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India cannot afford full lockdowns again: Tata Group Chairman

N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons says that any fresh lockdowns to counter the second wave of covid will hurt the economy big time.

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"We cannot have a full lockdown. It has to be managed in micro segments," N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons said at the 6th National Management Conclave of All India Management Association (AIMA).

"We have to protect the people and we also have to protect the economy. It is not a binary option," Mr Chandrasekaran said. He insisted that the vaccine production in the country needed to be raised to the level of mass production by replicating factory capacities.

Chandrasekaran argued that the pandemic had exposed the country's access problem, which could be solved by technology. He said that if there was a single online platform with all the information on the availability of hospital beds, vaccines, oxygen etc, the people will know where to access those. "The best thing we can do immediately is to have predictive analytics to know where the cases will rise next," he said.

Chandrasekaran, who has written the book 'Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology's People Problem', said that India's two biggest problems were access to resources and jobs, and technology could solve both the problems.

Commenting on technology’s role, Harsh Pati Singhania, President, AIMA and Vice Chairman & Managing Director, JK Paper, stated that there was a great polarization in respect of technology's role, as some saw it as a threat to jobs while others saw it as a ticket to economic freedom. "history shows that every new technology has ended up multiplying the economy by turning more people into producers and consumers," he said.

Chandrasekaran argued that India needed a platform approach to digital solutions. He said that it was hard to be entrepreneur when one had to deal with forms, licences, taxes, payroll, finance - everything except doing the business that one wants. A digital platform could take over all these tasks and free the entrepreneur to do what they know best, he said. He added that having an SME platform would create industrial clusters everywhere and that is how India would produce the 100 million jobs that it needs to create.

Chandrasekaran pointed out that the people had adapted to an extreme level of digital education during the pandemic. However, his Bridgital hypothesis was mostly about digital interventions that spared the teachers the administrative tasks, which could be automated. He said that making technology work in the education sector will create a lot of jobs.

Predicting the trends for the next 10 years, Mr Chandrasekaran said that there will be a great acceleration of digital in every business and the public health will receive a lot more attention and investment. He forecast that the sustainability issue will gather momentum and the world will come together on that. He also sees the supply chains shifting from 'just-in-time' to 'just-in-case', albeit those will continue to be globally integrated.


The session was moderated by Vikram Chandra, Founder, Editorji Technologies.

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