Editor's Note

The quiet revolution

There are some 450 French companies in India and if the pace of their operations picks up here, so much the better

The word ‘entrepreneur’ is derived from the Old French term entreprendre, which means ‘to undertake’. Over time, the word evolved and currently refers to someone who organises and undertakes a business activity and bears its associated financial risks. So it’s ironic that this is not a good time to do business in France. While every country is prey to the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone and slowdown across the world, France has some extra problems: the country hasn’t balanced its books for nearly 40 years; its public debt is at 90% of GDP; unemployment is at a 14-year high; and its trade deficit of €70 billion is the largest in the Eurozone. Then came president Francois Hollande’s bid to revive a nearly comatose economy with a  “combat budget” that included a proposal to steeply hike capital gains tax, which has French companies complaining of the government’s economic illiteracy and predicting a greater push towards overseas operations.

Not to gloat or anything, but that’s good news for India. There are some 450 French companies in India and if the pace of their operations picks up here, so much the better. The current pace of business is, shall we say, quite relaxed — the French revere their 35-hour work week and de rigueur annual vacation, and it would appear that they’ve brought that leisurely approach to India as well. There’s been $3 billion of foreign direct investment from France into India over the past 12 years and the European country has a long way to go before it makes it to the list of India’s top trading partners. But, as associate editor Krishna Gopalan writes in this issue’s cover story, the French presence in India is significant for other reasons. Their breadth of interest spans heavy industry, agri-products and defence, all the way to luxury, advertising and food. See The New French Colony to read more.

The other big story in this issue is about the late Ponty Chadha. The feisty self-made liquor baron, who took pains to stay away from the limelight, made headlines after he and his brother died in an alleged gunfight in late November. Questions are now being raised about the future of his business interests — Chadha played his cards extremely close to his chest. Will his legacy survive the current upheaval? Read Booze, Bollywood, Bullets to know more.