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Cautious optimism after the bug bite

New Delhi, May 2: Businessmen are hoping that the bug — the SARS bug — will just blow away. Most are just hunkering down to deal with a problem that has wrecked their plans and could upset their revenue streams.

Industry is still optimistic that things will improve in the near future and their business prospects will not be badly thrown out of kilter.

A Ficci survey of 108 companies in India and Asean shows that more than 56 per cent of respondents are adopting a ‘wait and watch’ policy and 54 per cent believe that SARS will moderately affect revenue growth in future.

In addition, 45 per cent of the respondents felt that SARS will leave some impact on the extension of their present activities. Another 38 per cent expressed their apprehensions about new ventures and expansions.

With SARS epidemic hitting the fastest growing economy-China, most economists and analysts believe that this could lead to some investment inflows into India.

Amit Mitra, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), says “We think only companies having immediate business needs to fulfil will switch to India. At the moment, nothing can be said on drawing long-term investments. However, it will be a great challenge for India to retain and establish long-term investment plans.”

“Our survey shows that SARS has had a moderate and not catastrophic effect on bilateral trade and investment flows between India and Asean countries at this stage,” Mitra said.

The survey states that 46 per cent of respondents are of the view that the fallout of SARS scare has not affected their current operations. “However, if the travel and hospitality sectors are excluded then the figure is more than 52 per cent,” the survey said.

Mitra said, “We will soon approach the health ministry to make clinical testing a central activity in healthcare in India which it is not unfortunately today.”

“India has the capacity to be cost efficient and competitive in this field. We need to build the right research laboratories; it is an area of great concern,” he added.

Ficci’s findings reveal that the extent of impact compared with the corresponding period last year is less than 10 per cent in terms of decline in revenues realised and pressure on profit margins as per majority of those affected. “The moraleis certainly not negative for the future,” says Mitra.

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