India's Modi to lure tech, EV investments at Gujarat summit as poll looms

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is rolling out the red carpet for hundreds of local and foreign investors visiting his home state of Gujarat this week for a trade event, in one of his last major efforts to attract investment ahead of his re-election bid.

The vibrant global summit, which will be held in Gujarat from January 10 to 12, is expected to attract around 100,000 visitors, including CEOs, business leaders, ministers, and diplomats from 133 countries, in what organizers described as the largest ever event. It is held every two years and is now in its tenth year.

Narendra Modi

The list of participating foreign companies includes Microsoft, Nasdaq, Alphabet Google, Suzuki, and Toyota. Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, Asia's two richest people and chairman of the Tata Group, which turns salt into aviation, will be among many top Indian executives who will attend.

Foreign investors have been betting big on India since Modi came to power in 2014, with companies such as Apple, Samsung, Kia, and Airbus expanding their operations. This, despite some executives saying his protectionist policies for sectors such as digital payments, manufacturing, and e-commerce often encourage domestic companies at the expense of foreign ones.

For Modi and Gujarat officials, the summit will be an opportunity to attract investors into sectors such as chip manufacturing and electric vehicle manufacturing, where India is lagging, and the prime minister will hold closed-door meetings with several state executives, officials said.

This will be one of Modi's last major attempts to reassure investors about his business-friendly policies and boost India's reputation as an investment destination, just months before the 2024 national elections, where he will contest for a third term and is expected to win.

Mukesh Aghi, head of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum's trade group, who is leading its largest delegation of more than 50 US companies to the summit, said, “US companies are taking into account that the current government will return to power."

“They are quietly de-risking China, so India, with its fast-growing economy, becomes important,” Aghi added.

Hotel rooms are getting expensive

The event will be held in Gandhinagar, the state capital, at a sprawling convention center managed by Leela Palace, an Indian luxury hotel group owned by Brookfield. Roads leading to the convention center are being cleared and repaired, and billboards with Modi's pictures have been put up to promote Gujarat as an investment hotspot.

Gujarat attracted nearly $34 billion in foreign investment between 2019 and 2023 and is the third largest state among states after Maharashtra - home to the financial capital, Mumbai - and Karnataka, whose capital, Bengaluru, is the Silicon Valley of India.

As in previous Gujarat Vibrant summits, hotel rooms are now increasingly scarce and expensive.

Deeppreet Bindra, general manager of a hotel run by Marriott International in Ahmedabad, about 30 kilometers from Gandhinagar, where many summit visitors will stay, said his daily room rates have risen to $420 per night, from a typical $150 per day.

However, visitors will have to largely avoid alcohol consumption, as the state is one of the few in India that restricts the public sale of alcoholic beverages unless special government permits are obtained, something that has often drawn the irk of executives working in the region.

Before the event, Gujarat signed initial investment agreements worth $120 billion with more than 200 companies, including the local joint venture of steelmaker ArcelorMittal.

“So far we have mainly focused on traditional industries, but now we are also focusing on emerging sectors like semiconductors, electronics, and electric vehicles,” said Rahul Gupta of the state-run Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation.

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