Time for action to make India a global manufacturing hub: Experts

Bengaluru: India can be the destination of choice for global manufacturing in the post-COVID 19 world if it gets its acts together with the right policies as a lot of things are going for the country, say industry experts. Areas like drones and robotics would see major investment and research going forward in India, which would move faster into the digital age, they said, discussing opportunities for the country once the coronavirus-inflicted situation returns to normalcy.

Remote working will become a norm rather than something done once in a while, said a former President of the Confederation of Indian Industry. “There will be many work-from-home opportunities. We will see far greater participation from women, who chose to stay at home, and it will add to the productive workforce.”

A corporate leader said he is seeing the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution and added that India should strive to get a proper shareof the pie.

Secretary General of industry body ASSOCHAM, Deepak Sood, said there is a broader consensus that the global manufacturing supply chain would be more spread than concentrated in major economies like China.

“If India comes out of the present crisis with minimum of impact, we can be the destination of choice for the global manufacturing giants in different sectors like electronics, computer hardware, pharmaceuticals, including medical devices, automobile, including components and other engineering products,” he told .

Another industrialist said India really needs to open up and welcome whoever wants to diversify and bring manufacturing into India.

“Manufacturing is very, very necessary. At the end of the day we have really skipped that and gone into services. But manufacturing is very important and we need to be able to capture this moment when a lot of manufacturing could come to India if we show the right policies, set up single window clearances and hand-hold companies coming in,” the industrialist, who did not wish to be named, said.

Sood said crude prices are expected to stay muted at least for the medium term, adding that with India depending 80 per cent on imported crude,low prices would be a big advantage for the economy with a multiplier impact on consumer demand.

The other major advantage for India, relative to other major economies, is that the country depends on domestic consumption, absorbing a large part of our output, he said.

Though exports are important for meeting foreign exchange requirements, the global markets are likely to remain subdued for longer period.

But post COVID-19, our domestic consumption is expected to bounce back sooner than exports, he said.

A top executive of a company said, “The Fourth industrial revolution is on us. We no longer have to sort of ask as to when it will come, it’s here on us.”

Asked if he expects India to drive the fourth industrial revolution, he said the country does have the talent and depth of technology to be able to do quite a bit.

India can definitely look toward diversification of supply chains.

The wisdom of Indians should ensure that proper share comes to India. We have the people, the demographics, ability to skill our people very, very quickly. We have democracy,we have lot of things going for us , he said.

But we have to make it count for us, instead of squabbling and wasting time; we really need to get our act together to be able to welcome whichever industry that wants to diversify its supply chains , he added. An industry executive said there would be far more focus on expanding social infrastructure going forward and fields such as biotechnology and biochemistry would get a boost, while online content writers would be very much in demand. Digital platforms are allowing customising teaching for individuals and education would become much more personalised, he said.

Delivery will cease to be single channel or dual channel and it would all become omni channel .

An operator in the MSME sector said the government’s top priority post-COVID 19 should continue to be the health of the people and to feed the masses.

These two will have to be top priority for a while till such time a medicine or vaccine is discovered, he said.

Sood said thankfully, India’s agriculture and rural economy have so far remained least affected by the pandemic.

Foodgrains in the Central pool are three-times the buffer requirements even before arrival of the new crop in mandis.

So the Centre and states would continue to have enough elbow room for looking after the vulnerable sections of society, he said.

On what should be the Government’s priority post-COVID 19, Sood said: “Ensure continuous and enough liquidity both for the consumers and producers of goods and services.

Retain lower interest rate regime, stay nimble and act quickly as and when a sector starts showing any stress.”

He said that hospitality, transport, airlines and exports are being crushed the most by the health crisis, and these sectors would need special revival packages in the form of interest subvention, subsidy for repairing the impaired assets, reduction in taxes, including GST and other levies.

He said the public expenditure on the healthcare sector should be at least doubled and eventually reach five per cent of the GDP from less than 1.5 per cent at present.

The public-private partnership should be encouraged, not only in the area of front-end healthcare, but also in the R&D and development of cutting edge drugs and vaccines, he said.

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