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Rape case a political awakening, but 'not India's Tahrir Square'

By CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:39 AM EST, Wed January 23, 2013
  • Anand Mahindra is chairman of one of India's largest conglomerates
  • He says the gang rape furore has triggered an important shift in the zeitgeist
  • He says India's government moved too slowly to introduce economic reforms
  • But he remains optimistic that India's growth rates will recover to 8%

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) -- A brutal gang rape which triggered outrage across India has helped the country's younger generation find their political voice -- but is not the nation's "Arab Spring" moment, a top executive says.

"There's not going to be any Tahrir Square in India because we have democracy, people have a voice," Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra, told CNN's John Defterios at the World Economic forum in Davos.

He said the uproar over the assault was evidence of a "very interesting demographic shift."

"We all know the statistic that 50% of the population is under 25. Everyone knew that statistic, they didn't know they had a voice," he said.

"I think what we are seeing is people are saying, 'We're not going to take this any more -- we're young, we're impatient.' It's a change in the zeitgeist, in the mood, and the government is listening, I think -- it has to."

Mahindra is head of one of India's largest conglomerates, a leader in automotive, steel and real estate. He said "policy paralysis" last year had resulted in the Indian government moving too slowly to introduce economic reforms.

But he remained optimistic that growth rates would rise in coming years.

"The official forecast for next year's GDP is somewhere around 7%, our own group chief economist is not willing to bet beyond 6.5%," he told CNN.

"But she's much more bullish about the ensuing years. And I would be very surprised if we don't get back to that trajectory of 8% that we were at."

India, he said, "can't afford to do any less."

"India is still a poor country, that's the reality. And if we don't grow at 8%, we're going to remain poor."

He said despite the slowdown, the Indian middle class was still willing to spend on the right product.

"There is money with that great burgeoning Indian middle class," he said. "If you come out with a new product today which is differentiated, which is value for money, which just excites consumers, the money comes out."

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