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Deloitte CEO Punit Renjen expects a lot from India as growth rate picks up

"Ten years ago, India was a cost arbitrage play; today, it is a talent arbitrage opportunity," says India born, Deloitte Global CEO, Punit Renjen.

His views were published in The Economic Times.

NEW DELHI: He's been in America for more than three decades and yet Punit Renjen, the recently-appointed global CEO of Deloitte, wears his Indianness on his sleeve. Over a cuppa of "masala chai, patti tez", the 53-yearold honcho of the global accounting giant expressed happiness over a renewed sense of optimism of the Narendra Modi government.


"India's fastest growth among the BRICS nations has changed the conversation to one of heightened expectations," he told ET. Of course, that is a far cry from the not-so-longago days of policy paralysis hounding India Inc and beyond.

In fact, Renjen's optimism is reflected in a worldview riding on the US recovery, China growing at 7 per cent and low oil prices, despite a shade of grey hanging around with the Greek loan default and the Russian currency depreciation. It is in this backdrop that Renjen finds new meaning in leveraging India's talent."Ten years ago, India was a cost arbitrage play; today, it is a talent arbitrage opportunity," he said, resonating Modi's clarion call for making India the human resource capital of the world.

Today, Deloitte, one of the 'big four' consultancies, has 30,000 suits in India out of 200,000 worldwide. Commenting on the sometimes rocky relationship between the big four — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC — and the regulators, Renjen said he's happy "to engage with regulators and provide perspectives in a respectful way...what the regulations demand of us, we will flow". Under the Companies' Act 2013, all Indian companies are required to rotate their auditors every 10 years, which many see as an opportunity. Of the big four in India, Deloitte audits the biggest companies and commands a dominant position.

While Indian law demands change of the audit firm, globally some countries rotate the partners. Speaking on audit rotation policy Renjen said, "The goal that regulators have and the goal that we have is exactly the same: to uphold the public trust and deliver top quality audits and invest in quality. We as a firm believe that rotation has mixed results, I do not think audit rotation in itself leads to quality; there are multiple things that we need to work together." Renjen built his career on the back of his expertise in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). So what would be his advice to India Inc acquiring companies abroad? "Success in M&As comes with executing with vigour along with the obvious right choices that you got to make," he said, adding that the follow through needs to be relentless day after day. Renjen's rise and rise is borne from his days in small town Rohtak, coming from a humble background, to the world of stripes. He left India for the US on a Rotary Foundation scholarship for the Oregon-based Williamette College, and never looked back. He learnt the hard way, catching the American accent by listening to recorded conversations twice over during classes at Williamette, where he now sits on the board.

"As I progressed in the firm, I learnt the craft, and as I learnt my craft, my partners and the firm threw up different opportunities. After I took over as CEO of the US consulting firm, one of my peers sent me a mail that said, 'It just took you 24 years to become an overnight success'. I have put in my work all of 29 years, and that's the principle I have built my career on," he said.

About Renjen's rise to the top, global CEO coach Ram Charan said, "Renjen belongs to the second wave of global CEOs who are not only experts in their domain but also get the social aspect of the management right." In so far as his objective for the role goes, Renjen makes no bones about leading a purpose-led firm, for he's a sole believer in outcomes. Here, he wants Deloitte to be an undisputed leader in the profession. "I want to run the race as best as I can and hand over the baton to the next set of partners," Renjen said.

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