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Road to India@100: India's mantra should be equitable growth

Road to India@100: India's mantra should be equitable growth

India has to eliminate poverty, be inclusive, and sustainable in the next 25 years. Given its history, it can certainly achieve this feat

Amit Chandra, Chairperson of Bain Capital Advisors (India) Amit Chandra, Chairperson of Bain Capital Advisors (India)

Many doubted whether our country would even survive a decade when we gained independence. At various points in our journey since, we came close to the brink—both economically and geopolitically. Today, India@75 is a nation that stands tall, is a voice that is heard and counted on the global political stage, and importantly, is one amongst a handful that has a positive trajectory on most counts. Therefore, as I think of my vision for India@100, as a follower of Guru Nanak, I invoke the prayer: Nanak naam chardi kala, tere bhane sarbat da bhalla. What does this mean and what does it have to do with my dream for India@100?

I have little doubt that our country will continue to grow over the coming 25 years. The debate needs to be centred on how robustly and what can be done to accelerate the growth? If we grow at around 6 per cent, impressive in the long term on a larger base, we will be a $25-trillion-plus economy (in market exchange rate terms) by 2047. This is where we need Chardi Kala—boosting GDP growth by 0.5 per cent will mean adding a number equivalent to the current GDP per capita by 2047! There is simply no more powerful way for us to fight and eliminate the scourge of poverty, and bring prosperity to our middle class than by boosting growth, especially doing so equitably.

I believe much of the foundation to achieve this has been laid, while we need to continue to walk the difficult path on some decisions to their logical conclusions. By India@100, to add hundreds of millions of jobs, we will need to massively improve the competitiveness of our manufacturing sector and make it far easier to do business across all segments of the economy. Many of the government’s initiatives over the past decade are paying dividends now. However, there is a need to fine tune them, rather than finding new ones, and that should be the key mantra. Simultaneously, much of the emphasis to achieve success will now shift on states driving execution, and again the framework for that is being laid down.

There are three more issues we will have to relentlessly push at the macro level: firstly, focussing on reducing our energy and fertiliser imports/subsidy in mission mode. Our experience over the past few decades shows that we remain very vulnerable to imported shocks on this account, and the subsidy burden gets passed on via high rates that costs the economy dearly. Investing to drive changes in these areas will be both an imperative and can unleash huge opportunities. Secondly, embedding innovation, science, and technology much more deeply into our ecosystem. We must find ways of materially upping our investments in these areas and cutting obstacles that impede them. An India which will be a leader in these areas will not only transform the lives of a billion-plus of its citizens, but also be a cradle for the same, all over the world. Thirdly, we need a huge emphasis on strengthening the MSME sector, for in it lies the opportunity for us to accelerate job creation.

I now move to the second part of the prayer—Sarbat Da Bhalla. In this phrase, we invoke the Almighty for the well-being and prosperity of not just ourselves and our loved ones, but everyone, in a most inclusive sense. In many ways it is not different from the development framework of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. It is clear to me that to achieve this Sustainability, Equitability, and Inclusiveness must be the three pillars on which we must both aspire and design our growth aspirations.

Given the precarious state of our environment, I believe that we will simply not be able to support the kind of growth we aspire to, without sustainability being embedded in everything we plan for, going forward. Moreover, focussing on this would not just drive national savings, but could also create humungous opportunities, both for businesses and consumers. Let me illustrate this with a few examples. The nutrient value of our soil is precariously depleted and high fertiliser prices have driven the subsidy bill to over Rs 2 lakh crore this year. This is not just a huge macro burden, but also puts pressure on farmers, water consumption, and the quality of food we consume as a nation. Building a farmer and consumer-led movement to adopt natural farming is a huge opportunity for all. Another example lies in making middle India travel largely by mass transport, using their private vehicles sparingly. While this requires continued investments in our public transport systems and last-mile connectivity, it also adds to savings for the middle and lower income Indians, improves productivity, reduces pollution from transportation and the burden on import of fuels.

Next, we must ensure that the next phase of growth has its dividends spread far more equitably. For all the progress we have to show since independence, the share of the bottom half of our population in our GDP has declined from the mid-teens to around 10 per cent, with most of the gains accruing to the top 10 per cent of us. As we grow, we will need to ensure that growth is not jobless and that wages are fair. In parallel, we will need to ensure that some of the gains are invested in materially improving the ease and quality of living for the ordinary Indian.

Finally, we must aim for our growth to be built on the pillar of inclusiveness. Our biggest challenge here lies in equitably including women in India’s growth. Reversing the decline in participation of women in the labour force will unleash huge economic and social dividends.

I have no doubt that with the right steps, the next 25 years could well set India on the path of not just an India@100 that we all dream about, but truly make the 21st century India’s century—in the most holistic sense. 


The writer is Chairperson of Bain Capital Advisors (India)

Published on: Feb 05, 2023, 3:22 AM IST
Posted by: Arnav Das Sharma, Feb 05, 2023, 3:19 AM IST