FEATURES/Real Issue | Apr 22, 2014 | 15277 views

Optimistic about India: Barry Salzberg, Global CEO, Deloitte

Debojyoti Ghosh, Forbes India Staff
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Deloitte's Barry Salzberg says, when you combine demographics, entrepreneurialism, innovation and consumer base among others, there is reason to be optimistic
Optimistic about India: Barry Salzberg, Global CEO, Deloitte
Image: Sudhanva Atri for Forbes India

Barry Salzberg
Current designation: Global CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd
Career: Deloitte US CEO (2007-11), Deloitte US managing partner (2003-07)
Education:  Bachelor of  Science (Brooklyn College, 1974), Doctor of Law
(Brooklyn Law School, 1977), Master of Laws, Taxation (NYU Law, 1981)
Interests: Family, travel, mystery novels, working with education-focused non-profits.
Contributor to LinkedIn Influencers blog.

For Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, India is among the top-ten ‘priority markets’ and one of its “fastest growing”. Despite the country’s sluggish economic pace in recent times, the consulting major is bullish on the India growth story. In an interview with Forbes India, Barry Salzberg, global CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu says that he is optimistic about the fundamental core strength of the country and will continue to invest irrespective of the outcome of the elections.      

Q. What is your view of the progress made by India recently in terms of economic reform?
I feel the economic reforms are taking hold. They cover a number of areas that I think are important. If we look back at the budget deficit (both trade and current) it’s in better shape than it has been. Inflation is a little bit better than it has been in the past. Some of the economic reforms that have been instituted, including reduction in government spending for example, contributed to that. So, looking from the outside in, it is reasonably positive, but of course, there is more to go. Even the thought about opening up some of the sectors is a good sign. I would say some of the policies and reforms have had a reasonably good impact on India.

Q. Are foreign investors concerned about the India story now? There was a time when India was the toast of the global investor community. Has that changed? How?
The growth that India has enjoyed over the years has recently slowed down a bit and it is easy to create a concern that maybe something is not right. But we are optimistic about India’s future and the question is why? I start with people, because they drive a lot of the success of a particular country. And India has a significant well-educated workforce, youthful demographics and a large consumer base with immense opportunity for additional growth and demand. The country is known for innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Over the years there has been a significant improvement in the infrastructure of the country, but there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement. The country has a stable regulatory environment particularly in the financial sector. So, when you combine the demographics, entrepreneurialism, innovation, regulatory environment, consumer base and strong sectors like information technology that is here, there is reason to be optimistic. And it is the combination of all these factors that continues to give me reason to invest in India.             
Q. What are the key areas of concern for you at Deloitte as far as investing in India is concerned?
To start with, the fact that economic growth has slowed down and so when growth slows down, our business tends to slow down. Not directly proportionately, but certainly if we were contemplating continuing material investments in India, we have to be concerned about the continued growth opportunity. Secondly, governance and oversight of corporate compliances-related activities is something we would look at and also infrastructure issues. These are examples of concerns, but we have overcome these challenges and have seen improvement in each of these areas. So, my concerns are there, but, I have concerns about every investment that I make. Overall I’m reasonably bullish.

Q. What are Deloitte’s priority areas for India?
First I would say is talent. Our business is a professional services business and we are all about people. Our success is dependent upon the number of people we hire and retain and performance by those people, quality and their development into leaders in the long term. Significant amount of investments that we are making in India is in hiring top talent across services. The next is the nature of businesses we are in. Till now we were heavily concentrating on audit with growth in our advisory and consulting businesses. Now we would like to focus on the advisory space and be able to expand the kind of services we provide to our clients. Third, where I see opportunity in future is to collaborate in the Indian market to help solve some social issues with regard to corporate responsibility.

This article appeared in the Forbes India magazine issue of 02 May, 2014
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