The Man Behind the Government of India's Startup

Deepak Bagla, MD and CEO, Invest India

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Invest India, the national investment promotion agency, is born from a vision to present India’s untapped potential to a global audience of investors and businesses. Formed in 2009, it was not until 2015 when, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government’s ‘own startup’ was able to take wings. In the sixty months since Invest India has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) ‘Investment Promotion Award 2020.’ More recently, Invest India has been unanimously elected as the president of the World Association of Investment and Promotion (WAIPA) for a two-year term, starting in 2022.

Invest India

In the short time since Invest India began its operations, it has helped the government’s vision of making India a favorable place to do business. Responsible for visionary projects like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Startup India,’ Invest India has enabled a spirit of entrepreneurship and, in the words of Prime Minister Modi, ‘competitive federalism.’ The latter is served by Invest India’s extensive coordination with various state investment promotion agencies. In liaising with state IPAs and governments, Invest India has emphasized various Indian states’ particular strengths and their unique opportunities at a global platform. The pandemic did not dampen these efforts either. As all business and economic activity became virtual, Invest India, too, initiated the ’Exclusive Investor Forum (EIF).’These virtual business summits attracted over a thousand global investors to better understand sectoral opportunities in Indian states and gave state officials a chance to dive deep into state incentives, state government policies, and sectoral clusters, among others.

Behind Invest India’s cutting-edge investment facilitation work is the leadership of Deepak Bagla. With over 30 years of experience in multilateral and banking, Bagla brings unique perspectives from the corporate world together with an ability to marry them to government vision. Under his leadership, Invest India has grown from strength to strength, being rated as a ‘Great Place to Work’ twice. Remarkably, the ethos that Invest India presents to potential investors, it also embodies. Bagla, while ensuring equality of opportunity, runs a team of over 300 professionals whose average age is 30. This is truly reflective of India, a country whose median age is 28.4 years and whose youth exemplifies innovation and excellence.

This is perhaps most evident in Invest India’s recognition as the World's Most Innovative Investment Promotion Agency 2021 by OCO Global. When asked about what drove this recognition, the ever so humble Bagla replied, “We are, in many ways, a product of the changing times, of a new mindset that seeks to create a New India. In many ways, this has been brought about by a new form of governance—if I may use that word—and the changing manner in which governments envision the country’s economic future and the private sector’s role within it. I think I was lucky to get the kind of team I have, one that is able to pull diverse elements of what makes India unique and pitch investors quality opportunities.”

However, the success of the team is evident in the widespread laurels it has received from entities like the World Bank, UNCTAD, and WAIPA. Invest India’s prompt pivot to address the need of the hour birthed online portal that helped ease investor concerns as economic uncertainty shrouded the international community. The Business Immunity Platform (BIP) was a comprehensive resource that helped businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to the pandemic. The platform updated itself constantly, provided the latest information on various central and state government initiatives, gave access to special provisions, and answered and resolved queries through emails and on WhatsApp.

According to Bagla, Invest India’s excellence can be attributed to “the leader of the country, Prime Minister Modi, who has enabled an institution of excellence with a clear objective and an autonomy that allows it to work across all levels of government.” Invest India’s success, says Bagla, is its role as a bridge not just between government and business, but also among the government itself. This flexibility has allowed the IPA to fill vacuums in showcasing the India opportunity at a global scale and prompted the nurture of a natural symbiotic relationship between industry stakeholders and the government.

With each passing week, Invest India is taking on newer responsibilities. The ambitious One District One Product (ODOP) project of the government of India is also being managed by Invest India, as is the AGNIi mission under the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor. This is possible because of Invest India’s success in investment facilitation. Bagla provides the example of a leading Danish wind turbine blades manufacturing company that was able to secure all requisite approvals and begin operations within 15 months, the shortest time the company has experienced anywhere in the world. He attributes the success to astute policymaking, which has allowed Invest India “to be well connected with stakeholders and ensure efficient execution to witness magical outcomes.”He adds, “the time taken has a huge impact on the profitability; capital starts working the day construction begins, and not after commercial production begins. Squeezing that timeline was therefore imperative for me.”

There is no wonder then that, despite a global decline in foreign direct investments, India was able to attract a whopping USD 81 Bn in total FDI inflows. As India carves an enviable spot for itself in the global value chain, a lot will be owed to the young minds hard at work at Vigyan Bhawan. And, of course, to the leader who stands behind them.