Fostering Innovation Under ‘Make in India’

Business Communication 2nd December 2016 Swapnil Kamat

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Of the many new initiatives launched by the Modi government since coming to power in 2014, the biggest and the most looked forward to, has been the Make in India campaign. The initiative calls for Indian as well as foreign companies in different sectors to manufacture in India in order to give a much-needed boost to the Indian manufacturing industry. With the government’s enterprise towards manufacturing locally products that are currently imported, there is a palpable sense of positivity engulfing not only the manufacturing industry but the whole financial fabric of the country.

A major part of the Make in India initiative depends on India’s ability as a nation to foster research and innovation. Without ensuring and enabling innovations in India, Make in India cannot be a truly successful initiative. Historically, the spirit of innovation in India has been pretty slacking in nature. The number of patents filed for new products and services by companies as well as individuals has been very low as compared to other countries – 2% of the total filed across the world, according to GE Global Innovation Barometer 2016. However, the same report also shows that business leaders from emerging economies, which includes India, are feeling more optimistic and empowered than their peers in developed markets.

Financial capability

Many industry experts concur on the fact that the R&D environment of the local manufacturing industry as well as MNCs has been developing over the last 25-30 years and can now be said to have reached a mature stage. However, most industries do not see India as a low-cost hub for manufacturing. This brings us to the question whether India has the financial capability to support innovations. The government has taken has taken many initiatives towards strengthening the innovation ecosystem by bringing in policies related to innovations as well as finances that are conducive. The government’s assumption is that support for innovation will help in development of entrepreneurship, which in turn, will accelerate economic growth. As renowned management consultant, Peter Drucker, famously said, “Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship – the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” Also, by easing policies that favour foreign companies setting up manufacturing units in India and investing in R&D here, the government aims at a two-fold gain – financially as well as portraying India as a champion innovator country.

Brain-drain: Why has the pasture on the other side been greener for India’s brightest minds?

With the announcement of the Make in India initiative, sceptics have been pointing out to the consistent brain-drain of the country’s brightest and most innovative minds to other countries over the last 3-4 decades. We keep hearing of many India-born prodigies who are now heading some of the largest companies of the world. What lies in the West that India is lacking in?

First and foremost is the quality of education and the opportunity to make use of that education to innovate and create. Most of our bright young minds look at Ivy League colleges as their best option to hone their knowledge and gain an education that encourages initiative and helps them develop skills that come in handy when they graduate. Indian institutes, on the other, lack in the same because of limited finance and resources. The best foreign universities offer full scholarships based on merit while India still struggles with reservations.

The second major disadvantage is that up till two decades ago, Indian companies could not offer brilliant young minds the opportunity to make to use of their skills to the optimum level nor was there much scope for them to grow and develop technical skills on the job. While their minds were raring to innovate, we were lacking in resources. This led to substantial brain-drain.

Another major disadvantage is that Indian companies cannot match up to MNCs when it comes to remuneration. Therefore, we see a big chunk of our youth population opting for jobs with MNCs, and based outside of India. The youth in any country always seek a better standard of living than the previous generation. For the Indian youth till the ‘90s in India that was possible only if they moved out of the country. As a relatively newly independent country, in the nascent stages of development as compared to Western nations, India wasn’t economically developed to improve the infrastructure of the country drastically. This again led to a major brain-drain to foreign shores.

While the Indian economy now has the ability to cater to the needs of the youth to a much larger extent than ever before, the youth of today has a sense of immense national pride and is also more inclined towards doing right by the nation by helping it develop. Make in India has generated a lot of interest in the youth as well as in big known Indian names from various industries abroad. Many polls conducted recently show that given the opportunity and the right resources, India’s bright young minds would prefer to stay in India, innovate in India and help make the Make in India initiative a huge success.

This article was first published in Business Today.


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