The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry is embarking on a nationwide initiative with Bain, the US management consultant, to restore faith in India's business community and investment prospects.
The country’s leading companies are launching a campaign called “Credible India” aimed at countering a tide of corruption cases that has weighed heavily on India’s attractiveness as a leading emerging economy investment destination.
A series of scandals over the past year has paralysed the Congress party-led government and severely dented India's appeal to investors. So great has been the furore that corruption over the past year has dominated the national narrative.
Foreign direct investment has dropped markedly, portfolio investment has waned, in spite of India's forecast economic growth of 8 per cent this year, and the rupee has fallen against the US dollar.
Rajiv Kumar, director-general of the federation (Ficci), told the Financial Times that India's businesspeople on trips abroad had frequently faced direct questioning from investors about the credibility of the government's five-year plans, over-ambitious infrastructure delivery targets, and the anti-graft mood sweeping the country.
Over the past year, senior executives and politicians have been put behind bars for suspected scams in the telecoms sector, the running of the Commonwealth Games, and illegal iron ore mining.
The “Credible India” initiative is a play on the Ministry of Tourism’s high-profile “Incredible India” international marketing campaign – a multimillion-dollar drive to change perceptions about India and market it as a tourist destination of palaces and pristine landscapes.
That campaign was designed to help India attract more international travellers, as taxes, poor infrastructure and shortages of skilled workers in the hospitality industry had driven up costs of air fares and quality accommodation.
“We feel that India has sold the ‘Incredible India’ story,” said a spokesman for Ficci. “We now need to sell the ‘Credible India’ story.”
The business lobby has been galvanised by the humiliation of the World Bank’s latest “Doing Business” index, which ranked India a lowly 134th out of 183 countries for ease of conducting commercial ties.
“For a country that aspires to be a global economic powerhouse, such a ranking is highly counter-productive and can prove to be a big impediment in the realisation of that goal,” said Harsh Mariwala, Ficci’s president and chairman of Marico, a leading consumer goods group.