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Brand Made In India Redux
Covid-19 pandemic and other external factors have again reaffirmed the role of self-reliance for India. For nation building, India must work hard to present itself firstly as a strong alternative to China when it comes down to supply chain & manufacturing and then work its way towards becoming the preferred destination for global investments
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Very often, these days, I am reminded of the opening sequence of Shyam Benegal’s magnum opus – Bharat Ek Khoj. In a nondescript corner of India, in some dusty hamlet, a crowd is gathering with an almost palpable excitement to welcome their favourite leader – Jawahar Lal Nehru. As Nehru takes the improvised dais- the chants of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” rock the skies.
A simple question from Nehru brings down a shroud of silence. He asks, “Who is this Bharat Mata whose victory you so desperately seek?”. An unexpected question leads to some uncomfortable glances amongst the crowd before a simpleton responds that this land that they stand on is Bharat Mata. Nehru asks “is it limited to this land? What about the numerous mountains, rivers, forests?”. They villager responds in the affirmative. Nehru further expounds that all these geographical features are meaningless without including the people of this land in that definition of Bharat Mata. And that when we say “Bharat Mata ki Jai” – in a way we are seeking victory for all of us. For each one of us.
Why I talk about this is because to me any vision of India devoid of a vision for her people is an exercise in vanity. The vision of India needs to match the aspirations of over a billion people on the move and on the rise. When one speaks of India as a brand – a brand that has changed umpteenth times in the history, there are a few monikers that still stick. Exotic, Chaotic, Spiritual, Abundant, Diverse, Beautiful, Developing, Bureaucratic.
Today, India is at crossroads. It has a newfound confidence, but it is also plagued by myriad issues that have seriously impacted our growth trajectory. Faced with the 2020 surprise, Covid-19 upheaval, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon, has shaken up everything, from economy to our way of life. The oft spoken demographic dividend is on the verge of lapsing into an economic and social liability. Our border disputes have suddenly come to a boil from a prolonged simmer. Environment issues that never could penetrate the periphery are suddenly finding themselves in the issue spotlight. And our financial system is testing its limits under the pressure of NPAs and moratoriums.
However, the pandemic has also brought visible positive impact such as acceleration in adoption for digital payments and thereby, government’s cashless economy drive, highlighted new emerging sectors like Edtech, e-healthcare and this pandemic has made India realise its manufacturing prowess again when driven with determination, as today in a span of few months, we have become a leading manufacturer and net exporter of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE, ventilators and Test kits.
In times like these, its easy to go into a shell and become pessimistic about our prospects. But we are a nation that has seen worse and has seen it numerous times. Our resilience is only second to our storied past. We have accomplished a lot since independence thriving as a democracy. A fact that we can all be proud of. Even in the recent times, we moved 273M of our fellow countrymen out of multi-dimensional poverty between 2005/6 and 2015/16. The largest reduction anywhere in the world.
And despite these confident strides we languish at 115 out of 157 nations on Human Capital Index. A sobering reminder of the task that lies ahead but also a statistic that speaks to the magnitude of opportunity that lies untapped.
Our aim as a nation should be to provide equal opportunities and to celebrate hard work. There is no dearth of ingenuity and industry, but it needs the right level of support from the political and social structure. We are now moving on the path of Atmanirbhar Bharat by pushing the Made in India label and strengthening our voice & merit for Vocal for local. But for this to be a reality, need to build a Brand India that can create world-class products at China prices and focuses on innovation and practical ease of doing business ecosystem across sectors. The recent advances in PPE manufacturing and Pharma have shown us that given the right direction, sense of urgency and a heavy dose of confident entrepreneurship, the manufacturing sector can transform Brand India to be a world beater.
Given our demographics and monotonic shift from agriculture to other sectors, we need to create between 70 -100 Million jobs in the next 10 years. Sectors where this job creation needs to happen are manufacturing, construction, IT/ITES and the next wave of green revolution centered around consolidation and technology. The advancement in these sectors needs to rest on the pillars of inclusion, digitization, sustainability and focused reforms.
The current generation and the one to come needs to dedicate itself to the task of nation building. We can no longer complain of sub-standard stuff made locally. We must make better, so that we can consume better. And not just for ourselves. We must match the best and then some more.
My vision for brand India is the realization of the collective potential of its people. India must work hard to present itself firstly as a strong alternative to China when it comes down to supply chain & manufacturing and then work its way towards becoming the preferred destination for global investments.
This generation needs to resolve that nothing less would be worth their while.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.