Friday, October 11, 2013

My vision of India for the year 2020

I was invited by India Business Mart, a business magazine of Bangalore to contribute an article evaluating India's present economic situation, its problems, and how I saw it 7 years hence. On receipt of the article the editor phoned me to say that it had been selected to be lead article of  their Anniversary Issue. After it got published here, it has been re-published by 'Assocorce' a Management Association of Europe in its house journal and placed on their website.

This is how it had appeared. Kindly send me your feedback at


India today is stuck in a difficult position. The internal demand is down in most of the sectors, and the exports too are facing greater competition. This is not limited to the automotive manufacturing sector where working days are getting reduced for the first time ever for lack of demand. Property rental rates are falling. Airlines are fighting a
cut-throat competition for passengers. But, India is not alone to suffer in this way. This is an international phenomenon in the present times.

Challenges are to be expected in the near future: More foreign products will enter India. This is unavoidable, being a process of give and take. If India wants to enter more foreign territories, or to consolidate its position where it exists, it will have to permit others to enter India. The matter is reciprocal. Any amount of political hype is not going to change the realities.

One of the ways out is to study carefully the future directions for India. The purpose here is not to offer suggestions, but to generate a debate in which each reader can make a contribution and take a decision of one's own.

Let us divide the world into 10 economic groups:-
- Europe
- Africa
- Latin America
- Middle East
- SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)
- Asia
- China
- Australia
- India

Each one should select one of these economic zones as his destination, and go full steam in that direction. Some of the destinations would demand the highest level of quality; while others the lowest level of pricing though at an acceptable level of quality. Results could come by making use of the potential available in the specific economic group selected, this being the ethical Indian population settled there.

Let the Indian industry treat the people of Indian origin settled abroad as India's assets, and as the most economical route to enter a new land. Like the way to win a heart is said to be through the stomach, similarly the way to win a country lies through its own spoken language.

China is gradually taking over manufacturing in the world, eliminating the industries in many other nations. In India, for example, the production of ceiling and table fans has practically stopped, leaving one or 2 brands. All other brands are getting their fans from China and marketing the same under their own labels in India.

Silk sarees are being produced on a large scale in China with Indian motifs. For the Indian festivals like Deepawali, statuettes of Lakshmi and Ganesh are being flooded into India from China. Does the answer to this lie in giving up altogether? No, one approach should be to understand the areas or the items where China is not predominant.

There are aspects of India which have not to fear any competition from China. Let us take agriculture and food-processing. It is not possible that all the Indian crops would shift to China. Similarly, it is not possible that all the Indian manufacturers of cycles, motorcycles, and cars would move over there. Let us take religious tourism. None of our Buddhist sites are going to move out of India. Our monuments, not only Taj Mahal but all our forts, will always remain here. So will remain here all our tourist spots, the mountains and the lovely seashores. The regional food of India is not going to become a Chinese entity. Our armed forces and our military hardware produced in India will continue to be produced in India.

It is not that the Chinese will take over our educational institutions, our infrastructure, or our medical facilities. It is not that all our common-sense based skills which support India's small-scale industry would move over to China.The solar energy that heats the Indian landscape is not going to escape to China.

The idea is to understand that there is potential to develop ourselves in so many directions where China poses no threat to us. Our main problem is our half-hearted attempts, and the enormous sense of satisfaction that we draw with mediocre achievements. We have to move out of the present level of thinking.

For India's self-esteem, and for its sustained development, some of us will have to view India as a continent. Survival would be on the basis of large volumes alone; cakes would come only to the exclusive brands. Some of our industries need to produce so much that they could make uncompetitive any idea to challenge them. They should forget about foreign destinations and concentrate on India as their destiny, with increase in productivity day after day. This would render uneconomical any idea of bringing goods from a long distance to compete here.

Semi-finished manufacturing should spread from town to town, to create in India an industrial network, with only the final production and testing being undertaken at the hub. The small and medium industry would have to forget the subject of core competence. The risk in that lies in the possibility of the field of core-competence itself getting wiped-out with a change in technology. Core-competence is the prerogative of only the top two in any field; they can sway the world in the direction they want; others would crumble under any change.

So, the small and medium industry must have at least 2 choices in its basket with the possibility to changeover from one to the other according to the situation faced.

The availability of India’s young manpower in abundance would continue to be an attraction to many foreign manufacturers, particularly those in the West, to set up plans here. Some of them could move their present plants to India instead of dying a slow death at their existing location. I am hopeful that some of these ideas would see the light of the day, and 7 years hence we would find an India much stronger on its feet.

About the author
Cavalier Surendra Kumar graduated in Mechanical Engineering before he was 21, from Roorkee (now IIT). In the course of his professional career, he topped an Italian language course that earned him a scholarship to study Commercial Italian in Italy. In 1983, he was selected from Asia to attend a Course in International Marketing ‘CorcĂ©’ held at the Italian Institute of Foreign Trade (ICE) at Rome, under the auspices of  ITC/UNCTAD-GATT.

He is a Founder-Member of the Indo Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in India, and has been its Alternate Chairman for North India.

In 2007 he was decorated with Knighthood, with the title of ‘Cavaliere’ and medals, by the President of Italy for his contribution in bringing together the industries of India and Italy. He is a Life Member of All India Management Association. His motto: ‘If you are content doing today what you did yesterday, you made no progress’. He can be reached at: