“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” – Albert Einstein.
What opportunities does Covid-19 crisis bring and how do we leverage them? The crisis has caused untold misery to millions. On the economic front, India has taken considerable beating. Unless very proactive steps are taken, the country could slide into prolonged collective misery. What is the opportunity hidden in this crisis?
“Cent percent Swadeshi gives sufficient scope for the most insatiable ambition for service and a satisfaction of every kind of talent” – Mahatma Gandhi.
Hence the importance of re-launching “Swadeshi” in a new avatar, as “Swadeshi Plus”. Swadeshi, as propounded by Mahatma Gandhi during independence struggle, is an amalgamation of Swaraj (self-governance) and Su-raj (good governance). Since independence, Swadeshi had taken many forms, which however remained symbolic due to lack of right quality products and uncompetitive pricing. Since 2014, ‘Make in India’ was aggressively pushed to revive the Indian economy, for self-reliance and attracting foreign investment through the government’s “Ease of doing business” campaign.
India’s strength lies in its young population and large internal markets. For Swadeshi Plus to succeed, it must take an ecosystem-based approach to avoid the pitfalls of earlier failed attempts to relaunch Swadeshi during the seventy years since independence.
What does the ecosystem concept in the context of Swadeshi Plus mean? When a commercial enterprise is conceived, it is essential to address a whole range of relevant issues, namely, source of raw materials, source of human resources, supply chains, and much more. Swadeshi Plus does not mean anti-global. It calls for an ecosystem-based approach where traditional manufacturing, and high-tech industries co-exist. It requires moving up the value chain through innovation. In addition to software services, we should focus on creating high-end product companies. Ironically, while worldwide, many major companies have Indian-origin CEOs, we have been unable to indigenously build any company of similar scale. Success on this front requires creative integration of scientists, industry leaders, academics, IT experts, etc., into a network to furiously innovate to build new products domestically. In short, mass innovation with required improvisation.
The emerging Swadeshi Plus approach will have five main elements: It must follow an ecosystem-based approach; it should lead to self-reliance in as many sectors as possible, not just in one or two industries; it must have built-in economies of scale for impact and viability; it must be cost competitive; and it must be designed to deliver highest levels of quality while being safety-conscious.
What are the prerequisites for Swadeshi Plus to succeed? Historically, the manufacturing sector has been slow in adopting automation. However, to enable the country to deal with such crises in the future, ensuring social distancing, we must embrace automation aggressively, through robotics and 3D printing. Migratory labour may be reluctant to leave their hometowns to come back to work in big industrial hubs once the crisis abates, preferring local employment opportunities through various governmental schemes. This calls for coming up with innovative approaches to optimize use of human resources.
As a nation, we must be incredibly proactive to seize new opportunities. Agile companies will prosper; others will perish. We need a paradigm shift at all levels. Old ways of running business and administration at national, State and organisational levels must change drastically. We must build an accountable institutional network, making decisions quickly and implementing them with lightning speed. The government must create Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), with competent leaders having assured performance-linked tenure, for implementing high-priority initiatives, requiring massive change in the thinking of the political leadership. Transformation of governance at all levels to leverage the tremendous opportunities that are opening for the country is vital.
The partnership between Central and State governments, private and public sector organisations, as well as industry and academia, should intensify, to create innovations in technologies, business models as well as in organisational structures and processes. We have the potential to be a global innovation hub, which should be intensively pursued. For such a robust innovation culture to flourish, we must learn to celebrate success and accept genuine failure with equipoise. Without this change, attempts to foster innovation will flounder.
Finally, we must strengthen “Brand India”, both domestically and internationally, to create customer pull for Indian products and services.
Call Swadeshi Plus or as the Prime Minister recently announced, “Atmanirbhar” (self-reliance), the prerequisites for success are:
• Plan for complete ecosystem
• Set up separate missions on focused areas
• Production methodology at the most efficient cost
• Ensure highest quality and safety standards
• Mass innovations with continuous improvisation
We should rise to the occasion; otherwise we will have no one to blame but for ourselves!
(Dr S K Joshi, IAS, former Chief Secretary, Government of Telangana and Advisor to Government of Telangana on Irrigation and Prof DVR Seshadri, Clinical Professor of Marketing, Indian School of Business (ISB))
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