Captains of industries, during a CEO panel discussion at The Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence 2020 on Saturday, said the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, along with indigenous solutions, digital transformation and clean energy transition will create opportunities and make India an export hub. They also commended vaccine diplomacy.
Larsen & Toubro CEO S N Subrahmanyan said that the biggest crisis facing India today is the creation of jobs. “…and like the famous economist John Keynes suggested,” Subrahmanyan said, “holes may have to be dug in the ground and then filled up with concrete and steel, hoping that it enables job creation.”
“The PLI scheme, monetary easing and feel-good factor of not relying on other countries will lead to indigenous solutions for supply chain problems,” he said, adding that China is not the only country that can provide cost-effective economical solutions.
JSW Group chairman Sajjan Jindal said that after the border tension, the steel-to-sports conglomerate stopped imports from China. “The good fallout of that is that a lot of industries have come up, which are now supplying to us.” Jindal expressed hope that the government does not come down heavily on inflation pressures by restricting the growth in the economy.
In his welcome speech, Times Group MD Vineet Jain said that businesses that are inherently more vulnerable than others in a crisis such as this need an economic stimulus to stay viable. These businesses included hospitality, real estate, and media. He also called for avoiding large-scale lockdowns as authorities address the emerging second wave of Covid.
“It’ll hit small and medium businesses, and the millions of people they employ, the hardest. What we need is strict enforcement of Covid protocols, targeted containment, and vaccination on a war-footing,” he said.
The job uncertainty triggered by Covid has highlighted the need for social security, said HDFC Life Insurance MD Vibha Padalkar. Large sections of the workforce are in sectors that still do not have an assured pension. Pension assets as a percentage of GDP are less than 5%, which is woefully inadequate.
If India is saving less, it most certainly has been spending and shopping more. Customers have structurally moved towards shopping online. Pretty much 100% of pin codes in India shop online now, and even in terms of the diversity of stuff that they buy, said Amazon India head Amit Agarwal. He highlighted that entrepreneurs have been coming up with specific need-based products and online has been an enabler to their businesses.
Amazon saw 1.5 lakh businesses come online for the first time during the pandemic. A third of that came online using a non-English language. As many as 70,000 became exporters, creating global brands and shipping products that exceeded $2 billion in value.
“An Aatmanirbhar Bharat has to start with an Aatmanirbhar Indian, and that implies unleashing the potential of every citizen,” Agarwal said.
Jindal also said that India has a unique opportunity to lead the transition from a fossil-fuel economy to a green energy one. “If the government takes a view to make India coal-free by 2025 or 2030, where Coal India and coal mining must shut down, it will be a big statement. But this is something that we as a country need to do,” Jindal said.
A lot of companies are doing the R&D and JSW Steel is also working overtime to see how it can convert existing steel plants and reduce its carbon footprint. It is looking at hydrogen as a possible solution, the business tycoon said.
Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder of ride-hailing firm Ola, said Covid has changed the way societies see climate change risks. Not just India, governments around the world have pledged their support for transition to sustainable mobility and sustainable energy, Aggarwal said. “Our ambition is to build a global business in electric mobility out of India.”
According to Deloitte India CEO N Venkatram, the country has shown that we can build businesses of international stature and scale, whether delivering groceries or building electric vehicles. “These enterprises of scale are critical because they create an associated ecosystem of smaller businesses and jobs,” said Venkatram.
In her address to India Inc, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman pointed out that the three Aatmanirbhar packages announced in the wake of the Covid lockdown amounted to a stimulus equivalent to 30% of the country’s GDP.
“We are infusing greater capital expenditure in infrastructure, this will create assets, wealth and have a multiplier effect. There are also a few lesser-known points in the Budget which will have a great impact on agriculture, industry, and SMEs,” she said.