India’s dream of a self-reliant country passes through the roads of India emerging as the global manufacturing destination and digitalised in a way that it becomes the hub for Research & development, and design centres, along with it being the current outsourcing destination. So, it is imperative that the country attracts and retains a good share of foreign direct investment to claim its position in the market and realise its dream of becoming a 5 trillion-dollar economy, sooner or later. However, note that there has been a simultaneous use of two words- attraction and retention. So as important it is to attract more foreign investments, their retention plays an even bigger role for a country’s development. Let’s just say India is doing a terrible job at both.
The country’s unstable political environment has become the biggest threat to India’s foreign investment companies, both already operational and those that we wish to attract. It is because one of the most prominent features of a business environment is the laws and regulations of the country’s business system as well as the country’s political stability. However, between the Modi government’s growing religious intolerance and persistent violations of basic human rights like freedom of speech and freedom of expression, the country’s political aura made it really hard for foreign companies to flourish in the ever so dynamic markets. Investments and capital formation take a lot of time to finally get in place and looking at the Modi government’s record, a policy change in every 3-4 years makes it unbelievably hard for a company to succeed.
Not only the policy changes but also some government orders also prove to be problematic for foreign companies and small business’ healthy navigation in the Indian market. For example, recall the ban that the government of India imposed on Walmart owned Flipkart, and Amazon from selling products they have an equity stake in. This acted as a bump in the road for the e-commerce giants’ logistics and discouraged other stakeholders to take part in the Indian market. Their instruction or rather, forcing to MasterCard and VISA to store Indian users’ data locally highlights how the government makes it effortless to impose authority over companies, making it tougher for them to find their way through the already different Indian market.
And even if we excuse for a moment the government’s policy, the way government goes around these foreign apps is a matter of concern. Consider for example the Pubg ban in the country. The Indian gaming sector revolutionised the initiation of digitalisation in the economy by bringing in investments from a number of foreign companies including Tencent and Westcon, amongst other giants. Not only that, a large number of youth sought their comfort in the game and given the minuscule share of the budget to the mental health sector, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say the government doesn’t really seem to care about the psychological effects of their actions. This also discouraged a number of other prospective clients since Tencent list about $ 34 Billion in market cap. Growing tensions or safety reasons, no feud between two countries should result in losses of a company, else it ends up destroying the reputation and investment of the host. This is exactly what happened to India and its vision of creating it a significant destination of digital and manufacturing sector investment.
And the worst of all, the government of India v/s Twitter tussle that the country is witnessing right now, where the government has bluntly instructed the microblogging platform to kick aside its rules and follow the government of India’s laws. As if taking away basic human rights from its own citizens wasn’t enough, the government of India has fallen down to force an international company to mould its functioning, despite the company’s continuous denial. Government of India asked Twitter for a suspension of as much as 1078 accounts, some of which includes those of politicians, independent media houses, civil rights activists and news bodies who are actively taking part in conveying to the public the on-ground reality of the farmers protest, a job the national media has terribly failed to complete. Twitter suspended more than 500 accounts but denied blocking the accounts that belong to civil rights activists, leaders, politicians, media houses and journalists claiming that the platform aims at protecting the freedom of expression of its people. Wow, looks like at least somebody still cares about the leftover democracy in the country. Twitter, in turn, received criticisms and warnings from the government for half-heartedly following their ‘orders’. Note how the government has been proclaiming the presence of orders to an international company that has invested in the country as if they’re supposed to follow orders.
Not just that, in revolt to the tussle between Government of India and Twitter, Union Minister and government ministers are moving to the Indian alternative of Twitter, Koo. This country’s systems have become a joke, with cancel culture claiming its position to the top. And look at the irony of the situation, Twitter is standing to protect the country’s democracy by keeping intact freedom of expression and the government of India is busy showcasing their authoritarianism. Not just that, the top Twitter officials are threatened to face arrest over non-compliance with government’s orders.
Irrespective of the end result of this tussle between Twitter and Government of India, you can yourself imagine the state of India’s image in the global market, and how hard the impact on foreign direct investment would be, both on the potential ones and the ones already operating in the economy. After all, why would you want to stay operational in a country that abruptly asks you to throw away your policies and follow what the government says? This country is in dire need of a wake-up call from the people and the government needs to held accountable before it’s too late because I’m sure we can see the clock ticking, faster than ever.