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National hero

EducationWorld June 2020 | Postscript

In the United States, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton, the late Steve Jobs and even Ray Kroc (founder of McDonalds) are national heroes. They are appreciated for inventing and innovating excellent products and services for the public and generating well-paid employment for millions of Americans, and paying billions of dollars to the government as taxes utilised for public good. But in India, i.e, Bharat, Mukesh Ambani who has grown the revenue of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the extraordinary corporation established by his sire Dhirubhai in the 1960s, from Rs.65,000 crore in 2004 to Rs.6.59 lakh crore in 2019-20, is never acknowledged a national hero. Despite RIL having provided well-paid jobs to 255,000 employees and generating the equivalent of 5 percent of GDP by way of direct and indirect taxes to the Central and state governments, there’s no shortage of wiseacres in the academy and media who at best damn this business magnate with faint praise. According to them, Ambani has gamed the country’s licence-permit-quota (LPQ) system to enrich RIL and himself.

Yet the plain truth is that the LPQ regime itself is anti-national and against the public interest. It’s quite possible that with his proven skills of resource mobilisation and management, but for LPQ raj pervasive even in post-liberalisation India, Ambani would have been the richest man in the world, instead of India. Evidently, he is highly respected by hard-headed businessmen the world over. During the past seven weeks, despite highly unfavourable market conditions, blue-chip foreign corporates including Facebook, have invested $1.3 billion (Rs.98,000 crore) in Reliance Jio, a subsidiary of RIL engaged in the digital tech and telecom services industry. In addition Reliance Jio mopped an additional Rs.53,000 crore from Indian investors this month through a rights issue.

There’s a moral in the story of the rise and rise of Mukesh Ambani and RIL. According to a calculation of your correspondent, if post-independence India had not taken the socialist road to national bankruptcy and allowed the country’s well-established private sector tycoons — Birla, Tata, Walchand Hirachand, Sarabhai and Shri Ram among others — to grow their businesses, today India’s annual GDP would have been $18 trillion, just below the $21 trillion of the US and larger than China’s $14 trillion. Against this, 21st century India’s GDP is a pathetic $3 trillion. Moral of the story? Learn to admire India’s native spirit of free enterprise and entrepreneurship instead of trashing it.

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