After the global financial crisis, we almost gave it up for good. And if critics were to be believed, it was as if there was nothing that the US economy could do right. The dominant discourse was steeped in negativism. Of a comatose housing market. Of creeping unemployment. A crippled auto industry in Detroit. A famed innovation model that seemed to have developed cracks. And finally, how the heavy hand of regulation seemed all set to throttle Wall Street.
Yet today, the resilience of the US economy is shining through. Economic growth is back on the radar. The housing market is starting to stabilise. Small car demand has zoomed. And the big shale gas bonanza is turning the US into a new destination for high-tech manufacturing.
In fact, even as the rest of the world faces strong headwinds, the United States is once again emerging as the bulwark of growth. And sensing the recovery, firms from around the world have begun heading to the US. The Germans, the Koreans and the Chinese are buying assets across a spate of industries, from agri-products, fertiliser, automotive, petrochemicals, oil and gas and textiles.
India Inc isn’t far behind. All the major diversified groups have their eye on the North American continent. So do several smart entrepreneurs leading mid-sized firms. There’s one thing that’s common to most of their players: No one wants to put all their eggs in one basket. For the past five years, the risk associated with doing business in India has accentuated the need to diversify one’s portfolio. And what better way to do it than to invest in the world’s biggest free market?
The issue, however, is whether our frontline companies are now better prepared to compete against the world’s best companies. When India Inc began its big globalisation surge in the middle of the last decade, many of its forays ran into heavy weather. Today, they seem to have learned some of the lessons. They seem to be more adept at managing global talent or global supply chains. Quite a few boards have a more international profile.
Our own entrepreneurs have joined global boards. Foreign CEOs are still few and far between. But clearly, the workforce across the top 100 firms is a lot more diverse than a decade ago. Still, will that be enough?
Indeed, how India Inc deals with the opportunity thrown up by the US resurgence could be yet another big test of its global ambitions. And you can count on us to track all the twists and turns of that narrative.
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id: @indrajitgupta
(This story appears in the 03 May, 2013 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)