IMF, in its world economic outlook, has forecast India to touch a growth rate of 7.5% in 2019. India’s innovative, creative and economic potential would be realised.
A GROWTH STORY TO TELL
Today, as the world’s largest annual gathering of social and political influencers from the world of business, Davos acts as a primer of change, facilitating dialogue amongst international leaders and visionaries. Quickly emerging as a platform to ideate, innovate and drive change at a global scale and throw in the big ideas and the occasional Google moonshots too. With over 2,500 attendees, the context for “trickle-nomics” for the future is influenced here—with multifaceted takeaways, for both international and domestic addresses.
In the wake of geopolitical headwinds highlighted in 2018, the start of 2019 is speckled with rising concerns of a synchronised global slowdown. With the US-China trade war, Brexit concerns, China’s slowest growth rate in 30 years, fall in Russian oil prices and Brazil’s political instability, this “crisis of faith” in internationalisation requires an outlook of positivity and collaboration to solve the world’s issues. In this regard, the world is turning towards India.
International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its world economic outlook update has forecast India to touch a growth rate of 7.5% in 2019, accelerating further to 7.7% in 2020 (outperforming China’s 6.2% for the same period). India’s position as a bright spark amidst emerging global chaos has further been cemented through a boost in Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) rankings to 77 from 100 in 2018, as well as policy reforms—such as GST, demonetisation, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and increasing FDI flows.
With India as an emerging superpower, the socio-economic themes highlighted at the World Economic Forum (WEF) as at many other international fora, resonate as core focus areas to accelerate its journey to the future.
DIGITAL FIRST: THE FUTURE AWAITS
Firstly, there is greater economic impetus on building a narrative of economic opportunity for all across sectors, with a “digital first” focus. Government of India’s (GoI) cornerstone initiatives, such as Skill India and Digital India, have played a pivotal role in building job creation opportunities to unlock India’s vast demographic dividend and reduce the digital and global divide. This is important as it has been projected that India’s working age population will increase by around 12 million per year until 2030 and given the significant shift in the very nature of industry, the “future of jobs and work” will undergo an evolutionary change. EY’s projections for 2022 envisage 37% of working population revamping skills and 9% in absolutely new jobs, it is of vital importance to have an enabling policy ecosystem as well. This also emphasises the need for global companies to make digital a personal crusade—no longer as an option but a natural progression.
DATA GOVERNANCE IN THE LEAD
Secondly, there has been consistent result oriented investments in the focus areas of digital economy—research & development, IP creation, digital capacity building, data privacy and governance, etc.—and citizen welfare, through socio-economic balance in budgets and tech for humanity. With mobile phone penetration projected to touch 90% and internet users touching 850 million by 2022, India’s digital economy opportunities are estimated at USD 1 trillion by 2025. Initiatives such as the “Bharat Net” would result in 2.5 lakh villages being internet ready by 2021. The focus on digital infrastructure, e-governance and the growing startup ecosystem combined with the tenets of favourable demographics are facilitating change in “investment mindsets”, as well as sector wide growth in keystone social segments. Further, considering that data is the new oil, and India being one of the largest generators, India needs to emerge as a leader in international data governance movements in platforms such as G20 and WTO, apart from ensuring due importance in policy and the interests of the sovereign state.
DECENTRALISED, -DISTRIBUTED MODELS OF GOVERNANCE
Thirdly, there has been greater emphasis on co-operative and competitive federalism, which is being led by the tenets of “reform, perform and transform”, under the banner of Team India, which is an amalgamation of state and Central efforts. Decentralised and distributed models of governance and the concept of “less but good” and “light touch” governance, have been a vital factor in ensuring reduction in income inequality, poverty alleviation and good governance overall. Given India’s highly competitive internal economic and political landscape, it is a unique model that works to bolster economic growth, policy advocacy, as well as social development, as states individually as well as with the Centre to maximise their potential.
DON’T JUST START UP, SYNERGISE
Fourthly, India as a whole has witnessed the emergence of “new age” strong regional leaders who are focusing on a two pronged approach of economic and social development. This is especially important given India’s geographical and democratic breakdown, of many countries within one—regional change makers can push conducive fiscal and developmental requirements through on ground policy and political advocacy, creating bigger opportunities, competitive advantages and channelling economies of scale for greater complementarity and larger effective synergies. Further, given the fundamental development and changes in industry and governance globally—emergence of startups, sunrise technologies, upskilling talent, and millennial leadership—it is of vital importance that political and corporate leadership evolve accordingly. It is this ability to bring the future to the present which shall safeguard and deepen democracy of thoughts, innovations, rights and liberties in India.
A COUNTRY FOR WOMEN
Lastly, the three-pronged bedrock for “realising sustainable progress” today is determined by propelling women into core influencer roles, strengthening of public institutions, and citizen driven-change. India’s economic and social growth can be maximised only with greater engagement and participation of women in key sectors. Davos tipped its hat and made several comments on real diversity, inclusion and gender balance. We need to actively own and shape the discourse beyond merely paying lip service, and ticking the boxes. Qualified, able women, even the dissenters and the naysayers, are a vital part of a creating strong organisation with a cohesive work culture. Women have started coming through the glass ceiling in areas such as law, financial services, FMCG, pharmaceuticals, technology and education, amongst others. In tandem with this, it is vital that public institutions are leveraged to the best of their capabilities to instil public and institutional trust (both global and domestic), as well as ensure a long term sustainable focus in the dynamic of growth-led change. Citizens can be a key driver of combating the realities facing our oceans, water, mental health and climate change by quite literally “standing up and fighting back”, using local solutions as well as global campaigns.
These big insights and global shifts highlighted at international fora, resonant in emerging Indian trends, are especially apt today, with India entering its election cycle in 2019. This event is a time to review, refocus and reprioritise. In the long term, given current trends as well as historical analysis of election results, India’s growth potential is expected to remain relatively unhinged from its current path, especially given the younger demographic (namely millennials and Gen Z), India’s rising consumption pattern (projected to rise to US$6 trillion by 2030), as well as a greater demand for smart lifestyles. That said, taking guidance from the themes highlighted here would ensure that progress will continue, growth will take place, and India’s promise of innovative, creative and economic potential for the world would be realised.
Dr Subi Chaturvedi is a former member of the UN Internet Governance Forum MAG. Widely published, she is one of the foremost voices in public policy, governance and digital economy. Tweets@subichaturvedi