Overall economic sentiment is positive in India, says Ajay Piramal

Ajay Piramal, chairman, Piramal Enterprises
The investment cycle is turning for better and the overall economic sentiment is positive in the country, says Ajay Piramal, chairman, Piramal Enterprises. He tells Abhijit Lele in an interview that the firm will look at expanding the consumer products business through a mix of organic and inorganic growth opportunities. Edited excerpts:

You have reorganised the financial services business. How is it going to work?

The entire non-banking finance company business will move into housing finance company, though the operations will be separate with business heads for areas like housing, real estate, emerging corporate group. The support functions like finance and asset monitoring will remain common. The licence for a housing finance company allows you to do other things if 50 per cent business is in housing and construction.

Now that the investment cycle is turning for the better, what are the prospects for the corporate finance group?

The corporate finance group will grow the loan book and see that housing and construction finance will also grow. We will have to maintain that 50:50 ratios. If we have to do some more (loans), it would be done by the parent company, Piramal Enterprises.

It has been more than one year since the NCLT started to deal with insolvency cases. What is your assessment of work till now?

All the big cases have gone to the NCLAT and the Supreme Court. Let them all decide soon. It (the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) is a new law and it takes time for people to become familiar. Legal disputes are normal in any country. Courts have to interpret the law. It is the Parliament which makes the law.

Moving to the pharma segment, Indian consumer product business seems to have impacted by the roll-out of GST in 2017-18. Will that effect last and how will business shape in 2018-19?

It will come back. There was minus 8 per cent growth. I think this year will be fine. There is huge scope for ramping up. We acquire portfolios. We have acquired from Pfizer and Merind, and we will continue to do so. The growth will come from both organic and inorganic routes.

How do you see the economic climate in the backdrop of rising commodity as well as crude prices and hardening interest rates?

Overall economy is positive. There are concerns on oil but the prices of other commodities are under control. I hope the monsoon is also good this year.

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