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Deepak Bagla steps down as MD & CEO of Invest India

Moneycontrol has learned that Deepak Bagla stepped down after a Ministry of Commerce audit raised questions over the work accomplished by Invest India.

March 17, 2023 / 01:46 PM IST

Deepak Bagla, Managing Director and CEO of Invest India, has stepped down after a Ministry of Commerce audit questioned the work accomplished by the investment promotion body, people aware of the matter told Moneycontrol.

Moneycontrol has learned that the audit had been going on for a year and Bagla came in for intense questioning. The people cited above also said the Commerce Ministry had reprimanded Bagla, stating that the audit had found no substantial work had happened on ground.

Moneycontrol has reached out to Bagla and the Commerce Ministry for comments. We will update this copy as and when they respond.

A regular at media jamborees, Bagla was a prominent face among those pitching the India story to investors at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. He assembled a crew of young professionals, who put together the impressive India Lounge on the Davos promenade, which became a fixture for Indian CEOs visiting the Swiss city.

Bagla often conflated India’s rise as a hot favorite for foreign direct investment with the work done by Invest India. The body was set up in 2009 under section 25 of the Companies Act 1956 to facilitate investments.

Allegations of impropriety

A contingent of over 18 people travelled to Davos for the World Economic Forum meet this year in business class, something that did not go down well with Anurag Jain, Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, who was appointed in September 2021, according to a senior official at Invest India. “That’s when a clean up of Invest India began, the secretary was very clear that such a big contingent from Invest India was not required but since approvals had come in, he let the contingent travel in 2023,” the official added.

At board meetings, questions were raised on why Invest India was engaging in peripheral tasks when it had a lot to do on its core responsibilities. Insiders at Invest India say targets were set on the number of tweets they had to put out in a day. Rosters were made to track tweets made by the employees. Targets were in the range of 200 to 500 tweets a day.

Jain once reportedly called out the use of “fancy charts and graphs to deflect from core issues”, says an insider at Invest India.

When Bagla was questioned, there were few success stories to show, said an official at Invest India. “The output was nowhere comparable to the input. Meetings were called often to discuss who we are going to pitch to and how for publicity — from the tea that will be served to the menu. It was rarely about real work,” said the official, who did not want to be identified.

There were also allegations of nepotism against Bagla. “There are allegations of Invest India hiring children of IAS officers at higher salaries. I also tried to place my children there,” a former commerce ministry official told Moneycontrol.

Bagla’s term ended in November 2022, and he was on an extension, cleared by the board.

A biography posted online notes that Bagla, an alumnus of St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and Georgetown University, Washington DC, began his career at the World Bank. In 1989 he joined the Citibank Global Corporate and Investment Banking team, with roles and responsibilities in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Shweta Punj
first published: Mar 17, 2023 12:03 pm