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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 12:37 GMT
India's rise as a manufacturing giant
Alam Srinivas
By Alam Srinivas
Business editor, Outlook magazine

Tata steel  plant
Tata steel is now one of the lowest-cost producers in the world

India Inc is on a roll after a series of recent global mega-mergers and hostile takeovers in the recent past.

Earlier this week, KM Birla's Hindalco acquired the world's largest producer of rolled aluminium products, Novelis, for $6bn.

Before that, LN Mittal - who is based in London but holds an Indian passport - took over the world's largest steel-maker, Arcelor, and Ratan Tata gobbled up another steel manufacturer, Corus, to become the fifth largest producer.

The deals herald the emergence on the world stage of global Indian entrepreneurs in manufacturing, and indicate that India is becoming an international hub for metals, petro-products and auto components.

Global leaders

The rise of the manufacturing giants follows that of services firms, like TCS, Wipro and Infosys, who have all left their mark globally.

Steel being processed at Tata Steel plant
Corus has an international workforce of thousands

Now ambitious Indian conglomerates are thinking of either crashing into the Fortune 500 list, or vastly improving their existing position.

The country's second largest private firm, the Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries, aims to be among the top 10 in the list.

With Novelis in the bag, Kumar Birla's Hindalco Industries is sure to enter the list, three years ahead of its target year.

Others like Videocon, Moser Baer and Bharat Forge have emerged as global leaders in their respective sectors.

A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report last May argued that "a revolution in global business is under way", and the axis of corporate power was shifting towards the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.

It identified 100 new global challengers from these nations, which included 21 Indian firms, including Bharat Forge, Hindalco, Videocon and Tata Steel.

Last year, a McKinsey study found the dynamics in emerging markets like India "actually provide an invaluable springboard" for their companies to go global.

A 2006 study by Mape, an investment bank, concluded "the Indian Multinational Company (MNC) has finally come of age" and "Indian buyers have become a force to reckon with in many industries such as pharma, auto components and oil and gas".

Steel produced by Corus being loaded onto a ship
Indian firms are competing to produce steel as cheaply as possible

Factors such as liberal policies, access to cash, and the rise of entrepreneurial ambitions are responsible for the emergence of global Indian groups.

At a public meeting a few weeks ago, India's Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, commented that Tata Steel's multi-billion dollar interest in Corus reflected the rising aggression among Indian promoters.

Ratan Tata, who was present, countered that this would not have been possible five years ago because of restrictive policies.

Even as Indians shop abroad, foreigners are eyeing investment potential in India.

Operational incentives

But unlike the 1990s, when global MNCs wished to tap only the burgeoning base of Indian middle-class consumers, they are now planning to take advantage of low costs and widely available natural resources to make India their exports hub.

In steel, Arcelor-Mittal and South Korea's Posco wish to set up a plant producing 10 million tonnes of steel every year in the east of India - for both domestic sales and exports.

A similar trend can be witnessed in other sectors like auto components.

As India plans to build dozens of special economic zones, with a slew of financial and operational incentives, it will attract more foreign investors.

Tata car showroom
Entrepreneurs at Tata produced India's first indigenous car

A recent DSP Merrill Lynch study pointed out that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to India this fiscal year (2006-07) are likely to overtake Foreign Institutional Investors' investments (FII) on Indian bourses.

Between April and November 2006, India's FDI inflows stood at $7.3bn, a 117% rise over the same period in the previous year.

With foreign money pouring in, Indian firms have no option but to become bigger, better and bolder.

Buy the world

They have to go global and capture new geographical markets.

If the proposed Mittal or Posco plant had come up in India prior to the Tata-Corus deal, Tata Steel would have become a puny player even in the domestic market.

Now, with an additional annual production capacity of 19 million tonnes, Tata Steel can effectively compete with either of them, both globally and domestically.

Other Indian groups like Birla and Dhoot (of Videocon) have realised they have to initiate similar acquisition moves in a bid to survive - and thrive.

Grant Thornton has estimated that while Indian outbound deals, or global mergers and acquisitions, were valued at $4.3bn in 2005, they crossed the $15bn mark in 2006.

In the first month of this year, the two combined deals (Tata-Corus and Birla-Novelis) have been valued at over $18bn.

Indians, it seems, are taking over - or buying out - the world.


SEE ALSO
Corus takeover: Who is Ratan Tata?
31 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Who is Sunil Mittal?
27 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Why India's stock markets are rising
20 Dec 05 |  South Asia
Poor nations push investment boom
16 Oct 06 |  Business
Corus confirms 4bn Tata proposal
17 Oct 06 |  Business
Tata poised for 5bn Corus offer
09 Oct 06 |  Business
Energy costs hit steelmaker Corus
30 Aug 06 |  Business

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