Politics

Powerful group of US CEOs meet Modi, raise concerns with growth in India

Key Points
  • As the U.S.-China trade fight drags on, a group of powerful U.S. CEOs met with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi behind closed doors in New York.
  • India's growing middle class and population of 1.3 billion makes India an appealing destination for American businesses.
  • The opportunity to expand into India is so great that top executives including JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Bank of America CEO Brian Mohniyan, IBM CEO Ginny Rommetty and Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman were among 36 other executives who sat down with Modi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a meeting at UN Headquarters in New York, September 24, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

As the U.S.-China trade fight drags on, a group of powerful U.S. CEOs met with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi behind closed doors in New York.

India's growing middle class and population of 1.3 billion makes India an appealing destination for American businesses.

The opportunity to expand into India is so great that top executives including J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Bank of America CEO Brian Mohniyan, IBM CEO Ginny Rommetty and Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman were among 36 other executives who sat down with Modi, CNBC reported.

But just as the opportunities are great, so are the challenges.

CEOs are said to have used the meeting to voice their concerns.

Nisha Biswal, president of the U.S. India Business Council told CNBC after the meeting that "it was a really good conversation."

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"I mean you have some of the biggest CEOs in America. The prime minister gave almost two hours of time and listened to a lot of the ideas as well as issues, and I think people were quite candid about some of the things they think India needs to do, and he was very receptive to hear those," Biswal said.

The timing of the meeting comes as India's economy has slowed to a six-year low and unemployment has risen sharply.

According to sources, during the meeting with Modi, the Indian leader tried to calm concerns about the slowdown

"I think the prime minister, when he walked in, he had these CEOs...a bit skeptical about the economy slowing down, but he lifted the mood, and you could see they were excited, positive and ready to invest more in the country," Mukesh Aghi, CEO of U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum, told CNBC.

Consistency in policymaking, increasing access to India's retail banking sector and providing liquidity were the key topics banking executives raised in the meeting with Modi, according to people in the room.

India's economic team is considering to raise money via the international bond market as it puts more capital towards infrastructure and other projects.

Another point of contention for American companies is e-commerce.

A recent e-commerce ruling unveiled by the Indian government earlier this year has challenged Walmart and Amazon's growth in the country, but executives remain hopeful that this ruling will be relaxed in the future.

"We had a great discussion, I'm glad we came to the meeting. We have a tremendous opportunity in India, it's great to have this kind of dialogue," Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, told CNBC after the meeting in New York.

When asked if he though India would change its e-commerce ruling, McMillon replied, "We'll have to wait and see."

During the meeting, sources say, executives also pushed Modi to sign a trade deal and end the trade fight with Washington.

Experts say any progress made on trade will be welcomed by U.S. businesses that are trying to grow their market share in India.

Sources close to India's government say a meeting between Indian trade officials and U.S. White House trade advisor Peter Navarro took place yesterday in New York and both sides are hoping to unveil a "limited trade deal" in the near future that would give U.S. farmers greater access to the India market.

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