Saturday, April 12, 2014

Corporate honchos test political waters
[Editor: Lanco Infratech Ltd was recommended to the Paid Groups at Rs.7.70 on 7th April, 2014. Yesterday (Friday) the scrip closed at Rs.8.26 after touching a high of Rs.8.39]
Nagaprasad Kandimalla
Hyderabad, March 28, 2014: The bond between politics and business is getting stronger by the day. 

The elections will see a number of corporate honchos testing their popularity on the political firmament. Several of them have already quit the comfort of boardrooms and hit the heat and dust of the campaign trail.

Big wigs

In Andhra Pradesh, at least a dozen ‘greenhorns’ from the corporate world have thrown their hat into the election ring.

The list includes Jaydev Galla of the Amara Raja Group; Ayodhya Rami Reddy of Ramky Infra; Potluri Vara Prasad of PVP Ventures, promoters of the Rs.600-crore diversified Butta Group; Konda Visweswar Reddy, a technocrat and innovator; Koneru Prasad from the realty sector; Naga Prasad of the Lanco Group; and Malla Reddy from the education and healthcare sector.

Seemandhra region

Interestingly, most new entrants are focussed on the Seemandhra region, where the bifurcation of the State is expected to see a build up of new capital and huge investments and incentives to spur growth.

Also, the region is known for its entrepreneurs who have contributed much to the emergence of Hyderabad on the international industrial horizon.

In the last two decades, the State has seen a rise in entrepreneurship in the IT, infrastructure, realty, hospitality, healthcare and entertainment sectors under Chief Ministers N Chandrababu Naidu and YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR). Both had considerable clout in the corridors of power in Delhi when they were ruling the State.

This spawned a large number of new enterprises (mostly in the infrastructurel sector), and saw the phenomenal growth of groups such as GMR, GVK, Lanco, Ramky, IVRCL and Gayatri.

It’s, therefore, no surprise that politics and business are deeply intertwined in the State.

YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who built a large business group when his father YSR was the Chief Minister, is perhaps the best example.

Jagan’s party, the YSR Congress, is a strong contender for power in the Seemandhra region. His business interests range from media to power and cement.

Jaydev Galla, Managing Director of the Rs.3,500-crore Amara Raja Group, whose family had been associated with the Congress for several decades, switched to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) recently. The 48-year-old businessman is contesting for the Guntur seat this time.

Ayodhya Rami Reddy, another forty-plus, first generation entrepreneur, who built the infrastructure giant Ramky Group into a Rs.6,000-crore entity, is taking the plunge in his home constituency of Narasaraopet, also in Guntur.

Rami Reddy, who has been figured in a chargesheet filed in the disproportionate asset case against Jagan, is with the YSR Congress Party.

The FIR says his group received favours in the allocation of land to Ramky Pharma City near Visakhapatnam. The emergence of Telangana as a separate State seems to have opened opportunities for businessmen the region as well. C Malla Reddy, promoter of an education and healthcare group, has joined the TDP, while P Sadanand Reddy of IDEAL Industrial Explosives wants to test the waters on a BJP ticket.

Konda Visweswar Reddy, who had worked with Wipro, GE Healthcare and now helms Citadel Research, has both political lineage and business connections.

His grandfather was Konda Venkata Ranga Reddy, former Deputy CM after whom Ranga Reddy district is named. His wife Sangeetha Reddy is the Executive Director of the Apollo Group and daughter of group Chairman C Pratap Reddy.

But the decision to jump into politics about eight months ago was provoked by the strong feeling that professionals can bring a change to the system, he says.

Clean politics

“I feel there is space for clean politics, and the public perception is changing as indicated by the Aam Aadmi Party.” He is a likely candidate of the Telangana Rastra Samithi from Chevella for the Lok Sabha.