Ratan Tata appointed board member of China-backed Boao Forum

Indian companies have generally failed to take advantages of the technologies and opportunities offered by the China market, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of the Tata Group, has said.

Mr. Tata, in an address to a high-powered gathering of Chinese politicians and business leaders, said he believed there was “great potential” for Chinese companies to invest in infrastructure in India but projects “have not happened”.

The former Tata Sons chairman was invited to speak at an annual event known as “China's Davos” in Boao, in the southern island province of Hainan. The Chinese government-backed Boao Forum has become Beijing's most high-profile annual gathering, bringing together Chinese and international political and business elite.

Mr. Tata was, this week, honoured by becoming the only Indian to be inducted into the forum's 15 member board. Others on the board include the former Communist Party of China Politburo member Zeng Peiyan, retired Chinese Ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the former Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong, and the retired United States Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

In conversation with noted Chinese economist Zhang Weiying, Mr. Tata gave a frank assessment of India-China business cooperation.

“The potential of Indian companies in China to avail themselves of technologies and opportunities is quite high, and is not yet being taken advantage of,” he said, according to a transcript made available by the forum.

He also spoke glowingly of the record of Chinese companies in going global, drawing parallels with his own experience. He identified automobile company Chery and telecom giants Huawei and ZTE as three Chinese companies he was most impressed by.

“Companies should be allowed to have a life and a presence of their own and should not be allowed or compelled to lose their identity,” he said. “It's happening today (now) that Chinese companies are acquiring foreign companies. The foreign company is allowed to remain, and so that model is being followed.”

Mr. Tata was asked for his views on corruption in India. He said in the 1990s his company “didn't grow too much because we didn't seek favours, nor do we do that today”. “From time to time, we are at a disadvantage,” he said, “but by and large we've been able to grow in a respectable manner without subordinating our ethics.”

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