Image of Indians changes, old prejudices die in Europe!
French President Jacques Chirac put up a brave face!
It was a humiliating climb down for him. French national pride was touched! The “unfriendly” takeover became suddenly “friendly” takeover!
The French and Luxembourg governments suddenly had to change course and come round to accept the Indian, India-born, businessman’s offer! Gaand Duchy of Luxembourg holds 5.5 per cent share in the new merged entity. The governments of France and Spain are the new” stakeholders” in the new company! Most French politicians and trade union leaders first opposed the take over. Even now, they are lukewarm, though they have to digest the new reality sooner or later!
Luxembourg is a tiny European country. But it is an old European country. It is officially called the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It is a tax haven. So, lots of private banking is done within its borders and its old industries are gone and the new industry is the low tax electronics commerce only. This is a wealthy nation and yet it is very proud of its European heartland legacy. That is one reason when the India-born Lakshmi Mittal’s Mittal Steel Co made a bid to take over Europe’s, the world’s second largest steel company, Arcelor (now Arcelor Mittal Steel Co) there was a huge roar of protests all across Europe.
The French President Jacques Chirac who was in India when the hostilities broke out over the take over, said he was not in favor of the Indian take-over, an Indian doing the job was the most unacceptable thing for European decision makers. Mittal, a Kolkatta born Marwari with a knack for takeover bids and he now owns the world’s largest steel companies in so many countries, some 23 locations in all, is considered a great Indian businessman.
Mittal was accused of so many unworthy traits, he was routinely called” India-born Mittal”, “India-born business man” of no consequence etc. This was resented by many disinterested observers, as see as plain racism; Indians should not do what the Europeans thought below par for non-Europeans. So, the Luxembourg Parliament passed a law against the Indian take over, the Dutch Prime Minister, Spanish and French leaders opposed the take-over. But in a five-month long battle the Indian businessman had persisted with his instincts for business and finally when the many attempts to resist his moves, there was even an attempt to sell the European company to a Russian steel major, Severstal, so that Indian bid can be undone. But the small shareholders saw the Russians more dangerous! So, they wanted to settle down with the Indian!
So, the Luxembourg-based 100 year old large steel company will remain a best option for the Luxembourg citizens. The headquarters of the new company will be in Luxembourg, they, the Luxembourgian feel that what they have gained was the best for their country, for European old world values and much else. One in three Luxembourgian works at the steel mill, there will be four Arcelor directors, four on the new board and for the time being there is quiet in the grand duchy and there seems to be a new sense of belonging to a new global culture.
What the takeover conveys to India, Indians and the world?
The CEO of Arcelor made insulting comments on Mittal’s nationality. Indians were an inferior people! So, the Indian businessman (Mittal holds an Indian passport and lives in London) won. The very act symbolizes the Indian image soar high! Indian pride acquires a new international recognition. In a very core industry like steel, Mittal was already number one with 49.9 per cent world share, Arcelor with 46.7 per cent. Now after the merger, Mittal becomes the world’s biggest steel producer. US steel industry is at the 7th world rank.
Indian people must know what this Mittal story signifies for our national pride. Indians were always seen as an inferior race, in the eyes of the Europeans, led by none other than our own past masters, the Britons. The Britons were seen as a master race, they ruled the world once and so the mindset doesn’t change so easily. The mindset of Europeans too remains very much in the old imperial era and the Europeans don’t easily imagine how much damage they had done for themselves, for the entire world. It was Europe that started the two world wars, made the twentieth century the most horrible in human history, resorted to mass killings, in the most inexplicable manner, the Hitler and others had so much damage to humanity’s own sense of history, own sense of civilization and the older races of Europe persisted, still persist with the same mentality. The matters here are so sensitive, the national traits of individual countries, the traits of Britons, Frenchmen, and Germans need separate analysis, the racial riots of recent years in UK, France, Germany and elsewhere in Austria and other countries have to be seen in this light. The very European economies now sustain by migrant labor, every European country now has large migrant labor from their former colonies and also the new migrant labor in the third generation, is well-educated and highly skilled and work hard and so we see now the more number of millionaires and billionaires in UK are Indians! So too in other European countries and also in USA.
The world is changing and what does this mean?
India is emerging a powerful nation, with highly talented human resources, so Indians dominate now the US IT industry skilled labor; Indian software sector is now number one in the world. So too the latest entrepreneurial thrust of Indians in the many areas of Western life, even in cinema now the Bollywood competes with Hollywood! In English language writing, Indian authors give competition to US/UK writers, so many prizes are won by the Indian artistic community.
So, India leads the world in so many ways.
All this must make us, Indians, the new generation Indians proud of Indian legacies, Indian history, Indian philosophy, Indian science, and Indian new technological talents. It is in this sense we have to see the great achievement of Lakshmi Mittal who had demonstrated that hen it comes to Indian entrepreneurship, Indians show the way to the Western industry leadership. In this sense, it is the steel baron, Lakshmi Mittal who is the new hero of Indian enterprise, overtaking even Ambani and Narayanamurhty!
So, all the best wishes for a new role model in a fast changing world. The future looks really bright!