V Prem Watsa, often described as the Canadian Warren Buffet, is betting big on India after the change of regime. The Hyderabad-born chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings has lined up a venture that will invest in India, in sectors including grain storage, and will start with an initial corpus of $1 billion. Unlike several investors, Watsa is sticking to brick-and-mortar, saying the valuations in the “new economy” are very high. TOI caught up with him over the weekend to discuss his investment mantra and India plans. Excerpts.
You met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. What are views about the government and India? How is India being viewed by investors now?
I am inspired by the Prime Minister because for the first time in about 67 years this country has a prime minister who is pro-business, a prime minister with a track record of achievement in Gujarat, a prime minister who is not corruptible, a prime minister who is focused on what is good for the country and has huge ambition for India. I think of Lee Kwuan Yew in Singapore, I have said publicly in Canada, Mr Modi is the Lee Kwuan Yew of India. For a person who has done it in Gujarat, the opportunity will be unlimited in India and India is blessed to have a leader of Prime Minister Modi’s qualities and talents. Once in a while a country gets lucky to have a leader like Narendra Modi. India is going to be a land of opportunity again. It is going to be great for everybody. There are very few countries in the world today that are as exciting as India.
What are your plans to be part of this growth story?
We have been in India for 20 years. ICICI Lombard was our first investment in 2001. Then a few years ago we invested inThomas Cook, IKYA, Sterling Resorts. India has huge strengths but what India lacked was at the top, the ability to understand that business provides employment. We need to open India and the economy up and let people come. I see unlimited opportunity. Education will be huge in India, we need more education.
Full interview with Prem Watsa here