Being self-reliant means much more than just going vocal for local

It’s important that government and industry work closely to understand requirements

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: A country must be self-reliant irrespective of a pandemic, TERI School of Advanced Studies vice-chancellor (Actg) Manipadma Datta told while sharing with us his thoughts on the “Vocal for Local” initiative of the Indian government. He insisted that one can’t link the idea of self-reliance with just the promotion of local brands but the term has a far deeper connotation that one needs to understand, as a business, as a consumer, and also as a policymaker. 

So what does the term self-reliance mean and how is it different from the idea of vocal for local?

FCB India chairman CEO Rohit Ohri explains, “While it (vocal for local) puts a great focus on local brands, popularising them and making people (consumer) more conscious, I think, it also has to be balanced (for being self-reliant) because you need to be globally competitive as well. The ultimate goal is to support the economy, after all. On the one hand, you are inviting global companies to set up factories here and on the other hand, if you ask people to buy only locally, it comes out as a contradictory statement.”

DAN India CEO Anand Bhadkamkar adds, “Self-reliant is very similar to the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. One of the major challenges we are facing due to Covid2019 is that there has been too much dependence on external factors. In my opinion, self-reliant is being self-sufficient, being able to fulfil our growth ambitions. It does not mean we are cutting out from other countries, but it means to be independent for our core requirements and be able to sustain on our own. The initiative does not suggest India be excluded from global trade but it is to be best at what we do and to excel against others.”

Digitalkites SVP Amil Lall says, “When I am talking about the self-reliance perspective, which PM Modi also spoke about in his speech, it is about doing end-to-end things on your own. It basically means you are independent and you don’t need any external collaborators to partner. According to PM Modi India is a huge population with extremely talented people and why don’t we create a product on our own and start supplying it across the world. What India is today China was in the ’90s. For us to succeed we will need to collaborate, we will have to partner and take everybody along.”

However, there are certainly other factors that the government needs to address, “As an industry, we need to have less bureaucratic intervention from the government, to have a hassle-free business environment and to have all possible financial aid coming their way. Financial web startups will need all kinds of support in case they fail. Just saying self-reliant is not going to help. How it will get implemented is critical.”

Metro Shoes MD and CEO Farah Malik Bhanji is optimistic that the endeavour will help encourage Indian consumers to buy local brands. At the same time, she feels that more support is needed from the government end to address demand-side issues. “The government has announced multiple economic packages and loans, primarily to support MSMEs. Most of the incentives, however, seem to be on the supply side of things, and there are not many incentives to boost demand from consumers, especially as many of them may be looking at pay cuts.”

“It is very important for the government and the industry to work closely to understand the requirements to resume normalcy and reduce the economic impact. It is essential to understand the support the footwear industry needs to survive and sustain through the pandemic and build consumer trust to resume sales. The industry itself is collaborating to present a clear view of the government in terms of what may be needed,” she adds. 

Dineout co-founder and CEO Ankit Mehrotra further shares, “I think this is a great initiative by the government. As a business, Dineout is already selling its solutions to five other countries, and we are hoping to extend it more but we will need a lot more support from the government.”

Elaborating how the move to become self-reliant will help the Indian economy at large, Bhadkamkar shares, “According to me, in the long-term, it will definitely benefit India, as we are a land of huge population and a young workforce; which will generate exponential demand within the Indian market, as we move forward from Covid2019. And thus, we will start delivering to the best of our capabilities within the country and out to the world as well. Additionally, there are also several international companies who are likely to bring their base to India because of likely developments in global alignments, infrastructure and facilities as per government’s plans. This will further boost the Indian economy in the long run. A strong economy and cordial economic relations will further avoid trade tussles with other countries.”

Bhanji says, “Every crisis is succeeded by periods of growth. We are hopeful that the pandemic will also be controlled in time and all of us will witness a better tomorrow. The pandemic has made us realize the importance of being self-reliant and provides us with an opportunity to showcase our capabilities to the world, especially in terms of manufacturing. This will only help the economy grow. This will also open up opportunities for many companies to move their manufacturing to India and support the economy. At a time of such global change, there may be a chance of tussles, but a greater chance of forming better partnerships as well.” 

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