Business information and market potential are the two important aspects. Awareness of these aspects helps in developing organic ideas and shaping trends, which is the key to economic growth.
In the last few years, India has taken several interesting moves to promote a good business environment, and some of those moves are courageous and historic. India’s overall approach towards the Ease of Doing Business ranking exercise has changed and that reflects in the big leap in EODB rankings- from 142nd in 2014 to 63rd in 2020. Earlier it was seen as just another formal annual exercise, without any specific improvement plan and its key actors, the states had the least desire to participate in it. But today, the country has a roadmap and direction to work on and there is healthy competition among the states on the EODB parameters, throughout the year. What made this change possible, in a short span of time, can be a good case study to delve into.
On another crucial front- Digitalization and Internet Economy, India has shown a good performance. Today, there are 700 million internet users, and with the cheapest data rates in the world, we can add a new user every 3 seconds. The JAM (Jan-Dhan bank account, Aadhaar, and Mobile) vision of PM Modi has been implemented successfully. There are a billion-plus Aadhaar, billion-plus mobiles, and approx a billion bank accounts, that are connected seamlessly to deliver governance/services to the last mile in India.
There was a time when India used to celebrate only the big slogans and revolutionary sounding moves and the idea that the small process/policy improvements can work in a country of 1.3 billion people, was tough to grasp. During the corona crisis, the way some small yet timely steps like Direct Benefit Transfer, JAM trinity, National Agriculture Market (eNAM), and Government E-Marketplace (GeM), etc., have proved the biggest help in sustaining the livelihoods of millions of Indians, this is something that everyone has witnessed.
Today, India has nurtured its own digital payment ecosystem too that is build upon Unified Payments Interface (UPI), and with over 25.5 billion real-time payment transactions, India ranks 1st in Digital payment transactions, globally. During the last month itself, UPI recorded over 2.8 billion transactions worth 5.47 trillion rupees, which is a record.
A few days back, the 6th anniversary of Digital India was celebrated in the country, and revisiting Digital India’s six-year performance parameters and journey, the outcomes and outlook both look positive. From a mere Dream to the resolve for India’s ‘Techade,’ the trajectory is going well.
Different economies of the world, emerging and developed, all learning from India’s template of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance,’ and curious about its approach to transparent and non-discriminatory solutions, which has become more relatable in Covid times. On the other hand, the recent FDI investment stat also highlights a sustained and ever-growing optimism on India’s business environment. During the financial year 2020-21, India has attracted $81.72 billion FDI inflow, 10% higher than the previous financial year.
The overall outlook is positive and full of hope but there exists some aspects that need to work on.
Potential of the Indian Market
A business-friendly environment, Digital infrastructure, youth power with entrepreneurial zeal, rising middle class, aspirational neo-middle class even at the village level, all make a unique combination that has the potential to turn any product into a brand! Big Tech is the most debated buzzword today but it is a fact that in the American tech companies’ transformation from some routine tech products into the ‘BIG Tech,’ it is the Indian market/users have a significant role.
When something becomes a brand in the Indian market that represents one-sixth of humanity, its global acceptance scale-up naturally. The world acknowledges this potential of the Indian market long before, and we have an identity of being the most preferred investment destination in the world.
Now the question is, are Indians themselves aware of this potential of their own market? And how many Indian brands are able to claim their market? The list is, unfortunately, very small.
India has one of the largest and vibrant startup ecosystems in the world. There are 50,000 plus startups and 50 of them are Unicorns! Approx 16 startups have been added to the Unicorn club, in the middle of the pandemic, in this year itself.
If we look at the business models of these startups and observe their trends, a majority of them revolved around E-commerce, Fin-tech, and Enterprise Tech, and their focus is on tapping the urban/metro users and comfortable class. From their approach and business philosophy, it seems that a number of Indian startups often prefer following those business models and market trends that are popular and practiced in other parts of the world.
They are leveraging the technologies but solving the problems that Silicon Valley is supposed to solve, and following the readymade trends, without an honest check whether they are relevant in our local market and suit our domestic needs or not. One can say that the focus of our young entrepreneurs is more on embracing everything that is global and is less on promoting the local to global.
This approach needs some improvements. India is a diversified country, there are 28 States and 8 Union Territories, and each has some unique business/industrial/market potentials of its own. It is a bit surprising that after more than six years of Startup India launch, we are yet to find a single startup (promoted in media), having an organic vision and strategy for targeting the Indian market, and interested in exploring our untapped potentials like North East India, Jammu, Kashmir, Laddakh and other remote parts of the country.
A Small Ignorance
Exploring the reason why young Indians are working on ready-to-go business models and finding it difficult to craft something organic for their own market, lies in a simple and small ignorance- India has not yet produced, presented, and highlighted the potential of its market, within the country itself.
To understand this problem, let’s assume a scenario: what if an entrepreneur or a potential investor sitting in the silk city Bhagalpur of Bihar, wants to explore the business opportunities in Assam, the silk city of North East India, or vice versa (or one can assume any other state or business activity). What difficulties he/she will face in the very first stage- know your market.
If he or she is literate and has access to the internet, then the first thing they will do is that they will search about the market information of Assam from the most widely used search engine- Google. Now there are two possibilities in this case: one, the information that he/she will get will be in English (and that often implies that the content is either filtered or biased). And second, the information will be in the local language of the state, which in this case is Assam. Now if he or she is born and brought up in a small village of Bihar, then the probability of their familiarity with both languages is very low. And from this point, the disinterest and stagnation start. In the absence of credible mediums in the regional language, such curiosities never reach their destination.
The information about the market potential of our different States and Union Territories does not exist in our regional languages for one simple reason- we have not yet worked on this aspect. Language is a big barrier that needs to be broken! Can we imagine mandating our Startups/MSMEs, to learn English well before thinking about starting a business in India? Or do we expect the same platforms to provide and promote the business information and market potential of India that are here to compete with our local businesses? It is as awkward as its sounds.
For the next big leap, it is crucial that every state in India should have information about the business and market potential of all 28 states and 8 Union Territories, in major regional languages.
India fuels a good amount of resources in running different public/private agencies for promoting the business environment/market opportunities and many of these like NITI Aayog, Startup India, Invest India, IBEF, etc., have done a good job too. But this requirement is remained ignored, untouched, and sidelined from the limelight!
The real India, which is the performing India, lives in those 742 districts where no medium of business information exists. The youngsters from tier 2/tier 3 cities have aspirations and desire to participate in the mainstream of growth, and there is a need to ensure that language and information access must not create hurdles on their path.
India is known for its diversity worldwide, celebrating diversity is good but turning diversity into opportunities is essential! The government has taken some required initiatives such as launching investment and business policy of each state, running ‘One District, One Product,’ kind of programs (Uttar Pradesh govt’s initiative), providing a single window of information/clearances, etc., and the Government to Business Marketplace- GeM is a revolutionary move on its own.
India needs a big promotional push and for that, the private sector and investors will have to come forward and play their part. Many Indians have grown up watching Mega factories, Mega Cities, Engineering Connections, Super factories, Megastructures, Food Factory, Food tech kind of shows at Nat Geo, Discovery and History kind of channels but now there is a need to think about starting something in the similar format to highlight their own potential.
Developing an ecosystem, where the business information and market potential of Bharat can be promoted in its regional languages, is the need of the hour. The time to invest in this direction has come!