Interview by Sunita Sohrabji, India-West Staff Reporter
Arun Kumar, who formerly served in the Commerce Department during the Obama Administration, has been elected chairman and CEO of KPMG India. “India has been growing really fast. I sense the dynamism of India,” the Indian American executive told India-West by telephone from Mumbai, on the third day in his new role.
Professional services firm KPMG India Feb. 4 announced the election of Arun Kumar as chairman and chief executive officer.
Kumar, who most recently served as assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general of U.S. and foreign commercial service during the President Barack Obama administration, was named to a five-year term. He was elected by the KPMG India Board and ratified by the India partners.
“I’m really excited to be back in India and welcome the professional challenge of working in a high-growth economy,” Kumar told India-West Feb. 7 – on the third day of his new role – in a telephone interview from Mumbai, his first interview with the U.S. press. “I’m delighted for this opportunity to be consequential in some way and to really make a difference.”
“I sense the dynamism of India,” said the Indian American executive. “India has been doing really well and growing really fast. There is a growing market here that is primed for foreign investment as well as domestic investment,” he said.
India’s phenomenal growth rate, approximately 7.6 percent in 2016, is predicted to slow down in 2017 to 7 percent, according to forecasts released by the World Bank in January, which blamed the impact of demonetization – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s devaluation last November of all Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes – for the drop.
Kumar predicted a short-term slow-down of the Indian economy, but added that “in the long-term view, there is definitely growth.”
“There is a short-term cost for demonetization, but there is a lot of popular support for it,” he said, noting that the maverick move has not diminished foreign investors’ interest in the country.
Kumar praised the new Union Budget, released Feb. 1, for delicately balancing the needs of the agrarian sector and rural development against support for business and industrial growth.
The unprecedented U.S.-India economic relationship forged by Obama and Modi will continue to grow in the administration of President Donald Trump, predicted Kumar. “U.S. interests and Indian interests are strongly aligned. I see no reason why the relationship could not continue.”
“The fundamentals of the U.S.-India relationship are very strong. I expect it will go forward in a very positive direction,” said Kumar.
Kumar, who began his stint at the Commerce Department in 2014, told India-West he was proud of his role in cementing the U.S.-India relationship, specifically bringing the U.S. private sector to the table for discussions with the Indian administration.
Under his direction, the two countries have formed a National Bureau of Tourism to showcase and promote each country. Kumar said the two countries have also collaborated on several infrastructure projects, including creating smart cities in Vizag, Ajmer, and Allahabad.
Kumar also played a key role in establishing the India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and a renewed India-U.S. CEO Forum.
Kumar – who left India in 1978 for graduate school – has spent most of his career with KPMG in the U.S., and served on the company’s board from 2008 to 2013.
“I am honored to have been elected as the chairman and CEO of KPMG in India. I have worked closely with the people of KPMG India for many years and have always been impressed by their world class talent,” Kumar, who succeeds Richard Rekhy, said in a press statement.
“I am excited to have this opportunity to work with the KPMG team in India to continue to build an organization that is recognized for their quality and for the impact they have on our clients, our people and the community in general.”
John Veilmeyer, chairman of KPMG International, said in a press statement: “I am delighted to welcome Arun back to KPMG. He is a trusted leader, who is recognized for his integrity, strategic vision and enduring relationships and I am confident that under Arun’s leadership, KPMG India will continue to provide exceptional service to our clients, enhance our brand and further strengthen our reputation for the highest quality.”