Interview: Chandrajit Banerjee

Chandrajit Banerjee

“Our canvas is much beyond industry”

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has turned into one of the world’s foremost industry led and industry managed organizations. It is a non-Government, not-for-profit body that is playing a proactive role in India’s development process. For the third straight year it has partnered the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in organizing the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the flagship event for overseas Indians in the world. INDIA EMPIRE Editor Sayantan Chakravarty spoke to CII’s very articulate Director General Chandrajit Banerjee on issues of interest to overseas Indians
The CII has now taken a premier position alongside the Government in organizing big events for Overseas Indians like PBD. Please tell us about the traditional strengths of CII that are being leveraged in reaching out to this important global community…
We are a very well spread out organization and we derive our strength from there. We believe the PBD has changed in character and the CII is there to add value to the event. We do so through our vast networks in academia, industry, with technical institutions, specific councils such as the Indian American Council, by networking with industry around the world. We, for instance, have over 150 MoUs with over a hundred nations. We would like to bring in people like C K Prahalad, Sam Pitroda, Kumar Bhattacharya that benefit India vis-à-vis the PBD. We also have networks in place with countries with a significant PIO presence. We work with the Governments in these countries and make use of traditional linkages like through heads of mission and other Government of India networks.

The Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre was set up last year. It is under the direct executive control of the CII. How are you taking things forward with the OIFC?
The OIFC is a regular instrument, it involves proper engagement plans. It is about identifying individuals who can take things forward. Under the OIFC we have the Know India Programme for which we get a batch of between 30-35 young people who familiarize themselves with India. Today, India is not only in their radar screens, they wish to engage in business and take part in development initiatives in the country, a huge shift in position from their lack of participative interest in India till before the KIP was put in place.

At times like at present, the role of the banking sector in India becomes crucial in attracting NRI deposits. Is the CII, as a premium chamber of Indian industry, looking at this aspect?
We have proven that we have an extremely robust banking regulatory system that has stood out in projecting our strengths. Our exposure levels are minimal, we do not have systemic problems as in the West. This is definitely one area which we should look at in attracting diaspora funds. CII, in fact, is asking the Government to remove caps. 

What are the major events being organized where you see potential of NRIs and Overseas Indians participating in significant numbers?
We have the Partnership Summit. We have state specific events. We partner states, for instance we are a partner in Vibrant Gujarat. Our partner states include Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan, Andaman and Nicobar, Jammu and Kashmir, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu. We engage with all, with and without the Government. Sometimes we go out along with chief ministers or take our own missions. We have large events and summits involving industry, banking sector, several sectors in manufacturing, on issues like corporate governance, technology.

CII has been around now for over a century. You have a large direct membership, a presence across India, and overseas. You work with over 270 partner organizations. As DG, what is your vision for CII?
CII today is a developmental institution. We are thinking beyond industry, we are thinking of the country. We see ourselves as contributing towards India at 75. Our vision is interlocked with this. We want to strengthen research and development functions, policy frameworks, human development indices. We are ambitious. We want that districts, towns, states have tangible deliverables from our point of view. We believe in collective effort, involving all CII members, polity and civil society.

What are the core philosophies of CII now that business paradigms are changing in a technology-driven world?
We look beyond industry. We look at what is good for the economy and the country. We do not lead ourselves to ask for our pound of flesh from the Government. We do lobby, but in a manner that would benefit industry and country. In 1980s we lobbied for quality, in the 1990s we took up environment as it is important for sustainability, we lobbied for corporate social development. We will leverage Indian demographics, use population to our advantage. We have a skills agenda, to be of service across the world. Our canvas is much beyond industry, but we will definitely benefit industry.

What is your message for overseas Indians?
We want to say that India provides opportunities across a broad spectrum. We are an emerging economy and their participation is very important.

January 2009

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