Meera Shankar, India's ambassador to the United States, discusses her country's growth potential at a recent conference in Atlanta.

If for no other reason than the sheer size of its population, India will become a “megamarket,” for products and services sold by global companies, the country’s ambassador to the U.S., Meera Shankar, said at a recent conference in Atlanta.

“You’re looking at a nation of 1.1 billion people which will become in the future the most populous nation in the world,” the ambassador said at the 1st Annual USA India Business Summit held May 10-11 at the Cobb Galleria and Conference Center. “What 1.1 billion do or not do, the choices they make, the goods that they consume, will have an impact not just within that country or within that region but in the wider world.”

But size is not the only reason why companies should consider India as a potential market, the ambassador said. India’s economy has continued to grow steadily, even during the global economic crisis, in part because there were no banking or housing crises.

“We are one of the few countries that did not go into recession and had a growth rate of 6.7 percent in 2008 at the peak of the crisis,” said the ambassador. “We hope to come back to a growth rate of 8-10 percent and sustain this for three decades or more because that it what we will need to overcome the challenges that we face.”

As the Indian economy grows, its citizens will have more and more money to spend, providing further potential for companies selling products there.

“The demand for goods and services in India will be seeing exponential growth,” the ambassador said.

Another factor in India’s favor is its young population, with 52 percent of Indians below the age of 25. This provides a large pool of human capital that companies can tap, a great market for a wide range of products.

 “If we look at other countries at similar stages of their demographic development then you see that this huge bulge [in the number of young people]  is what drives the economy and pushes growth,” said Ms. Shankar.

Hoping to foster the intellectual capital of its youth, the Indian government is investing heavily in education, the ambassador said, adding that this also creates a growth opportunity for global companies.

India has enacted a “Right to Education” bill that guarantees free education to all children ages 6-14. The government is also expanding higher education and technical schools through direct government spending and private investment. 

India is already attracting increasing attention from Atlanta-area universities.

Georgia State University‘s Robinson College of Business is collaborating with a startup graduate management program, National Management School, in Chennai. Georgia State is helping the for-profit school recruit faculty and develop an American-style curriculum for its masters in business administration program.

Kennesaw State University‘s Coles College of Business is helping the Mumbai Business School launch an executive MBA program.

Coles College will receive a portion of the revenue from the program, which will pay for Coles faculty members to teach at Mumbai. The program is designed for executives who want to continue their education part-time while working at their regular jobs. Graduates will receive certificates from Coles College.

Clayton State University has a faculty exchange program with Birla College and Chandibai Himathmal Mansukhani College, both part of the University of Mumbai system. 

Atlanta is a special place for Indians, the ambassador said, in part because it was the home of the late Martin Luther King Jr., who adopted the non-violence principles of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi.

Ms. Shankar also cited a growing number of Indian companies in Atlanta, including Wipro Technologies, Infosys Technologies Ltd. and HCL America Inc.

Some Atlanta-based companies, such as Coca-Cola Co. are experiencing rapid sales growth in India, she added.

The country’s infrastructure still needs improvement, with plans for the Indian government and private investors to spend $1 trillion over the next decade, which creates even more business opportunities for global companies, she said.

“We need ports, airports, electric generation, roads,” she said.

The infrastructure needs are partially a result of low growth rates in the past, which deprived India of necessary revenue, but also because of the current rapid growth which has created greater demand for services, said the ambassador.

India also needs help making its agriculture sector more efficient, including better supply chain management and more cold storage for crops.

“Clearly, India and the U.S. are vital economic partners,” she said.

For more information on the summit, e-mail its organizer, Atlanta businessman Ani Agnihotri, at