Prof C.K. Prahallad, a globally renowned management expert once said, “you cannot conquer new territories with old maps”. If India needs to leap-frog, we need new mental maps. We need to look at ourselves very differently and seek new paradigms.
In this article we lay out a set of nine objectives that India should pursue, that should help us strive for a departure from the present.
1. Strong/Robust Currency
In his article on “ideal money”, John Nash, economist famous for his work on game theory, wrote “even though in every country money performs the same function the quality of money differs”. To use phraseology of Nash, “Governments with the ostensible objective of economic welfare (and growth) have let the reputation of national currency slide”. While there is an argument for lower value of currency to boost exports, alternative methods of improving productivity through right processes and innovation can off-set the need to have a sliding currency. We have to get out of culture of reckless lending and profligacy. All payments for welfare should be guided by a single Flexible Social Benefit Plan  that optimizes the spending. If India has a robust currency that appreciates in a calibrated manner, it will increase the purchasing power of people and encourages people to hold assets within India.
2. Expand domestic markets
We need to build internal networks so that we can further mutual prosperity by promoting trade and tourism within India. Our transaction costs are high, supply is constrained and there are more barriers than required. If we aggressively promote tourism and trade across all regions and all people using better physical, digital, social and financial infrastructure, it can act as a force multiplier for the economy. We should do away with distinctions between public, private and foreign players and let all of them introduce variety of products and services in India. India should open up its market for all kinds of goods whether it is retail, defence or energy. Once market grows, allied competencies, capabilities as well as global investment will grow. It is a matter of time that more manufacturing will move to India and/or local competitors will challenge global players. We should reduce costs in the value chain as well eliminate as any kind of barrier to market expansion.
3. Achieve Global Leadership
India should hand-pick a set of products & services where it can lead globally. Historically Indians have been very good at abstract thinking, workmanship, arts and crafts. Over last few decades we have built up capacity in Science and Engineering. We need to choose the sectors that have high profitability where if we go all out we can establish India as a strong player. We need to change our mind-set from one as merely a supplier of raw material/man-power to a creator of world-class end-products with competencies in design, engineering, processes and business models. India probably should choose to lead in high-tech manufacturing, custom manufacturing, frugal manufacturing as well as products with a design element. India should vigorously revive its tradition of arts and crafts. Some candidate areas could be organic farming, bio-fuels, vegetable oils, confectionaries, construction technologies, health-care and Defence sector. In addition, India can lead the world in higher education as well as competency development.
Strong Currency gives us affordability, enables expansion of markets, markets with novel products exposes India to global standards and with such exposure, India can lead in an end-to-end manner, instead of playing second-fiddle to other nations. Indian market is big enough to catalyze lot of innovation and sustain lot of businesses.
4. Position NITI Aayog as RanaNiti Aayog
In Sanskrit RanaNiti is the term used for strategy. Considering the challenges facing nation, we need not only right policies but also a culture of strategic planning. Even though most of economic activity is in private space now a need for strategic planning at national level continues to be paramount. Some areas are listed below:
- Agriculture: What to grow, where, when and in what quantities, by looking at domestic and export needs, resource constraints, environmental factors as well as profitability/affordability considerations needs elaborate continuous planning. We also need to look at agriculture as a sector to invest than a sector calling for rescue.
- Manpower Planning: As a nation we should know how many people with what skills we need. We need an elaborate fine-grained man-power planning to provide opportunities for all. Competency creation and man-power planning should dovetail each other. We should also encourage flexible learning and earning models on one hand and rigorous professionalization on the other. Approaches from network theory such as matching markets can help here. Government can also promote peer-to-peer banking to address financial needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
- The Government should act more as a strategic investor, catalyst and change agent than a helpless investor stuck with bad investments. Should Government start a holding company which in turn takes investment from public?
- Changing processes of Governance using Lean Model. Managed Services Model, rate contracts, and quality first approaches should change the face of India.
- What kind of partnerships with NGO’s and communities help India’s development?
- We need to right-size cities and distribute economic growth and reduce strain on environment.
NITI Aayog should engage leading universities in the process of problem solving. NITI Aayog should be linchpin for India’s sustained progress.
After looking at Economic and Strategic factors, let us look at the Social factors. Only if both the factors go hand in hand, India can progress.
5. Alleviating Distress
India should be proactive in alleviating distress of its people. Farmers, students, women, businessmen as well as others continue to commit suicide. Large numbers of people continue to die in road accidents. It is still difficult to file a FIR in a police station. Droughts recur. People lose jobs and driven to suicide. Financial insecurity and medical expenses continue to torment people. Justice eludes common man. We need a structured response to these recurring situations.
6. Culture, Values and Processes
What kind of culture, values and processes we need to excel as a nation? Every country that has achieved power and prosperity for its people had a unique combination of these. How can we collectively achieve more? How can we build on trust, quality and work-ethic? How can we get a sense of unity of purpose? What can we do to facilitate? How can we get inspired by the poem of Ravindranath Tagore to demolish as many narrow domestic walls? How can we simply trust ourselves? How can we alleviate all forms of distress with greater sensitivity? How can we empower the common man? How can we secure our people?
Our universities in social sciences and liberal arts should come up with ways to engage the society at large on these themes.
7. India as a Modern Hindu Nation
One of the difficulties people have in considering India as a nation is because they deny its predominantly Hindu Character, Hindu roots and ethos that accommodate new communities. Hinduism has a narrow set of core beliefs with freedom for communities to evolve their own customs and culture. It is high time we re-affirm our Hindu identity and nation-hood. Here Hindu represents not only Hinduism but other native religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. India should protect, promote and propagate Hindu religion, culture, values and tradition globally, same way as other religions do. By disowning our rich legacy of intellectual, spiritual and military successes from ancient India to historic periods, we do injustice to ourselves. We need a stronger self-belief.
8. India as an assertive state
India should stop being a soft state whether it is in matters of national security, terrorism, handling corruption or dealing with pressure groups. The judicial processes and processes of governance should be re-engineered to strengthen common man, using modern technologies and models such as “lean model”. We should live to the promise that all manners of people are treated equally. We should open up sectors such as higher education to all communities not just minorities to set up institutions of their own and stop the quota-wars. We should move away from vote-bank politics and handle issues through democratic forums.
We should emphasize on unity instead of divisions. Except when there is a clear need have common laws, common taxes, common examinations and common processes/practices all over India.
9. Balanced Score-card
While GDP growth is important, we should develop a more comprehensive dashboard that covers all stake-holders. Different stake-holders could be people, businesses, society and nation. We should deploy both short-term to medium term perspectives. Growth should be studied along with median income and percentage employed. Any scheme for social justice should be assessed based on how many families achieve social and economic mobility. Otherwise same set of people may get benefitted generation after generation.
- John Nash, “ideal Money and Asymptotically Ideal Money”, Southern Economic Journal, 2002, vol. 69, issue 1, pages 4-11.
- Shreekanth Prabhu, “Can We Think Of Replacing The Subsidy Regime With A Flexible Social Benefit Plan?”, Swarajya Magazine, August 27,2015.