Ramdas Shenoy intête-à-tête with Ameya Prabhu — Young Global Leader at WEF, Managing Director at Nafa Capital Group and also author of Rock Babas.
How did you see the Indian Economic scene and what is your impression of how India is placed for the next 10 years?
The pandemic has been very challenging for the world. India too had its fair share of challenges and it has certainly disrupted our growth trajectory that we were on. Historically though, post pandemics there have been economic booms, and if we see on either side of both the lockdowns we have been doing extremely well from economic point of view, and the latent demand post the first lockdown last year has been quite substantial. I am very positive on the Indian economy and entrepreneurship spirit of the Indian people to continually build and grow phenomenal businesses. I am also quite positive that we will continue to be the growth engine in the coming years.
Though the only thing that I would like to say is that we need to make it easier for regulations in business. We need to ensure that we bring a lot of technology to our regulations and processes so that good people get promoted and technology has an ability to ensure that we don’t treat everyone in the same way. We need incorporate technology in regulatory processes and make it compliance and tax easy. We also need to make it graded, say for a start-up it is easier and as businesses grow and have profits, you can have more and more compliances. Only if we can do it in a graded manner it will help us as a country.
There is a lot of hype around Start-ups and Unicorns in India, does India really support the start-up ecosystem?
I in my capacity as a Chairperson of the western region’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and am also the member of the startup committee of both CII and Indian Chamber of Commerce and President of the start-up wing of the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce and also we actively invest in start-ups, so I think the sheer size of the Indian economy and the innovation of the people of India ensures that we continue to have high quality of start-ups that keep getting developed in our country and not every startup succeeds, which is fine. At the end of the day, there may be 10,000 or 10 Million seeds which are planted, and not every seed germinates into a tree and not every tree grows out and becomes a large tree. Similarly, with Start-ups, it is very normal for several companies to start-up and only few of them to succeed.
So, becoming a unicorn is a very big thing but even a company to be valued at 10~20 million dollars is a big feat, it is lot of money. I think the sheer size of the economy and innovation, the people of our country ensure that start-up ecosystem is very robust, is very strong.
There are challenges, there are challenges all throughout, because every phase of life has challenges, challenges in getting the right quality manpower, there are challenges of tax, there are challenges of regulation. One of the roles that I play as member of some of these business organization is to highlight them to the authorities and that ensure that the challenges are slowly but surely eliminated.
If you ask me whether the startup eco-system with regulatory is ok, definitely not. Is it better than let’s say 2014, yes! Because the Government has also been proactive to find solutions but we have to realize that as much as a business we try to push the Government and push the regulations, we also have to realize that ‘Change is truth’ and in democracy change is slow. It has to be a collaborative effort, we have to respect the fact that change is slow and has the Government put a lot of effort to promote start-ups, I would whole heartedly say ‘Yes’. It is much better than it was and am sure that they will continue doing better way forward.
There are a lot of Government led public sectors which are going through a rough patch , whereas the Private sector is eyeing the same space like telecom, postal, railways, airlines etc…what is your view as a Young leader?
I personally don’t think that there should be a contradiction here because ultimately as long as you are an Indian business and an Indian Company, and there are lot of Government Companies have a sufficient amount of market share holding. As long as you are an Indian tax payer there should be a level playing field. If you see recent trend, where the Government wants to reduce the number of business they are in, it is correct move. Ultimately, you should not look at it as Government putting private back.
That is a wrong way to look at it. On the contrary all companies, Government of Private Companies, and tax paying Companies in India, there should be a level playing field. Certain Government Companies that are not efficient, maybe they will not survive, because that is the way market works. Even the private companies who are not efficient, they will also not survive.
Ultimately, market is all powerful and we have to let competitive forces come in the market and my only suggestion for Government companies or Government controlled companies is that there are some fantastic people that work there in these companies, but unfortunately, they are not given the right incentive packages. So, I would suggest that lot of these PSU companies could have a good mix of existing and new management which could be brought externally. The complete management control should be given to the people. People at PSUs are phenomenal officers and with greater management control without the fear of bureaucrat going after them, they will do a far better job.
I think we should also give them the options of shares in the Company, where they are also incentivized because why a private sector person earns 5 Lakhs per month and a guy at a Public sector company who is more senior than him earn less than that? These are HR related issues and once we sort out HR related issues the structure of the Company will be much better.
What is your role at the World Economic Forum?
I am a young global leader at World Economic Forum. World Economic Forum choses 100 young global leaders from across the world. It is a very prestigious thing where there are sitting Prime Ministers, sitting ministers and leaders of large organization and large banks.
How do you see climate change and its impact on the world?
I am on the board of the climate group and we just hosted Climate week in New York. Climate change is a very urgent issue and is an emergency if I might say. People in developing countries think that it is a rich man’s pass time, but it is actually not. Climate change affects the poorest of poor people and it can be highlighted by the fact that recently I was in Konkan, where we originally hail from and I was talking to some farmers and they are fundamentally thinking to move away from the mango crop because mango is more susceptible to climate change and moving towards bamboo which is less susceptible to climate change. That says a lot on how we people’s mentality is changing with regards to climate change.
What is your book, Rock Babas about?
Rock Babas, we launched it last year, it was available for sale end of last year, it was officially launched at the Jaipur Literature festival this year. It is a book of 9 short stories, Rock Baba being the title. It is book of human journeys, each story has a character based around the world, different gender, different religion, the idea was to showcase that we all are the same and how they overcome the problems and adversities that they face and with their inner strength they overcome that.
Ameya is the Founder and Managing Partner of UAP Advisors and the Managing Director of NAFA Capital. He has been designated as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum. He is a writer and the author of “The Rock Babas and other stories”, book of short stories published and distributed by Amazon. He is also a trustee of Manav Sadhan Vikas Sanstha a NGO focussed on holistic human development.
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