The biggest obstacles to a country’s growth lie within the country and not outside

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He is a strategy consultant to corporations, governments and civil society, mentor to CEOs and corporate boards and is a much sought-after speaker on Re-inventing Leadership, corporate governance, innovation, morality and values, and sustainability. His clients include several Fortune 1000 corporations, including BASF and BMW (Germany), DHV (Holland), Sunstar (Japan), Sabanci (Turkey), Domino Sciences (U.K.), Perfetti (Italy), numerous Indian business groups and many others.

1. India is the second most populated country in the world with over 1.2 billion people and GDP per capita of USD 1,500. Where do you see the opportunities for cooperation with Slovenia, a country with a population of two million people and GDP per capita of USD 23,300?

There are many entrepreneurs in Slovenia who have done pioneering innovative work in several industries, such as ICT, the automotive and renewable energy sectors, but somehow the Indian corporate sector has not been proactive in looking for opportunities in Slovenia. First, there needs to be an organised attempt from within Slovenia to attract the right type of Indian investment, by identifying specific opportunities and targeting specific Indian companies that can succeed in Slovenia and also make a tangible contribution to the economy by generating new skills and employment. This process has to be undertaken in a very systematic manner. Secondly, the Indian companies need to realise that Slovenia provides a cost-effective efficiency-hub, strategically located between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Even the flight connectivity between India and Slovenia has improved in recent years. In spite of this, Slovenia is not on the tourist or business map for India. The current Slovenian Ambassador in India and her predecessor have taken many good initiatives in this regard; I hope we will see the results of their efforts in the coming years.

2. Based on your exceptional leadership career, what would you advise Slovenian companies to do to successfully meet the needs of the Indian market and what kinds of goods from Slovenia have the potential to be sold in India?

Firstly, I am glad that many Slovenian companies have already taken initiatives to enter the Indian market. Some of them faced teething problems, but eventually they will overcome them. India is one of the few go-to-places in the world today. To make the best of it, Slovenian companies need to keep four cardinal principles in mind:
1) India offers ferocious competition in every domain. To succeed, you need to create a new business model for India. You need to discover the price point where you can increase sales, not incrementally, but by a multiple.
2) Do not go with the mind-set of seeking what you can sell in India. Seek answers as to how India can help improve your global competitiveness. Such answers can be a game-changer.
3) Be careful, very careful on how and who you choose as your business partner. The most suitable partner has to be found through a search process, not the one who approaches you first, and
4) There are many Slovenian companies with a strong brand, somehow they are losing out in Europe, because there is a new bottom of the pyramid emerging in Europe. To meet that demand, you have to lower the cost. How do you do that? Slovenian companies could seek help from Indian companies to lower costs.


3. You have been an advisor to the governments of Switzerland, Turkey, Brazil and Norway and you are also interested in privatisation. How do you see the privatisation process in Slovenia?

I know that the privatisation process in Slovenia has got complicated over the years. There needs to be clear answers to two fundamental questions: “Is it the business of the government to run the businesses?” and “Should the government be focused on preserving existing jobs, or on generating net positive new jobs every year?” It is somewhat difficult to accept the rationale that, just because a company employs many people, the state should own it. That does not appear to be the strategy that would lead to future growth and productivity. It is at best a strategy to maintain the status quo. I am glad there is an active debate; I am sure Slovenians will themselves determine the optimal way. I do hope that this process leads to strengthening the spirit of entrepreneurship. Eventually, most of the jobs are created by small and medium scale entrepreneurs. A nation that respects small entrepreneurs is the one that will grow stronger and happier.

4. It often happens in Slovenia that young people with the business and knowledge potential, go abroad to improve it or achieve success…

It needs to be analysed why that is so. We all know that Slovenia is a small country. I am writing a new book, which looks at 15 countries in Europe with a population of less than five million. There is concern that some of them will start feeling the “too small to succeed” syndrome. They do not have resources, they do not have a market and if they do not have good governance then you cannot quickly overcome these disadvantages. The country with just two million people has to be like a family. The biggest obstacles to a country’s growth lie within the country and not outside. In every country, there are four major actors: the government, the well-to-do people, the not well-to-do people and the youth with no jobs. All of them have to collaborate as equals and the Government policy framework has to be implemented transparently. Any equitable arrangement would call for sacrifices. Obviously, those who are well to do will have to make more sacrifices than those who are not and this is the reality which has to be accepted by all the players in every country.

5. As the author of the book, Quest for Exceptional Leadership: Mirage to Reality, you are deeply committed to improving the standards of corporate governance and social responsibility worldwide. Political and business leaders use this phrase many times, however nearly half of the world’s population lives on less than USD 2.50 a day and the world’s multinational corporations continue to create more wealth for themselves.

I have written in my book that one of the biggest fault lines, in most countries, has been the nexus between business and politics. Policies have tended to support businesses that already prevail. So far, it has been okay but now, with the new technologies, it is the end of privacy. It is no longer possible to make deals in private. Everything you do or write or say, will get known, if not today, certainly tomorrow. Leaders who don’t accept the new reality and don’t start changing their outlook will find it difficult to succeed hereafter, but those who change will be the new winners. I can see that this transformation is already happening. The risk of getting caught is high. As soon as the risk of getting punished becomes equally high, the transition towards socially responsible corporations will accelerate. The four billion poor people in the world will no longer accept poverty as destiny. The change has to come about.

The youth today, supported by civil society and new media can accelerate this process of change, provided they commit to themselves and to the nation that they will be incorruptible when they become leaders.

6. India is the third-largest Internet market after China and the US, with 232 million users in 2014 and it is the fastest growing Internet market globally. What do you think about the potential of creating added value in India and GDP growth from digital technologies?

The digital phenomenon is playing a significant role all over the world, not just in India or China. The challenge is “Will we let digital technologies substantially reduce the global inequalities?” I have two equalities to target: equality in opportunity and equality before the law. If we use digital technologies judiciously, they can certainly help reduce inequalities. Societies all over the world will then grow and prosper; otherwise digital technology will create knowledge, but not necessarily knowledge with wisdom. With wisdom, we will not merely focus on added value and GDP growth, but also on improved lives and livelihoods, and wellness and happiness.