Ultimately it is India's demographic dividend, tradition and adaptability that will help sail the world's sixth-largest economy through the current volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, or the VUCA environment.
This consensus emerged as some of the country's finest minds deliberated on strategies to emerge out of the current turmoil arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, geopolitical uncertainties and their impact on global supply chains and inflationary pressures.
It was the minister of commerce and industry, textiles and consumer affairs, Piyush Goyal who aptly set the tone for Business Today's 'MindRush 2022' event on Friday when he asserted, "My reply to VUCA is 'Yuva in India', and the world marvels at the skills of our fantastic youngsters!"
India had today become the voice of the developing world that had gone unrecognised for a while, the minister said. He said that modernity along with tradition was the strength of the business ecosystem in the country. Referring to the unprecedented exports and foreign direct investment (FDI) in FY2022, he reiterated that India Inc. must target $1 trillion of merchandise and services exports by 2030.
"India is perfectly poised to be an alternative destination for investment in the world," the minister said adding that several countries had shown interest in signing free trade agreements (FTAs) in recent days.
During a chat with BT's news director Rahul Kanwal, he informed the government had been trying to change the mindset of the people regarding government jobs.
"All those applying for a government job are not necessarily unemployed. There is a mindset in the country that there is a comfort zone in a government job for you and your family," he said.
Imbibe technology and innovate new financing models
Technology adoption and innovation of new models of financing will help Indian businesses stay competitive and ahead of the curve vis-à-vis global peers, leading Indian CEOs observed at a panel discussion.
Chairman PwC India, Sanjeev Krishnan opined that as the world went through the next stage in globalisation the inflationary pressures were on account of supply-side challenges. "That is why many (entities) are looking at localising supply chains," he remarked.
Everyone broadly agreed that compared to many other economies India was well-placed to tide over the current economic uncertainty. "India is much better prepared than it was in 2008," said managing director & CEO of NSDL, Padmaja Chunduru.
Managing director & CEO of CRISIL, Amish Mehta said that government investment in infrastructure would play a key role in driving growth in the Indian economy. "But then India can't be built by government alone… You will have to find innovative structures. We are optimistic about growth in the next five to seven years," he said.
CEO & MD Tata Steel, TV Narendran pointed out that job creation was fundamental to economic growth. "India is different from Southeast Asian economies. It is not only a source (of production) but also a market. Jobs can't travel but goods and investments can. Therefore, we must get companies to make for India," he emphasised.
Cleaner fuels and cutting-edge technologies
At a time, when electric vehicles (EVs) were in the spotlight, RC Bhargava, Chairman of India's largest passenger car maker Maruti Suzuki, remained bullish about the future of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
Citing a recent study, Bhargava said that electric vehicles (EVs) may only form 5 per cent of the Indian passenger vehicle market by 2030. Therefore, rather than pushing for EV adoption, India should instead focus on improving the availability and use of cleaner alternatives like bio-fuels and ethanol
Taking a dig at Tesla's maverick CEO Elon Musk, Bhargava stated he wasn't very sure why the US-based automaker deserved special treatment over any other carmaker trying to enter the Indian market. "I am not sure why Tesla deserves special treatment and not any other carmaker who wants to come to India. Why not the cars (which) would use bio-fuel. What is the value of Tesla then?" he asked rhetorically.
IT bellwether Infosys Technologies' managing director and CEO Salil Parekh said that technology had been a critical driver of change. "What we have seen in last many years whether it's large enterprises or government departments, there is tremendous need to leverage technology, digital analytics, data and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive speed and predictability," Parekh added.
Throwing light on the speed at which Indian companies are adopting technology in uncertain and volatile times like this, Parekh noted, "Indian companies are moving at a breakneck speed. The leverage of technologies is much more dynamic. What's going on in actual transactions whether in UPI or India stack, we see leverage of those technologies in our daily lives."
Technology would enable Indian businesses to confront volatility and manage through some of the bumps ahead, he said.
Start-up ecosystem to revive again
With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic receding and the economy reviving, Indian start-ups expect their businesses to return on track with a bang.
"Last year we saw huge euphoria with high funding and high-ticket sizes. Compared to that gluttony, this year looks like real winter. But to quote (poet) PB Shelley, "When winter comes, can spring be far behind?," said serial entrepreneur & partner GrowthStory.in, K Ganesh.
Ganesh said that while everyone was talking about job losses during the coronavirus pandemic the opportunities created by startups had been ignored.
CEO & founder of e-commerce firm Moglix, Rahul Garg believed that this could be a boom year for the start-up industry.
"Industries are the backbone of the economy. India will become truly formidable as a voice in the global supply chain in the next five to seven years," said Garg.
The founder and Group CEO of hospitality platform OYO, Ritesh Agarwal too agreed with Garg. Agarwal pointed out that with the post-pandemic phase now kicking in, many start-ups have witnessed their businesses reviving.
"Travel is coming back very strong, with 1.7 lakh bookings every day. On one side, there are macroeconomic challenges, and on the other, travel is growing like never before," he said.
Fintech platform MobiKwik's co-founder & CEO, Bipin Preet Singh said that his start-up grew 86 per cent last year on a year-on-year (YoY) basis. Singh's outlook for the financial services sector was highly bullish due to the neat marriage of tech and finance in areas like insurance, banking and payments.
Asked about the resiliency of the start-up ecosystem during a time of rising inflation and geopolitical tensions, Kaivalya Vohra from the quick commerce start-up Zepto said that unit economics should be the primary focus area from day one. "As much as economic scenario changes, life at Zepto doesn't change much," he asserted.
Ethical business practices important
Amid the rapid fall in the valuation of several newly listed companies in the country, co-founder & chairman emeritus of Infosys Technologies, NR Narayana Murthy outlined the core reasons behind the alarming trend.
The senior industry leader said retail investors losing money due to the fall in the valuation of the newly listed entities was unfair. "Out of the IPO investors, 20 per cent are in the retail category, who have put their hard-earned money. If poor people are losing their money, then it's unfair. The main issue here is companies or entrepreneurs do not know the right size of their (target) market. This is due to faulty market research", he pointed out.
According to him, over-estimation of their potential market size and future business were some of the key factors behind the problem.
"Entrepreneurs need to under-promise and over-deliver," emphasised Murthy.
Business administration chair, Harvard Business School Prof. VG Narayanan said that though money was undoubtedly a great motivator, at the same time other factors were equally important to boost employee morale. This includes leadership role, peer recognition and purpose in the work and recruitment process, among others.
"Recognition is an important motivator, leadership should do walk the talk and employees are like children and they smell hypocrisy," he said.
Prof. Narayanan further added that merely running a good organisation wasn't enough. "You need to constantly scan the environment. Customer preferences and government regulations could be an opportunity or threat for an organisation. You need to position yourself for tomorrow to make this sustainable," he averred, further suggesting that firms need to balance this by focusing on growth, control and profitability.
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