Enabling India; Exploring Opportunities
By: S.R Nair, Mentor Director, Mentorguru Professional Services Pvt. Ltd. & Past President, K M A.
04 Feb 2014

It is well-known that progress and growth of a nation not only depend on economic factors but the political, cultural and geographical factors as well. Additionally, it depends on many external factors in which the country may not have any control. The last four to five years of the Indian story is intertwined with both the global and the internal challenges. Global meltdown & Eurozone crisis had well augmented to the coalition political pressures that the Governments have been undergoing here. Further, corporate greed, corruption, nepotism and collusion between executives and the corporates; and the resultant policy paralysis had negated our forward movement considerably. Industrial slow down, unemployment, and inflation too had added to our agony. The year 2012 and 13 had been extremely bad for the country. It is in this background that we are now exploring the opportunities to enable India to surge forward.

Enabling India

It is very critical to have a positive ambience prevailing across, to enable growth. The confidence of the populace is a major factor for them to get empowered. Though currently there is nothing to write home about in this front, it is hoped that the impending national election could turn things for the better. The country is seriously looking forward to a stable, strong government at the center, to enable the nation. While it is anybody’s guess, if the leading political parties of the country go by their past experience in handing coalition, there would be good learning to manage the political equations. It is imperative that we need to have a stable government, if we have to grow as we did in the nineties and beyond till the last three years. Experience suggests us to keep our fingers crossed!

Exploring opportunities

While every difficulty brings down the confidence of the nation, it poses an opportunity for us to catch on. What is important is to identify and tap the opportunity. These opportunities may not expose themselves well to be seen and therefore one needs to search for it and bring it out of the quagmire of complexities under which it lay. It is easier said than done but the indications would be there and an experienced eye could decipher it. In order to do so, let us look at the following inputs and see if the inputs help us identify the opportunities that we get to tap, for the country to progress better.

India’s Demographic dividend

No nation in the world has the level of demographic advantage that India has and that is its youth population that the nation possesses. India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is expected that, by the year 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan and still higher for America & Europe. That is the people at their productive best. To get them into employment and entrepreneurship is the major task. Not everybody is equipped with the skills and knowledge for getting into employment and business. For a country which lives in the villages, among our youth, large percentage belong to lowest educational and technical skill level, for taking up meaningful employment. Thus, skill development becomes the single most important means to enable India’s youth. Our institutions meant for imparting skills loitered a lot during the last 3 decades. Whereas countries like China had developed close to five thousand distinct skills for its people to get employed, the Indian story is very dismal. It has to be the top most national agenda for India to develop and impart skills to the youth for making them employable.

Entrepreneurship

Undoubtedly, the corner stone of any nation’s economic progress is the entrepreneurship that happens within it. Entrepreneurship is all about creating value and through which, creating wealth and distributing the same, of course staying within the ambit of our laws. The last two decades saw the start and mushrooming good number of IT and software companies in India and it had brought laurels to the country, not to speak of the high export growth we achieved with it. Employment possibilities also increased in this sector. We now need to replicate this story in other verticals; be it in service sector or manufacturing. For a nation of more than a billion people, we still need many more productive enterprises to cater to the needs of its citizens. While enterprises are concentrating on meeting the requirements of the middles class and high class categories of the society, it is at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) that the entrepreneurial opportunities abound. To many segments of Indian society, which is predominantly agrarian in nature, entrepreneurship is a taboo. Risk averse population looks forward to jobs than being entrepreneurial. It is a cultural aspect that we need to overcome. Such cultural changes have to be brought about by recognizing and celebrating entrepreneurship. From the school level onwards children must be made aware of the possibilities of entrepreneurship. They should read, hear from and get inspired by the stories of successful entrepreneurs, say the Narayana Murthys of the world.

MSME & Start-ups

The story of MSME is nothing but the extension of entrepreneurship. Almost close 40 percent of the manufacturing in India takes place in MSME and this sector is the largest employer in the country, after agriculture. As most of the enterprises start-up in the Micro and Small sector, adequate attention is required to MSME. Nurturing a startup is the beginning of developing an enterprise. It has to be an ongoing endeavor to motivate, train and assist people to start-up their enterprises. Funding and marketing are critical for the proliferation SME companies. While financial institutions speak a lot about giving assistance SME sector, in real sense, it is nothing much. Separate SME centric policies, though exist now, the implementation of the same is not done with the sincerity that it deserves.

Manufacturing

It has been the strategic achievement of rich nations over the last several hundred years to create a high-quality manufacturing sector in order to develop national wealth and power. As indicated by the rise of the US, Germany, Japan and the USSR in the 20th century, to the newly industrializing countries like Korea, Taiwan, and now China; manufacturing has been the key to prosperity.

The most powerful nations in the world are those that control the bulk of the global production of manufacturing technology. That is, it isn’t enough to have factories that produce more goods, it is important to have to know-how to make the machinery that makes the goods. The key to power, therefore, is to make the means of production. About 80% of the world’s production of factory machinery has been controlled by the great industrialized nations. The growth of manufacturing machinery output and technological improvements in that machinery; are the main drivers of economic growth. So in order to improve and our manufacturing capability we should master the art making the production machinery ourselves and greater attention needs to be put in this area.

Research & Development

It must be clearly understood that future economic progress will be driven by the invention and application of new technologies. Research & Development has to be major area of spending, in order to develop and drive the new technologies. Private sector firms are prone to focus their R&D on applied projects, where the payoff in terms of profit is likely to go only to them. Industry does not undertake broad R&D for the general benefit of the nation. In contrast, Governments can sponsor the basic research projects that seek wide ranging scientific understanding that can impact entire industries. Globally, government research funding has been critical to many technologies of everyday importance. Many of the government-sponsored technological advances have been instrumental in driving economic growth and raising the living standards for the citizens. It had created new industries and high paying jobs that have benefitted a wide-range of regional, state and local economies.

It is very unfortunate that the India’s role in R&D and innovation has been dismal, particularly in the industrial, technological, medical and agricultural front, notwithstanding the umpteenth number of national laboratories that are operated across the nation. These research centers today dwell as white elephants that consume the national wealth without creating anything worthy enough innovation to benefit the country and its people. There sure exist opportunities for India in R&D. R&D delivers the knowledge that is of highest economic value and the knowledge, that is otherwise called as ‘intellectual property’, can go a long way in establishing leadership in many spheres.

Agriculture

Agriculture in India is the means of livelihood for almost two thirds of the workforce of the country. It has been India's most important economic sector. Though the role of agriculture as a percentage of our GDP is diminishing gradually and secondary and tertiary sector are growing up considerably, it has to be understood that great majority of Indians; particularly those in the rural sector, which is considerably large in number, agriculture continues to be their means of existence. Most of the agricultural land is in the form of small holding owned by impoverished farmers who, even after 65 years of Independence, are still at the mercy of the Monsoons with no scientifically implemented irrigation or water management policies laid out for them. Access to credit is very poor and most of them are controlled by loan sharks. Middlemen plays huge role in reaching the agricultural produce to market, thereby taking away the real profits of the efforts from the cultivators.

Women employment in Agriculture is high. Looking from a gender perspective too, women and self-help groups formed by them benefitting out of the agricultural activity, should be considered as true empowerment of them. Really, plenty of opportunities exist in the sector which has been yearning for good leadership to come by to help them out.

Whither India?

The attempt so far has been to bring out the areas where opportunities exist in plenty. As mentioned, every difficulty offers an opportunity. The planners and managers of the country in various sectors may have to peer through the situations, in order to identify and tap the opportunities that lie under. The country has to shake off its complacency and indulge in positive policy making not only for the welfare of its citizens but for the economic progress that every society need to achieve. For a complex nation such as ours, the efforts and plan may have to be much more than the normal, for us to catch up the opportunities that would enable and empower our denizens. Let us remember, we are the creators of our own destiny and therefore the dream, the thought, the realization and the efforts have to come from within. Good luck to us!