Ashwin Sanghi, Binod Chaudhary, Hindol Sengupta, Sanjay Agarwal and Suhel Seth in conversation with Jyoti Malhotra
Presented by AU Financiers
By Jules Evans, Official ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Guest Blogger
India should do more to support the emergence of a South Asian free trade zone, according to Binod Chaudhary, the richest man in Nepal.
Speaking at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, Chaudhary spoke of his efforts over several years to promote such a zone, and his disappointment at the lack of progress. ‘It hurts that this is the world’s poorest economic bloc. India is an economic powerhouse, it has a responsibility to pull up its neighbours.’
Chaudhary, chairman of the Chaudhury Group and worth an estimated $1.4bn, acknowledged that political disputes between India and Pakistan have so far proved a stumbling block to any such agreement, but he said: ‘If it’s difficult to find a solution, leave Pakistan out of the agreement. Why should Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh suffer because of that? India’s security concerns are legitimate but the best way to ensure regional security is to have happy, prosperous neighbours. At the moment they are disgruntled and there is constant political chaos.’
In a panel on money, it was inevitable the panelists would discuss demonetization. Suhel Seth, managing partner of Counselage India, was a vocal advocate: ‘I think Prime Minister Modi has done a splendid job. No pain, no gain. In two quarters the pain will be over. To hell with the IMF’s predictions of a loss of 1% of GDP. I’m delighted that people are being raided for not paying taxes. Lock them up!’
Hindol Sengupta, editor-at-large of Fortune India and the author of books including Recasting India: How Entrepreneurship is Changing the World’s Largest Democracy, thought the move was necessary to reduce the black economy, which he suggested was funding extremist groups: ‘It’s noticeable that the intifada in Kashmir has suddenly disappeared.’
Chaudhary expressed skepticism that the economic pain would only last two quarters, but also thought the move was necessary.
The conversation then turned to money-making and philanthropy. Ashwin Sanghi, the novelist and author of 13 Steps to Bloody Good Wealth, said he thought wealthy Indians did not do enough to support philanthropy. ‘Money has become an end in itself. It’s a way of keeping score.’
Seth, who has previously worked for notable philanthropists Tata Steel, said: ‘In India we take, but only give back to our children. I wish instead of a Rich List, Forbes magazine had a Give List.;
Chaudhary disputed that the South Asian mega-rich needed to do more. ‘The culture of giving is much more developed here than in the West.’
The Indian government introduced a law whereby companies must give 2% of their profits to charity in 2014. Charitable donations from corporates rose from 33bn rupees in 2013 to 250bn rupees in 2014.
Photo Credit: Rajendra Kapoor