A typical view on what to expect in 2016 would quite likely be around the idea of looming fears of recession, the reduction of returns on equities, the possible volatility of markets, commoditisation of businesses, impact investments that would make a difference to the society, the debate on performance and efficacy of the education system, the rise of massive open online courses, the focus on return on investment of your marketing and advertising dollars, the continuing tyranny of the ugly head of terrorism and intolerance, how the media needs to be non-judgmental and not manufacture consent, Prime Minister’s travels to foreign lands and his possible non-resident Indian status, the ensuing demise of Congress et al.
I would like to go beyond and think as to what we, as citizens of India, should do in 2016. The critical word here would be ‘do’, ‘doing’, ‘action’, ‘implementation’ et al. so that we as a country continue our march towards being a nation that does not smack of inequality, appreciates diverse ideas, believes in debates, is rationally driven and has a common vision of seeing India as a developed nation.
I for one would say that we need to have a manifesto that could look like the following:
1. Perspectives: Build perspectives that are not shrouded in our biases and limited by our experiences. Clearly, we should look at working on doing away with our associative barriers. The foremost thing required would be to build a questioning mind that is triggered by an absolute obsession for inquiry and a tireless quest for learning. The idea is to lay the foundation for a rational society that doesn’t accept the status quo and strives to improve the state of being.
2. Political Economy: It has been an annoying one year wherein the country has become enslaved to the idea of the politics of the mundane. At times it seems the opposition is just for the heck of it or the ruling elite is snubbing others in a way that could only be called the tyranny of the majority. India needs a polity that is focused on development, and rather than stalling the country, debates the challenges we face and takes decisions and makes laws that are important for the country. We don’t need to create an economic crisis such as the one in 1991 to get things moving. Having said this, I would say, without mincing any words, that the stakes today are enormous, and it is about the future of 20 per cent of humanity that calls India its home.
3. Infrastructure: We need to work urgently on the infrastructure (rail, power and surface transport) in the country as this is the biggest stumbling block to achieving higher productivity and competitiveness. We don’t want to be continued to be studied and looked at as an example of failure and as an example of creating infrastructure amusement parks (our cities) like Gurgaon, etc. What we are doing is laying the foundation for man-made disasters (remember Chennai) and need to get our act together urgently and think of the long term and not fine tune our expertise at being short-sighted.
4. Innovation: Focus on creating intellectual property that defines future business models rather than aping the models of the West. What we need today is emergence of an Indian idea that is scalable i.e, we need to create our own Google, Facebook, Microsoft rather than building models that are so boringly about labour arbitrage. What we need is a revolution that is driven by new enterprise creation from the institutes across the country (this would mean that institutes need to be research driven). The least we can do is to take the first steps of dismantling the placement processes at the foremost institute in the country and get them out of the clutches of being glorified placement agencies.
5. Bureaucracy: India at times, I believe, needs a second struggle for independence. To be independent of the archaic, redundant, mundane and arrogant minds that sit in the ministries and shackle the country. We call these folks the ruling elite of the country and the less be said about them, the better as they are the most demonic relic of the Raj that India still preserves.
6. Shared Value: Enterprises need to move beyond the idea of philanthropy and CSR (corporate social responsibility) and imbibe the spirit of creating shared value. Shared value is clearly about addressing societal needs and challenges with a business made with profit.
7. Social Progress: We need to start focusing on social progress and go beyond the debates of GDP and growth rates. The metrics for tomorrow should be about the societal progress that can be captured by measuring our ability to fulfil basic human needs, provide opportunity and lay the foundations of wellbeing.
The article was published with Business World on January 11, 2016