NEW DELHI: Gone are the days when people had to wait for days or months to receive letters, money, or messages. Now, worldwide, information is just a click away. This was a pre-pandemic concept, but the post-pandemic era saw a massive global economic shift toward digital technology. The first Capital Dialogue presented by Sunday Guardian Foundation in association with The Sunday Guardian newspaper and NewsX channel was launched with an insightful discussion on the journey of India’s digital economy by the Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology and Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Capital Dialogue will take place once every month.
In an insightful and interactive session with Prof M.D. Nalapat and Priya Sahgal, the Minister shared that India has played a leading role in today’s digital economy. With technological advancement, India is not far from achieving big success in digital expansion. The acceleration in the field of the digital economy in the last two and a half years has made India a significant player. To reach a minimum of 20% of the total GDP by 2025-2026, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a goal for our digital economy, which currently accounts for 6%-8% of the overall economy. In addition to government incentives and programmes, young entrepreneurs’ drive and dedication are crucial in fostering a robust digital economy.
Highlighting the journey of India toward digital growth, the Minister said, “In 2014, the total electronic production in India was Rs 1 lakh crores, and by 2025-2026, we will reach Rs 26 lakh crores, which refers to 26 times growth in a decade. Also, 66% of all FDI in electronics has come in the last 3 years. After 2018, the flow of investment in manufacturing began. From 2014 to 2018, we were establishing a mark in the ecosystem, slowly rebuilding the ecosystem, and signalling to the world that we have the capabilities and credentials to build an electronic ecosystem.”
Successful first-generation entrepreneurs and investors have a new sense of confidence in themselves. Also, the launch of 5G in India has made a significant mark in the transformation of digital India.
“During the time of 2G, 3G or 4G network, I, as an entrepreneur, saw that every element of the network was imported, including the screw or screwdriver, which was imported from some French company or European company; but in 5G, India is making a statement that Indian products, designs, and IP, in the future wireless technology are home-made. This is an achievement for Indian technology,” he said.
There has been a huge change between pre-Covid and post-Covid perceptions of India. India will soon have a semiconductor eco-system, however, it may take some time due to integrated design, manufacturing, packaging and verification. With a significant incentive of Rs 76,000 crore (US$10 billion), India is expected to have a semiconductor plant.
Speaking about the issue of unemployment, the Minister said, “From 2017 to 2020 (pre-Covid), un- employment steadily came down to 5%. During the pandemic, there was a dis- ruption in the economy and workforce. The whole global segment was deeply impacted by the pandemic due to the restriction on travel. The hospitality sector and the services linked to the hospitality industry, a huge employment creator, are now left with permanent scars due to Covid. These numbers are captured in the unemployment sector. Some nations have experienced a post-Covid recovery in the economy, but this recovery is not the same as it was be- fore the disaster. Some areas have grown faster and some didn’t. These issues cannot be addressed quickly, but the sectors, like hospitality, are making a slow recovery.” Last year, almost 10 lakh net new jobs were created in the technological sector, where 54% of the workforce were women due to new emerging opportunities. The Period Labour Force Survey negates self-employment and entrepreneurship that have been rising presently. Compared to countries like China, the US, or the UK, India has been sustainably doing well in the economic sector.
The two-way interactive session also highlighted the policies of the government. When the Economic analyst, advisor and author Pranjal Sharma stated “When you look at root servers, they are all located outside of India. Our capacity to make the chips is beginning now should’ve happened under Bajpai Ji so that the condition would’ve been better now, but we still have a problem. Covid and the Ukrainian war exposed the danger of excessive dependence on the external ecosystem. We saw that in pharmaceutical, and we’ve even seen that in the technology and telecom sector. How much does this concern influence how the government makes policies?”
Minister replied, “We’re a generation or two behind everyone else, but I don’t think we should be concerned about the realisation that things could have been done twenty years ago. For instance, the semiconductor industry is a classic example of how, 25 to 30 years ago, when we had HCL Mohali, we allowed it to burn down and nobody bothered to look at it strategically again. Yes, we are a generation or two behind everyone else, but the prime minister sees this as an opportunity to skip the entire investment.”
The skilling ecology has also been improved, and in the days to come, emphasis will be given to the local economies to generate job prospects. The minister emphasised that there will be specific skill development plans for each area, depending on that district’s local opportunities and de- minds, such as handicrafts, agriculture, non-agriculture, and migratory opportunities within the nation and overseas.
Rajya Sabha MP Kartikeya Sharma asked the Minister of the skill development programme, he quoted, “The absence of data is the main issue that individuals in skill development programmes are dealing with as a result of the shift that the field is through as the PM focuses on the new education strategy incorporating skill development. It is essentially data-dark; we have data on the supply, but there is nothing to work with when it comes to consumption and the demand and supply gap. Do you not believe that the programmer may benefit from some form of data structure to discover the opportunities for individuals to express what competence is necessary when?”
The minister answering to MP Sharma stated, “As there is a large gap or intermediary between those who supply the skills, those who possess the skills, and those who require the skills, there is a lot of shooting in the dark. On November 2022, we will launch a comprehensive platform for arts and skills development in India as an app and desktop software, enabling students to build and seek skill development. The software has a special feature in that it assesses each user individually and then makes recommendations for skill development based on those results. It will function as an online university.”
The core element of Atmanirbharta is that every country aspires to be a leader in the world through its resources. The expansion of Atmanirbharta in the electronic and digital in- industries was envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in 2014, and as a result, the Indian economy was able to weather the global financial crisis with relative ease. Regarding incentives and protection for semiconductor protection duties, India will play a big role in global semiconductor value chains in the future. As the scale increases, our goal will be to encourage value addition from India. Purchases of locally made components, semiconductors, local manufacturing, and other activities are all indications of value addition.