A pioneer in the field of infrastructure, Hemant Kanoria has reshaped India's infrastructure landscape with innovative ideas and a strong passion for excellence.
Hemant conceptualised 'Srei' in 1989. The initiative marked the entry of private sector in the field of infrastructure, a domain hitherto restricted to public sector. Over the last two-and-a-half decades, Srei has developed into one of India's largest holistic infrastructure institutions with USD 5.5 billion of consolidated assets under management.
He is also a Trustee of Kanoria Foundation which under its umbrella has entities with a total asset base of USD 10 billion. The group is at the vanguard of thought leadership in the country, especially in the area of infrastructure development and financing.
This year's budget has primarily focused on three key sectors namely agriculture, healthcare and infrastructure. The proposed plan of the government to provide 10 crore poor and under-privileged people with a medical treatment coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh is indeed a laudable step which will alleviate the problem of the poor to a very large extent as healthcare has always been a problem for most of the population.
When the general election is just a year away and there are telltale signs of rural distress from certain pockets, it is logical that the budget would try and address the concerns of the rural sector. A wide array of steps has been announced ranging from enhanced MSP for Kharif crops, upgradation of Rural Haat-s to enable small and marginal farmers to sell directly to bulk purchasers and consumers, expansion of rural infrastructure, enhanced outlay for irrigation and adoption of cluster model for horticulture. All these augur well for the rural sector. In addition, allocation of funds for fishery, aquaculture, animal husbandry, dairy farming, agro-logistics services, extension of crop loans to lessee cultivators and schemes like National Bamboo Mission can fuel entrepreneurship at the rural level. I welcome the setting up of an Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund with a corpus of Rs 2,000 crore. The decision to set up 42 Mega Food Parks can provide fillip to the agro-processing industries, however there is not much clarity on how the government intends to build those – on its own or in collaboration with private sector.
In infrastructure sector, two areas of focus have been roads and railways. The envisaged investment of Rs 5.35 lakh crore (for Phase I of Bharatmala programme) for roads and capex of Rs 1.46 lakh crore for railways will assist in providing the momentum to the economy. It will also result in growth for construction equipment manufacturing companies, construction companies and contractors and infrastructure financing institutions involved in supporting these sectors. Overall, it will have a tremendous boost on employment generation as construction happens to be the second largest employment generator after agriculture.
Another laudable step taken by the government is to develop the corporate bond market and the amendments proposed in the stamp duty structure. It is quite important to develop the capital market which has been our request for the last few years in order to bring more depth into the debt capital market. There are certain steps to be taken so that the conceptual thinking of the government can be converted into implementable actions. One of the most important areas to be addressed is to enable, facilitate and encourage Pension Funds, Provident Funds and Insurance Companies to invest in bonds issued by infrastructure companies even if those bonds are investment grade and not fall in the category preferred by these fund repositories.
The introduction of the tax on long-term capital gains could have been delayed by another few years, especially keeping in mind that the equity capital market is the only option for many companies for mobilising resources as the banks are presently shy to lend to manufacturing and infrastructure companies. This would surely dampen the buoyant investment spirit which has been prevailing.
The world is witnessing the unfolding of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0. Globally, business models are getting challenged and redefined through digitization. The consequences of these technologies are yet to pan out fully, but as per early indications these will make some of the present skills and jobs redundant. History of technological evolution shows that over the ages every new technology has threatened certain jobs, but its application has also created new job opportunities.
However, I feel the situation can be converted into an opportunity with some focused efforts. Leveraging our IT prowess, let India take the lead in expeditiously putting together a global online network of knowledge institutions and corporate houses. The responsibility of this network would be to pro-actively identify the new job opportunities opening up in the wake of the new technologies. Active involvement of both industry and Government can result in unleashing this opportunity.
When we celebrate our 100th year of independence, we should be the most respected democracy in the world. A nation where every life, co-exists in harmony and with respect. A country where no one sleeps hungry or without shelter. A country where people of all caste, creed, religion, gender, rich and poor are treated with dignity and equality.
A country which will provide direction and leadership to the world through its spirituality and peace. India would be self-sufficient economically with robust contemporary infrastructure by 2047.
Without any debate everyone would agree that the farmers’ income need to be increased. They have been toiling hard since decades, but most lively poorly. It is imperative for the Government and conscientious citizens of our country to think and implement steps towards augmentation of farmer’s income.
Some simple steps would be introduced:
a) Mechanisation in farming and provide requisite inputs at affordable prices to improve their production and productivity
b) Provide them access to storage of their produce, practically closest to their farms
c) Provide them electricity 24x7 at affordable prices, so that they do not have to use gen-sets
d) Access to wholesale and retail markets so that they can get better realisation of their produce
Encourage agro-entrepreneurship, so that more people could move towards agriculture, as it would be worth their while and provide them and their families a decent living.
Fortunately, power prices in our country for last one year are less than Rs 2.50 per unit on the exchange and finally we are abundantly power surplus.
This is probably the best news of the decade for agriculture, services, manufacturing, residential, commercial and all consumers. Now, discoms must bring down tariff for all classes of consumers to around Rs 4.50 per unit. It will then provide a big boost to the entire economy and benefit consumers across India.
Lower power tariff with continuous power supply will light up India. The dark days for our country will truly be over.