Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said he is focussing on making Mumbai a hub for the financial technology industry, an emerging and fast-growing sector that offers tremendous employment potential, and is keen to invite foreign investment in the sector in his state.
“Our big focus is on Fintech (financial technology). We have not leveraged Mumbai’s recognition as the financial capital of India. Fintech is an emerging field which not only opens up a lot of job opportunities but is also one of the fastest growing fields,” Fadnavis told PTI in an interview at New York on Wednesday. Fadnavis is currently visiting the US following a trip to Canada. “We want to make Mumbai a fintech hub and that is where I’m looking for fintech investments and companies to come” and set up base in the city, he said.
Fadnavis, who arrived in the city after visiting Canada, will also visit Washington and San Francisco and meet with investors and companies, inviting them to continue their investments in his state. In San Francisco, his focus will be on new industries in the digital landscape, he said. Fadnavis said his message to investors and companies has been that “India is changing and Maharashtra is changing.” He stressed that his state has been able to attract among the highest foreign direct investment in the country.
“We are as competitive as any other place in the world in terms of ease of doing business. Investors should come there. If they want to get good returns on their investment, we are the best place to invest,” he said. Ambitious reforms like demonetization and the goods and services tax (GST) implemented by the Indian government have been welcomed by foreign investors and companies, he said. “Those who come to find no problems. They are very happy with all the changes,” he said adding that individual states in the country are implementing the reforms and competing with each other to attract foreign investment.
He alluded to the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking in which India jumped 30 positions and for the first time moved into the top 100, saying credit for the improved performance by India goes to Maharashtra and Mumbai. “We excelled in that index and that cumulatively took the score of India quite up,” he said. Following meetings with investors and CEOs during the day, Fadnavis later attended a community reception ‘Mumbai Meets Manhattan’ hosted by the Consulate General of India in New York and the ‘Friends of Maharashtra’.
On how he sees ‘Make in India’ and US President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ policy aligning, Fadnavis said it is not just about Make in India but “Make for India and then make for the world as well.” He said developed countries should not sound a protectionist tone as developing countries are opening themselves up and advocating free trade. Fadnavis reiterated that Maharashtra aims to become a trillion-dollar economy by 2025. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the Magnetic Maharashtra Global Investors’ Summit in Mumbai in February, had said that Maharashtra will become the country’s first trillion dollar economy as the country itself aspires to become a USD 5 trillion economy over the next few years.
“If we do business as usual, then also we will become a trillion dollar economy by 2029. But we want to make Maharashtra a trillion dollar economy by 2025,” he said adding that infrastructure-led growth is part of his strategy to achieve this goal as infrastructure creates job opportunities and accelerates the entire economy. According to estimates, of the more than 20 million infrastructure projects on the anvil in the country, 51 per cent are in Maharashtra. He said unprecedented investments are coming into the infrastructure field and expressed confidence that in four to five years when these projects are completed, “Maharashtra will be a very changed place.”
“Infrastructure-led growth is the basic idea. Our impetus is now on the services sector. With industries 4.0, it is no more a water-tight compartment between services and manufacturing sectors,” he said. Fadnavis added that service-oriented manufacturing and manufacturing-oriented services are a focus area where “we can actually skill people and make them more productive so that will lessen the stress of the labor market on the agricultural sector and make them more productive.” Fadnavis said states across India are motivated by a spirit of cooperative federalism and this will help change the face of the nation.
“States competing for foreign investment does not mean they are taking each others’ share. Instead, the market is expanding and more and more investment is coming. The cooperative federalism kickstarted by Prime Minister Modi will change the face of the country,” he said. In Canada, Fadnavis focussed on investments and partnerships in the sector of artificial intelligence, especially for using AI in agriculture. He said Quebec University and four Maharashtra agriculture universities have come together to form an alliance that will focus on eradication of pests in agriculture.
“We have seen a lot of distress due to pests in the agrarian sector. The alliance will not just study but implement certain aspects of it. It would also look at precision farming, that will not only enhance the productivity but will cut down the cost of cultivation as well,” he said. “The farm sector distress can be addressed only through enhanced productivity, disease-free cropping systems, precision farming and AI has the ability to do that,” he said.
Fadnavis noted that small farm holdings in India do not have the ability to infuse mechanization on their own but this can be achieved through collective efforts in AI. Voicing concern that spraying of pesticides in fields is also a cause for farmer deaths, he said AI has opened a window where there can be precision spraying of pesticides through drones.
During his visit to Canada, several MoUs were inked between and Canadian enterprises and Maharashtra government departments.