The Ranbaxy-Daiichi deal may have made global headlines, but that has hardly impressed L K Advani, leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha.
"It's a cause for worry that an Indian company, known for its research and development capabilities and operating in a critical area like pharmaceuticals, has lost its identity to a foreign company," Advani said after giving away the Business Standard awards at a glittering function attended by a galaxy of business leaders in Mumbai on Saturday evening.
Though he did not name Ranbaxy, the signal from the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate was clear.
Advani said he was aware that mergers and acquisitions were inevitable in a globalised world, but asked Indian industry to spare a thought for what he called the "third dimension".
"I am not trying to find fault with globalisation and profit motives. But these cannot override considerations of national interests," the BJP leader said, adding India Inc should guard against a monopoly situation in vital areas like pharmaceuticals.
"We need to think how such deals affect our poor people; and whether they can block access to drugs at a reasonable price," he said.
Ranbaxy promoters Malvinder Singh and family had sold their 34.81 per cent stake in India's largest pharmaceuticals company to Japan's Daiichi-Sankyo a fortnight ago. Daiichi has announced an open offer to take its stake in Ranbaxy to 51 per cent.
In his extempore speech, Advani also talked about the paradoxes in the Indian economy and stressed the need to make economic growth truly inclusive.
"India is seeing the fastest increase in the number of billionaires. But the plight of the poor is also deepening at an even faster pace. The challenge is to evolve an economic strategy which can bridge this ever-widening gap," Advani said.
The main reason for this paradox, Advani said, was the failure of successive governments and industry to recognise the fact that farmers were still not part of the economic growth process. "The root of the problem is the crisis in agriculture," he said.
Advani said India's software prowess was a matter of pride but the real challenge was to take information technology from urban areas to the countryside because that's what inclusive growth is all about.
The BJP leader said he agrees with management thinker C K Prahalad who has exhorted Indian industry to give serious thought to the value at the bottom of the pyramid.
"A whole new world will open up if we stop seeing the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognising then as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers," Advani said.
The veteran leader also didn't miss an opportunity to take a dig at the United Progressive Alliance government (UPA). Terming it as a government "in the ICU", Advani said the government has pushed itself in a corner over the Indo-US nuclear deal and the high inflation rate.
People certainly expected better management of the nation's economy from Manmohan Singh, who is known to be a distinguished economist, he said. "I am not a doctor. But here is the case of a doctor who has brought his own government to this critical pass," Advani said, giving flashes of his trademark humour.
Pointing out that the UPA government has written its own epitaph even before its formal exit, Advani blamed the coming together of the Congress and the Left on the bogus claim of unity of secular forces.
That the UPA has sealed its fate on the nuclear deal is evident from the fact that the Communists will withdraw support if the government goes ahead with operationalisation of the deal. On the other hand, if it once again chooses to retreat, the prime minister's credibility and authority, which were never high, will have all but evaporated, Advani said.
Convinced that Indians are now looking beyond the UPA government, Advani listed the challenges the next government would face: inflation, further acceleration and broadbasing of economic growth so that the fruits are enjoyed by the poorest, internal security threats and energy security.
Giving some indication of his party's economic manifesto for a "resurgent India", Advani said the agenda will be a strong and vibrant economy, revitalisation of agriculture, fixing the ills of small enterprises, a revolutionary expansion of high-quality education and a strong emphasis on urban renewal, specially for cities like Mumbai.
"We would like to evolve an Indian model of development as imitating the development model of any other country cannot solve India's problem," Advani said.
The CEO of the Year award was given to Sun Pharmaceuticals Chairman and Managing Director Dilip Shanghvi. Receiving the award, Shanghvi said the secret of Sun's success lay in its consistent ability to give the best pharma solutions at the lowest possible cost. Dedicating the award to his R&D team, he said Sun spends 12 per cent of its turnover on research.
O P Bhatt, chairman of State Bank of India, who received the Banker of the Year award, thanked Team SBI for its efforts to "wake up the SBI elephant from its slumber and make it dance."The Most Innovative Organisation of the Year award went to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the Indian Premier League, which redefined the rules of the game.
Receiving the award, BCCI Vice-President Lalit Modi said it was a pleasant surprise for him as BCCI was not a company. He thanked his team, the 99 million TV audience and the over 2.5 million people who went to the cricket stadiums day after day to make IPL a grand success.
The award for the Equity Fund Manager of the Year was won by Sandeep Kothari of Fidelity Fund Management., while the honour of the Debt Fund Manager of the Year went to Suyash Chowdhary, a former fund manager at Standard Chartered Asset Management and now with HSBC Asset Management.
National Thermal Power Corporation won the Star PSU of the Year award, Cognizant Solutions was declared the Star Unlisted Company, Mico-Bosch won the Star MNC award and Praj Industries won the Star SME award.
Hyundai i10 won the BS Motoring Car of the Year award and Bajaj XCD 125 DTS-Si was chosen the BS Motoring Bike of the Year.