Monday, 28 September 2015

Make What In India? {Narrative Series}

An article in TOI today tells me that GOI is primarily focussing on 3 sectors : Services, Manufacturing and Agriculture! Now this is primarily a large scope contained in this statement, impossible to go into detail as is. The question is and remains, where is the plan 15 months down the road? Where are the specifics, the what and the how - namely MWII? It should be MWII now, not MII which is fine as a slogan, but means nothing as a strategy.

MWII : Make What In India?


Identify specific sectors, industries where we can build capabilities; identify what is needed in each sector and each area. Then go to market for whatever is needed. Without the specifics, it is mere sloganeering.I do not decry the value of slogans to drive a diverse population : but slogans can only carry you so far. And, as on date, I cant see much beyond slogans. If there is a specific plan in the public, please bring it to my attention : this is an honest request.

I dont for a moment doubt that there must be some sort of a go-forward plan; why keep its distribution limited {if it has been revealed - as I request above, please call my attention to it}? Why not translate it into a national vision for and of and by the people? Why not ensure buy-in from the citizens? Surely if you can coin slogans like MII, SBA, DI you can also do an equally bang up task of selling your specific vision to the people? That will ensure a burst in innovation, ideas and action as more and more people buy-in.

Slogans wont help beyond a certain point; you have to outline your vision for Indian Manufacturing, and drive that vision - not in isolated silos of Government Bureaucrats, Politicians and Industrial bodies {although that is admittedly a vital part of any successful plan]; but in the public discourse. And the public discourse, sorry to state, is far more concerned about Caste, Class, Language, Religion and other aspects that are not conducive to the overall vision of Make In India, which is now beginning to lose its sheen.

I can only hope this is in the works. India needs it. What is needed is the building of a national narrative around Manufacturing In India. A narrative perforce means aspects far beyond sloganeering; it involves a shared vision, a plan and a shared confidence and belief in its eventual success, as also a shared realisation of obstacles. A narrative is a story, a set of connected events that move in a particular direction. It requires a vision, a goal, a set of rules & processes to take it forward, an action plan, and a shared acceptance of resources and their limits.

So far, we only have a slogan; one slogan cannot be a narrative; the slogan has now outlived its utility. 15 months down the road, high time we started building a narrative. High time the Government got into details, and built momentum basis facts and ground scenarios, not slogans. That we can do the building of a narrative is beyond debate; within the past 5 years we have seen two or three excellent examples of a narrative in the public discourse in India. The reason why this is vital is because the building and nurturing of a narrative on a national scale requires buy-in by large segments of the population with the divergent interest and needs. The moment you attempt to do this, some hard questions will emerge, as also a clear direction, which will ensure eventual success.

Once you try to get into specifics, questions will emerge, that will eventually need answering not in slogans, but in hard realities. This is not a negative approach, but a practical one. Any path towards success will need circumventing questions : we cannot run away from the questions. While the Government is certainly not running away from the questions – recent events are proof {more in later articles}, some segments of the public certainly are, as by and large, any questions on MII are met with either a stoic silence, summary ignorance, or worse.


THE INPUTS REQUIRED :
To identify questions, we will have to get into brass tacks, and look at what MII requires :

* Business Environment {Study the Indian Economy, its structure as well as the global/local Macro-Economic Environment; Excise/Customs duties & their structure}

* Land

* Labour {Not just skills; skills are dead easy to impart with training; legal landmines need attention; socio-cultural parameters need attention, socio-political matters need close attention and so on and so forth}

* Markets

* Enviromental Impact and its related issues. This is not a small point; the impact of large-scale industrialisation on the environment in a democracy is certain to lead to massive, massive issues. Combined with socio-cultural & political landscape, it is a major stumbling block}

* Corruption Eradication {Subvention of any point above, in a high vigilance atmosphere of both law enforcement as well as Media means regular and consistent exposure of scams and unhealthy tactics. Certain to stall projects fully and finally}


Let us consider just one or two questions or scenarios :
More than 44-58% of Economic Output is from unorganised sector; More than 70% employment is in Non-Corporate Sector - quoting from Memory. Large range of products and industries are controlled by Non-Corporate Sector {Think point of Markets}. Corporate India is less than 19% of the Indian Economy. Large - Millions - of units are SSI and MSI; What happens to these units if large-scale unplanned industrialisation happens? Their manpower is not employable in your class manufacturing units. Translation : displacement of labour on a national scale - leading to social unrest, and rising tensions amid unemployment. This is not a scaremongering scenario, but a statement based on absolute and verifiable facts of the current Indian Economic Structure.

I have yet to read one word in any English Media outlet or Newspaper that has raised this issue, which is gung-ho about MII. Vernacular is another matter, where a few articles have appeared, although they seemed a bit strong on rhetoric. What do you think will be the impact? The large majority lead the vernacular. What happens if MII does succeed? Look for a problem after the horse has bolted?

Thrice between 2000 and 2010, a body of Indians conducted an experiment, which called for construction of scenarios of development. These experiments were conducted by three unrelated sets of people; and the result of each was the same. In each and every case, the only path that lead to true development - given the ground realities of society as well as economics - was the one that concentrated on the small scale sector in India. All other modes and methods adopted led to an increase in the Gini, with much slower impact on the people who have real need for development. The poor of India. And all other methods delivered lesser GDP growth. Does Make in India cater to this?

This sounds so nice, so decent : "Slower pace of growth" - doesnt it? This slower pace of growth means Millions of people will continue to be poor for one more generation, perhaps more. Please try and explain to these Millions

It isnt about large or start-ups; it is about the structure of the Indian Economy & Democracy & Society, which does not support MII. The roadblocks are tremendous; one such - just one - resulted in the central government devolving the matter to the states. Land.

The presence of large - humongous - numbers of companies in the SME sector is another factor. The ecosystem revolves around these small companies. What happens to them if large scale industrialisation happens? What happened in Mumbai when the textile mills closed down? Who paid the price for development? Watch either Lalbaug – Patel : Zhaali Mumbai Sonyaachi {Mumbai becomes a city of Gold}  , or read S Hussain Zaidi. Are we saying that these should pay the price for development?

There is a way out; plan for the industries, and their manpower, so that a smooth transition is made. I have certainly heard absolutely nothing along those lines being talked about in Public. Which is why what Arvind Kejriwal says – education, health etc need priority attention if the needs of the entire nation are to be catered to. The reason is simple : only an educated and healthy person will be in a position to cash in on the benefits of increased manufacturing jobs opportunities. Both have to g hand in hand for true success. Is this happening?

Another alternative is to focus not on Large Industries - but on purely Indian Start-ups, Indian companies that want to grow, as well as the Small and Medium Sector. Invest in their capability development, enhance their competitiveness. This will generate employment in all classes, as well as focus on technology and skill upgradation; this will generate consumption internally, generate cash internally, meet far lesser resistance as well as require lesser resources.

Large Scale can be looked at on a case-to-case basis, as the economic structure matures & societal development parameters like education etc mature, and companies grow in size and capability. Special case approval for notified sectors can be looked at, where large size is an imperative, like the core sector as an example. This is an eminently feasible solution to the quandary we face, and easier to do than what we are currently attempting.

But let alone seriously consider it - we arent even willing to discuss the feasibility, and intent on ignoring any serious questions that may be asked of MII. Few people are even willing to engage in a fruitful dialogue with those who are objecting basis facts and not rhetoric, with the attendant focus on FDI and FII, which is not entirely supported by numbers. By and large, people ignore – or worse –the ones who raise questions and consider it an attack on the GOI. Well, it isn’t an attack : these are just genuine questions that are arising, and will need urgent attention... Is anyone listening?


2 comments:

  1. From what I understand, Make In India is purely FDI driven and no real initiative has been taken by the government to empower the existing India manufacturers. I think the government is ready to open any sector, foreign investors show interest in. How, adversely SMEs ( the real Indian manufacturers) would be hit seems of no concern to the supporters of Make In India.

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    1. Interesting observation; am thinking precisely that same point. But before I make it, I shall try and study just a little more to ensure that I am on the right track, look into official site as well as news reports. That said, as on date, I can spot little action on the domestic front for SME

      Worrying part is that there little or no attempt to craft a national vision - a vision in the people of India by anyone - not just the Goverment, but anyone at all in the national discourse. This requires a dialogue and a vision to be crafted, on a war footing. Examples aplenty Indian as well as International. We as a nation are becoming sensexized, at least the educated classes...

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