The Huddle 2019: Day 1

A buoyant economy must lift all boats

Charting a new path: B.V.R. Mohan Reddy (left), founder and executive chairman, Cyient; Vinita Bali, independent director and former MD of Britannia Industries; and Keshav Murugesh (right), group chief executive officer, WNS Global Services; with Raghavan Srinivasan, Editor, BusinessLine.  

Policy-makers and industry should now focus more on the execution of plans and addressing structural issues than merely announcing incentives and sops to encourage economic growth in India. While the first wave of economic reforms has led to GDP growth, the real challenge now is to make the growth more broad-based to cover sectors such as agriculture, education, and healthcare.

This was the sum and substance of the panel discussion on “Reforms: time for Version 2.0 moderated by Raghavan Srinivasan, Editor, BusinessLine.

“When 50% of the world’s stunted children live in India and if indeed there is 15% or 16% reported unemployment then these are not good statistics. In economic terms. yes we’ve got a pretty decent rate of growth of 7.5% over the past decade or so, but relying merely on GDP growth may not be enough as it just measure one sliver of a nation’s development,” Vinita Bali, independent director and former managing director of Britannia Industries Ltd, said.

Minimal government

Keshav Murugesh, group chief executive officer, WNS Global Services said the dependence on government incentives and policies should be minimal. “We didn’t wait for sops and reforms. We created a business out of what no one wanted to do. Today, there are 17,000 companies, 1.3 million employees directly involved, $37 billion of revenue,” Mr. Murugesh said talking about the growth in the business process outsourcing sector.

B.V.R. Mohan Reddy, founder and executive chairman, Cyient, said incentives alone were not going to help industries grow. “We need infrastructure and talent. There’s a disaster waiting to happen in the education space. There are 16.87 lakh seats available across engineering institutes in the country of which only 51% were taken by students and the employability is not more than 31-32%. That’s a big disappointment,” Mr. Reddy said. “There has to be some intervention here starting with improving the faculty.”

Mr. Srinivasan said while the basic philosophy behind the first wave of reforms was to ensure the share of manufacturing in GDP grew substantially, which in turn created more jobs, the real problem was being faced by the agricultural sector in terms of remunerative pricing for farmers.

Agreeing to this observation, Ms. Bali said “We are spending too much time solving the problems of the rich. The software industry which we are all proud of employs 3-4 million people but there are 35 million weavers who have no voice.”

Job creation

Commenting on the policies to encourage the start-up ecosystem, Mr. Murugesh said to focus on start-ups was good as it indicated the shift in thought from looking for a job to creating jobs.

Ms. Bali said the focus should shift from start-up to scale up to fundamentally change the ecosystem. “We need to build capabilities that deliver on a plan. Otherwise, we have money chasing start-ups and not scale-ups due to which capital productivity is low. We also have to start thinking in terms of return on labour just as much as we think about return on capital.”

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 11:07:40 AM |

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