Bain to open new office in Bengaluru

The move is aimed at expanding its presence in south India and catering better to the rising demand from technology, healthcare and auto sectors

US-based consulting firm Bain and Co. plans to open a new office in Bengaluru as part of its plan to drive growth in Asia’s third largest economy.

The move is aimed at expanding its presence in south India and catering better to the rising demand for its services from clients in the technology, healthcare and automotive sectors in the region.

Bain India is one of the fastest growing offices in the 34 nations in which Bain operates and will now be the largest office in Asia in terms of employee strength.

Bain’s new Bengaluru managing director (MD) Arpan Sheth and India MD Karan Singh said they were very confident of the business climate in India even as global markets remain turbulent amid concerns of a slowdown in China. There are very few attractive markets left for investors to pump in money, Singh said in an interview. “In that, India stands out and this is our opportunity." His optimism is fuelled by the drop in oil prices that has helped India improve its macroeconomic fundamentals, including bringing down current account deficit and inflation.

Still, he also echoed concerns raised by some investors disillusioned by the slow pace of economic reforms. Last week, high-profile commodities trading expert and hedge fund manager Jim Rogers said he has sold his holdings in Indian firms and has exited the country, citing the government’s lack of will in unveiling economic reforms.

The Centre has been unable to push through key legislative reforms, such as the land acquisition bill, the goods and services tax (GST) bill and flexible labour laws in Parliament.

Many economists warn that growth could slow down further if reforms remain elusive. The economy expanded a slower-than-expected 7% in the first quarter of 2015-16. “The growth at 7% is sub-optimal," Singh said, adding that the Indian economy has the potential to grow at 10%. “We clearly need more reforms to propel the economy."

For the economy to grow, India also needs to kickstart the investment cycle stalled by policy and regulatory uncertainties, Singh said. “Today, investments are taking place in pockets. Investors are holding off their investments for want of clarity in regulations," he said.

Despite the slow pace of reforms and regulatory uncertainties in the economy, Bain is optimistic about the rising technology sector in India, which is mirroring the success in the US, and the healthcare services industry, among others.

The sharp surge in the number of Internet users and an influx of cheap mobile devices, along with inexpensive data tariff plans, have drawn huge investor interest in Internet companies in India. Venture capitalists poured $4 billion into India in 2014, almost double the amount in 2015, showed data from Venture Intelligence. A large chunk of that has gone to Web technology and e-commerce firms.

“There is a fundamental shift in the economy in India. It is a long-term shift in how the consumers spend in India, how the consumers have their needs met," said Sheth, who is also Bain’s Asia-Pacific head for information technology.

Sheth expects venture capital and private equity investments in India to end this year close to the highs of 2007, before the onset of the global financial crisis. Even as sceptics flag concerns about the sharp rise in valuations of many Indian start-ups, especially e-commerce firms yet to turn a profit, Bain is confident many of them will give handsome returns over the next five to 10 years. “There will be winners and losers in the next five years," Sheth said. “Right now, we are in the middle of great company formation."

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