Business collaborations with the United States, which include sharing of best practices and expertise, have helped India transform into a force to be reckoned with in the global economy.
Chairman of KPMG India and Chairman of the USIBC India Advisory Council Arun M. Kumar meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019. Photograph courtesy USIBC India
Businesses from the United States have been operating within India for several decades, says Ranjana Khanna. And the effects caused by the presence of these businesses—especially since the dawn of the 21st century—have touched the lives of millions.
Khanna is the director general and CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in India (AMCHAM), an association that helps American companies through advocacy, information, networking and business support services. As part of their work, Khanna and her colleagues track the significant growth the Indian economy has experienced with the support of American activity and investment.
For example, since the 1960s, the rate of growth for India’s gross domestic product has nearly doubled and the country is currently regarded as one of the most rapidly expanding economies in the world. Khanna and her AMCHAM colleagues expect India’s growth to reach a massive $5 trillion by 2025, and double of that by 2032. According to Khanna, much of that explosion stems from trade and other forms of international cooperation with the United States.
“India-U.S. bilateral relations have developed into a global strategic partnership based on shared democratic values and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues,” she says. The scale and breadth of the U.S.-India partnership is tremendous, she continues, and covers international trade and investment, defense and cybersecurity, nuclear and fossil fuel energy, green technology and environmental health, and even space technology.
Jacob Gullish is the senior director for policy advocacy at the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), an organization that has supported trade between the United States and India for close to half a century. According to Gullish, although the United States has long maintained business and industrial ties with India, the last two decades have seen unprecedented growth in this relationship. Thousands of U.S. companies have opened offices and factories in India to tap local talent, he describes, and increasingly, Indian companies are mirroring the behavior in the United States.
“For India, these business ties have created a critical pipeline for talent and technology that supports high-tech investments in sectors like telecom, IT [information technology], defense, energy and finance,” he says. “The U.S.-India nexus also creates avenues to develop and share global best practices around business processes, corporate social responsibility and practical education and training.”
Khanna echoes this sentiment, emphasizing how responsible behavior by corporations has been a key focus of India’s partnership with the United States. “The ecosystems U.S. companies have created in India, long before spending on corporate social responsibility was mandatory by law, help to increase farmers’ income, teach citizens new skills for the future of work, cultivate mutual understanding and awareness on useful topics, train employees, provide otherwise unaffordable medical care, and strive to improve the quality of as many lives as possible,” she says. “Through projects and partnerships, U.S. companies are committed to building a better society and better world.”
She affirms that the power of the economic partnership between the United States and India is about exchanging ideas as much as goods, services and dollars. Sharing best practices and expertise “has bolstered people-to-people ties and instilled trust, allowing the thriving trade relationship to continue,” she says.
However, even an economic machine as robust as the U.S.-India partnership is not immune to COVID-19, with widespread disruption and suffering being the results. Although the effects of this pandemic have slowed economic activity, Gullish sees opportunity amid the chaos.
“The next generation of business leaders are today’s students and young leaders,” he says. “They’re coming of age in a turbulent time, with the coronavirus pandemic upending traditional economic models. While the economic downturn has introduced new challenges, it has also generated new and innovated approaches to business. Sectors like artificial intelligence, digital payments and e-sports are poised for explosive growth in the years ahead, and will help drive the future of the U.S.-India partnership.”
The expansive nature of the bilateral economic relationship provides a strong foundation for innovation in these fields and beyond. But, personal relationships are still the sparks that make big things happen.
“Indians are incredibly smart and resilient. But in the past, young entrepreneurs often lacked the business know-how and access to capital critical to commercializing new ideas,” says Gullish. “The people-to-people ties between our countries have supported the growth of India’s vibrant start-up ecosystems—many of which still benefit from ties to the United States and the large Indian diaspora. These relationships, business or otherwise, have improved the lives and livelihoods of communities in both India and the United States.”
Given that the United States is one of the world’s largest investors in the Indian economy, with billions of dollars committed to the country’s success, this positive trend of innovation, collaboration and progress is bound to continue.
“The enduring U.S.-India relationship will continue to grow,” says Khanna, “and that may be the only thing I am sure of during these uncertain times.”
Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.