Ravindra Chandra Bhargava is the current Chairman and former C.E.O of Maruti Suzuki, having joined the company after serving twenty-five years as an Indian Administrative Service officer. He lives in Delhi-NCR.
I feel very privileged and honoured at having been asked to write on the occasion of the seventieth birthday of our beloved Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi. May I first convey my respectful greetings and best wishes on this occasion.
My opportunity to meet Modiji arose when Maruti Suzuki decided to acquire land to expand its manufacturing capacity. This was in early 2011 and we wanted a location which was nearer a port and where the political and bureaucratic establishment would give best support to private sector manufacturing. Our first choice was Gujarat where Modiji was the Chief Minister. In May 2011, accompanied by the then Managing Director of MSIL, I went to Gandhinagar to meet the Chief Minister and to place before him our requirements for the project. Modiji was very positive and determined that Maruti should come to Gujarat. It was also apparent that his team of senior officers, who attended the meeting, were highly motivated and would facilitate all matters relating to the project. At the end of the meeting the MD and I were convinced that we did not have to look elsewhere for a site. Our recommendations went to Suzuki Japan.
Mr. O. Suzuki came to India to meet the Chief Minister in September 2011. He was extremely happy with the meeting. This led to the Board approving the proposal to buy land and proceeding with the project in Gujarat. Such was the Chief Minister’s commitment to developing his State that before I could reach home after the Board meeting, he called personally to thank me for the Board decision! No wonder investors were flocking to Gujarat.
The leadership and management capabilities of Modiji were apparent during my interactions with the bureaucracy in Gujarat. The civil servants here worked as real facilitators to make private manufacturing competitive. Officers were not afraid to take responsibility for decisions or to help entrepreneurs. This situation could develop because the Chief Minister wanted to industrialise Gujarat and officers knew that they were expected to ensure that his objective was achieved. There was confidence that all bona fide decisions would be supported, and genuine mistakes tolerated. Modiji had built team Gujarat that was taking the State forward.
All of us in Maruti Suzuki were happy when in 2014 Modiji became the Prime Minister and promised that he would accelerate the growth of manufacturing and create productive employment. Various measures to make it easier to do business have been introduced since then and several important reforms have taken place. This was the first time when I have seen a government actually taking actions to promote private sector manufacturing growth. I also realised that unfortunately the pace of reform would be constrained by the nature of Indian politics and the mind-sets created in the bureaucracy and industrialists over the last several decades.
Modiji is a person of so many dimensions, and of such unexpected qualities and depth that he always surprises everyone. I have never in my 86 years of life come across a person like him. What little I think I understand of him is based on hearing him from many platforms and meeting him several times. I have witnessed his efforts to undo the damage done to the future of the country in the past from widespread tax evasion, black money generation and corruption. This is a Herculean task and requires immense courage and perseverance, but without its completion it would be very difficult for India to become an industrialised country, to provide jobs for the youth and enable the common citizen to live with respect. I am convinced that Modiji is by far the best person to lead India into a better future.
I have understood that creating a just and equitable society is an extremely important objective for Modiji. He understands that without creating productive employment this objective cannot be achieved. All attempts in the past, including giving doles and using manufacturing industry to cross subsidise inputs for the poor did not give sustainable results, led to lack of competitive manufacturing and bred corruption. The nation needs to create wealth by industrialising and making agriculture more productive to finance schemes that could provide affordable services to the poor. As I said there are numerous other qualities of this extraordinary human being. I have personally witnessed his unbelievable memory and his human touch. Not surprisingly he commands the trust and confidence of the country. May God bless him and India.