When India’s pro-business prime minister, Narendra Modi, was elected last year, it piqued the interest of business communities around the world.
But one year later, they have yet to really buy into the hype.
Before his election, Modi was known for turning his home state of Gujarat into an important investment destination. He came to power full of promises for economic reform at the federal level too — from auctioning off the state-run coal industry to removing barriers for foreign direct investment.
The stock market initially soared, though it has already started to taper off.
While he’s definitely made some important strides in those areas, progress has been slow. Still, many analysts and experts are still bullish on India’s long-term growth.
But what about the business community?
Sandra Peterson, a member of Johnson & Johnson’s executive committee, spoke on behalf of the US business community at an event at the Asia Society Policy Institute on Tuesday, and her message was less glowing than what some of the other panelists and diplomats had to say.
She agreed that the business community, broadly, was “thrilled” by the shift in the administration last year, but said the Modi government could not rebrand India in just 12 months.
“We can’t change the image over night,” she said.
There’s still time.
Johnson & Johnson has been in India for about 60 years, Peterson said, and in that time the company has seen some gradual improvement in terms of the business environment.
She also said that many investors are becoming more interested in India these days than China.
“I think that there’s a large opportunity for India to develop as a much more attractive place for foreign investment,” she said.
That’s because China, for many business leaders, has become much less predictable than it used to be.
Meanwhile, Peterson said, “predictability” has picked up in India in the past year. But leaders need to be more vocal about all the changes they’re making.