India’s Tata earmarks $35 billion to ride the Modi express

July 30, 2014, 11:31 AM UTC
Tata Group chairman, Cyrus Mistry addresses the 10th Annual General Meeting of Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai on June 27, 2013. India's biggest IT outsourcing firm, Tata Consultancy Services, popularly known as TCS and part of the steel-to-tea Tata conglomerate, counts blue-chip companies such as British Airways, Microsoft and Sony among its main clients. AFP PHOTO/ Indranil MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Tata Group, the sprawling Indian conglomerate with operations from carmaking to IT and hotels, is looking to get even bigger and more diverse.

The Financial Times reported Wednesday that Cyrus Mistry, the chairman of India’s biggest business empire, presented plans at an internal meeting to invest $35 billion in new areas that look likely to benefit from the economic agenda of newly-installed Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mistry reportedly highlighted four new areas for growth: defense and aerospace, finance, infrastructure and retail.

A presence in defense and insurance would make Tata, with its huge political clout in India, a potentially attractive partner for foreign companies looking to exploit the liberalization of those sectors. In its first budget earlier this month, Modi’s government raised the cap on foreign ownership in defense and insurance companies to 49% from 25%.

It’s unclear whether the company would aim to build such businesses from scratch or buy in expertise by acquiring foreign companies, as it did with U.K. carmakers Jaguar and Land Rover.

The choice of infrastructure, meanwhile, also fits into Modi’s grandiose ambitions to overhaul urban India with the creation of 100 ‘smart cities’ with state-of-the-art communications technology and more efficient use of energy and water. Those ambitions will rely overwhelmingly on private capital to be realized.

The final sector, retail, is already attracting big investment bucks. Inc. said Wednesday it will invest $2 billion in the country, chief executive Jeff Bezos saying “we see huge potential in the Indian economy and for the growth of e-commerce in India.”

Amazon’s announcement came only a day after its local rival Flipkart Internet said it had raised $1 billion in fresh funding.

Ratan N. Tata, the patriarch who was chairman of the group for 21 years, had already given a hint of the company’s thinking a month ago when he tweeted “we need to stand together to support the new government’s actions to rebuild economic growth and prosperity in India.”

Modi’s victory has already added billions to Tata’s value–TCS shares have nearly doubled this year as financial markets looked forward to India adopting a more business-friendly policy after years of being held back by bureaucracy and often-rampant corruption.

Tata has interests in over 100 companies already, but is largely dependent for its profits on the IT division Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Motors. TCS alone accounts for around 60% of its market capitalization, according to the FT.

No-one at the group’s headquarters in Mumbai could immediately be reached for comment.

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