19 pandemic..But being young entrepreneurs, this is our duty to achieve what we want to achieve. In England, people say that after a storm, sunshine comes. If we work together, we can achieve a lot. If I just depend on the government, then it is the wrong question. The answer is what I can do. Every one of us has to work towards bringing about the change and, I believe, then everything is possible.
PM Modi recently talked about an Atamnirbhar Bharat. What is your vision to attain this?
I came to India after seeing vast opportunities here. I came here because I wanted to have 8-9 per cent of growth. I could stay in Europe if I wanted 1-2 per cent of growth. One interesting thing is that two billion people reside in India and ASEAN countries, which is about 40 per cent of the total world population, and they are young people. Young people buy goods. And mark my words, market runs on consumption, and demand comes from the young population. Just look at Japan, it is a rich country, but there is no demand as people are older there. MSMEs in Japan are struggling. Therefore, we all should work for a self-reliant India. All the Chief Ministers should invite tenders from companies having innovative technology such as French, Japanese, American, Thai and other companies and they should be asked to come and provide us technology and give jobs to our labours. If we do this, everything is possible.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the companies are shifting their base from China. Our Prime Minister has said that India is the best place to invest in. However, there are three major obstacles in the country, namely labour laws, infrastructure and transparency. Do you think these would turn out to be major bottlenecks for investors?
You have raised a very important point. I have spent my 30 years in the US and Europe. I understand their business, as I have done my business there. Transparency is very important and it is coming during the regime of the Modi government. Over the last six years, the picture of the country at world stage has improved considerably. If the US President comes to India and shares the dais with our Prime Minister in front of a huge crowd, it means transparency has improved. However, labour law reforms have yet to take place and this is a very important aspect for a potential investor.
Given the populist politics of political parties in our country, do you think it is an arduous path to bring in reforms in labour laws?
The new generation understands everything. You talk about foreign investors, who would get 1 per cent of growth in countries like Japan and Europe, where everything is okay. But, when they invest here, they would attain10 per cent of growth. Therefore, if they can get this much growth here, then these problems don’t matter. There are many things going on in this country, but people do not understand them. For example, Jio, even during this pandemic, has raised $18 billion. Rome was not built in one day, so India cannot be changed in one day.
What would you say about medical infrastructure in rural areas in the country?
As I mentioned earlier, change does not come in a day. It takes time. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in power for the last six years only, so it will take time. If you look at UP, during the Akhilesh Yadav regime, everything was in a mess. But now, during the Yogi Adityanath regime, you can witness the change. We compare ourselves with China. However, one cannot raise one’s voice there. So, it is up to you where do you want to live? Do you want to live in an authoritarian communist regime or in a democracy? Of course, one likes a democracy. We all love democracy. Therefore, I believe, in the coming five to 10 years, we are going to see changes. You are talking about villages, everyday, I go to my factory and ask my workers about their health. So, it is on people like us to bring in the change. One important thing, India is the only hope for investors now, as China, during COVID 19 pandemic, has shown its true colours.and the world has also realised it. I think we should not blame the government entirely. It is also the responsibility of our businessmen to help the country by bringing investment back to India.
You appear very optimistic.
I always tend to be optimistic. I believe in this. The government cannot fix all the problems. The point here is that public-private partnership has to lead the economy. The government should give support to the private sector to develop the economy. The government should provide support to the private sector in terms of banking, finance and labour. Some state governments are doing well. Chinese spend more money on defence and technology, but don’t our forces fight them? Yes they do, because it is their confidence. If our armed forces can do it, why can’t we?
Who is your inspiration?
I am really inspired by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his vision, his team and India inc. Seven to eight years back, when I heard his speech, I realised this man had potential and I decided to return to India.
Enlighten us about the sectors you are working in right now?
We are in the automotive and steel sectors. In automotive, we are providing steel to all the large manufacturing units. I along with my team am going to build the Tesla of the East. We are going to build an EV technology company. We are going to work with companies based In India like Honda, Exide. We are going to build the business that will contribute $5 billion dollar to the economy. We are in the food technology, sports and pharma business. Khelnow.com is a platform through which football enthusiasts discuss their needs such as medical trainers or any assistance. We are starting Kabbadi tournaments too. We also have another company called Anglian Medal Hunt, which trains athletes for Olympics with the help of Adani Group and SAIL. I am involved in the sports sector because I believe the younger generation needs to be healthier.
There was a Khelo India event in India, which was the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
We were also involved in that event.There are many people who follow the trend. But there are some people who set the trend. Trend-setters take a lot of risks and we believe we are trend-setters. Maybe, we are not billionaires like some rich people of this country. But it does not make any difference. And that’s what keeps me alive and going everyday. I get the energy from the country and I want to do things, where I can give it back to the country. If you look at the prominent rich people, whether it is Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Juckerberg, they all are giving back to the society. Therefore, I also want to give back to the society. This country has given a lot to everyone. Therefore, stop asking what the country can do for us; instead start asking yourself what you can do for the country.
What are your expectations from the government?
My expectations are that post COVID 19, there is a significant change in terms of helping businesses. Till November, I hope we will have a vaccine for COVID 19. Against this backdrop, free ration to the poor is a great idea. But after November, MSMEs should be given a lot of support as they generate huge employment opportunities. Those people, who can generate businesses in villages, should be financially supported. Of course, transparency, infrastructure, labour laws are the significant aspects. Political differences should be plugged; everyone should work unitedly.
What is your dream?
My dream is that when I am gone, the standard of living of the poor people of this country, GDP, health services, educational services, all of them are in a much better condition.
What is your strength?
I am a big fan of boxer Mohammad Ali, who was from the Black community. He was financially weak, and was persecuted by the White community. But he rose to pinnacle in boxing. So, we all are like a boxer. We can be put down, but we will come back. Nothing can keep me down. I will have a bad day, but I will come back. And the secret of my strength is my fitness, because a healthy mind can deal with any problem.
What is your weakness?
My weakness is that I am very kind hearted. Therefore, people sometimes take advantage of me. However, I am happy with this weakness, if it makes a difference in people’s life.