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Organised retail is a tough business: Kumar Mangalam Birla

Special Correspondent
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Kumar Mangalam Birla
Kumar Mangalam Birla

Chairman of Aditya Birla Group Kumar Mangalam Birla said that the group would be happy to set up a greenfield project in North America since plunging energy prices following shale gas discoveries had changed things dramatically. “The U.S. economy is also picking up quite strongly,” he said. At present 60 per cent of the group’s turnover is from overseas destinations in 36 countries.

He said that corporates needed to push and urge governments for simpler laws and regulations which took away subjectivity and discretion, thus reducing the scope for corruption. Corporates needed to ask for standard processes, which set timelines on issues such as tax refunds, he added.

To a query, he admitted that there was real problem with the Maoists. The solution lay in job creation and vocational training, he pointed out. Mr. Birla, who earlier discounted a suggestion that industry should be labour-intensive, said that industry had a large role in job creation and there was need to remove the growth impediments in the economy.

“First create jobs, and then provide skills to people,” he said.

Mr. Birla felt that the rupee would correct itself, describing the depreciating rupee as an` over-crisis’. He said that the group managed the fallout of the falling rupee by hedging and taking a conservative view.

To a question, he said China did not comply with WTO rules, and had a long way to go before becoming a global player. Asked what China could learn from India, he said that the legal system was much stronger in India. He felt that organised retail was tough business with thin margins. The group was still nowhere near where it wanted to be, he admitted.

Banking licence

On banking licence, he said he was confident that the group would get the banking licence for which it had applied for earlier this week. “I am confident that we will get the licence,’’ he added.

The licence has been applied through Aditya Birla Nuvo, which is into financial services, lifestyle and fashion, telecommunications, IT and ITeS and manufacturing. Mr. Birla said that telecom spectrum would always remain a contentious issue. The industry, nevertheless, would co-operate with the government, which was trying to resolve the issue.

Earlier, to a set of personal questions, he said that his father was the best coach and after his demise, his objective was not to make a mark but to keep the legacy alive and take it forward.

He said that if his children were unwilling to enter the business (his eldest daughter, at 19, is already passionate about micro finance, he would try persuade them but at the end he would just want them to be happy. He said that if they joined family business, they need not start right at the bottom but somewhere in between. “They are anyway getting a lot of orientation-talk at the dining table,” he said. Mr. Birla was addressing journalists after participating in an hour-long interactive session organised by Calcutta Chamber of Commerce here on Friday.


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