MUMBAI–‘Epochal’ may be a mighty label to stick on it, yet the Make in India Week in Mumbai starting from February 13 to 20 adds to powerful forces of change already sweeping India.
Four heads of state and over 1,000 chieftains of companies from 60 countries join Prime Minister Narendra Modi, starting Saturday, for promoting India’s industry and quality of life on a scale never before tried.
With focus on 25 key industrial sectors (*1), intriguing events like India Design Forum’s ‘Empowering through Design’ conference on February 17, and the San Diego-based telecom major Qualcomm’s $ 350,000 ‘QPrize’, the Make in India Week aims to re-design India’s developmental DNA.
Through design and destiny, Make in India Week could rake in investments of over $100 billion within a year, but that only forms bit player of a greater potential for change.
“The single largest manufacturing initiative undertaken by a nation in recent history,” inform the Make in India Week organizers: the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the Confederation of Indian Industry and hosts, the Maharashtra state government.
The Make in India initiative, launched in September 2014, was to recharge and re-invent India’s growth (*2) through an economic blue print for the 21st century. From clean cities, clean energy to clean governance, Make in India works only if all such sub-elements in the national machinery work in the next three years and after.
Infrastructure then becomes core priority – better roads, highways, ports, and a $ 89-billion upgrade for the Indian Railways, telecommunications – in pushing the manufacturing sector to contributing 25% of GDP by 2020.
In effect, Make in India fits into and depends on the larger framework of other major developmental initiatives under way: Digital India, 100 Smart Cities and Skill India to train skilled workers for 12 million new jobs a year.
So Make in India evolves more as “a mission, not a slogan”, as India’s compassionately efficient Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu called it.
The mission is quality. India is seeing a generational shift in mindset, and Make in India further induces it.
I grew up as a boy in the 1970s and early 1980s in an India that suffered a fever for foreign goods and an inferiority complex of standards. Anything foreign meant better quality; and so wearing a Seiko or a Casio watch on the wrist was ever so much trendier than a HMT. ‘Made in India’ then was a tag not too prominently displayed.
Now, in my home city Mumbai, I see Make in India projected as a global brand, a helpful tagline for multinationals such as Boeing and Airbus willing to use India as a manufacturing hub.
I see across India, including from smaller cities like Coimbatore, a wave of brave new ideas — from youthful space commerce entrepreneurs to ‘design-epreneurs’ like India Design Forum (IDF) founder Rajshree Pathy and co-founder Aishwarya Pathy.
The Coimbatore-based IDF, with its programme-director Suprita Moorthy, is organizing the February 17 ‘Empowering through Design’ conference at the Make in India Week, to explore how design can boost national and global economies – in manufacturing, architecture, 3D Printing, design in public, office and living places for this changing mind-matter phenomenon called ‘I’.
“Businesses across India are recognizing that design plays a very important role in product and corporate identity,” IDF founder Rajshree told Asia Times.
“But design is not only about creating a visual impact, it defines the way we live and create. In manufacturing, design interventions reduce material usage and create more user-friendly products,” she said.
Studies have proved that communities in architecturally well-designed cities live happier, healthier lives, she said.
And “as it is IDF’s dream to create more global design thinkers from India,” the Make in India Week provides a special platform for young Indian talent to brainstorm with international experts like 3D printing wiz Joris Van Tubergen, Hong Kong’s Uli Gwinner, Indian American filmmaker Shobhu Yarlagadda, Simran Lal, CEO of Good Earth, the Mumbai-based global retail chain with its unique, wondrously handcrafted heritage home ware, and Prof Ravi Poovaiah from Mumbai’s Indian Institute of Technology Design Centre, among other distinguished designers.
But as the late Steve Jobs famously said in Rob Walker’s New York Times article ‘Guts of a Machine’ in 2003: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”, the real challenge for Make in India is harmoniously fitting the many designed master plans to ground realities.
For all components of the Make in India machinery to work, India has to obviously change the way it works – increasing transparency, improving efficiency, cutting red tape and corruption. And so Make in India and India are designed as an equation that has to feed off each other.
As the equation evolves, India will move to higher growth. Yet, manufacturing in India, to making the country the world’s third largest economy by year 2030, is only a chapter in the deeper story of our fleeting existence.
Poverty to go and prosperity to grow goes along the pathway to a crucial self-realization: money is needed for necessities, some comforts and a few luxuries, but it is not everything in life.
Mumbai, South Asia’s wealthiest city, understands this better, with having resident billionaires and corporate chiefs who have discovered, through the strenuous, self-realization process of Vipassana, that wealth is not all packaged happiness (*3).
So incongruously but not surprisingly, the Make in India Week in Mumbai — India’s busiest, time-starved city — has the architectural wonder of the Global Vipassana Pagoda (the world’s largest ever stone dome without supporting pillars) and six Vipassana meditation centres in its suburbs, to enable objective, experiential understanding of life’s practical, deeper realities by taking the free-of-all-cost residential 10-day Vipassana courses. It is a life changer.
From experience across 22 years, I have absolutely no doubt that Vipassana is the single-most powerful force of beneficial change now sweeping India, by enabling the individual to change negative habit patterns of the mind.
‘Make in India’ cannot successfully co-exist with a culture of corruption. And as happened in Burma (Myanmar) of the 1950s, Vipassana is a proven corruption buster that is again taking root in India, after over 2,000 years (see Burma’s Anti-corruption Crusader *4).
This multi-dimensional Make in India Week includes a cultural festival: a daily ‘Mumbai Design Trail’, concerts, art exhibitions and a food fair in the quaint, beautiful Cross Maidan (ground) that casually sees about 20 cricket teams simultaneously playing in a grassy field that nature originally designed for three matches.
It is this crowded, chaotic but safely co-existing Cross Maidan cricket code that works just as simply across the country: “India is a chaos that works”, as a writer famously said.
But with Make in India, chaos has to retire into pavilions of the past, and give way for a more disciplined, methodical work culture to bridge the gap between what is now and promise of what is to be.
With a $1.2 trillion economy by GDP, all right, India still ranks 130 in the latest United Nations Development Index (for year 2014), placed bafflingly below Palestine (113) and Iraq (121). But since China sits at No. 90, far below Palau (60) and Iran (69), questions arise if the U.N methodology has accurately worked out development versus population size ratio.
This index or that, India’s economic development — as has been consistently projected in recent years — continues not only as the world’s fastest growing economy, but as a stable economy. It’s a combination of being a steady democracy with a huge, expanding consumer market.
Make in India organizer and Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pointed out, “Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in India is growing at 38%, while globally there’s a sharp fall.”
With more FDI or less, Make in India is paving a far-reaching development pathway with the journey depending on strengthening a national culture of honest, hard work.
For me, Make in India appears more a work ethics upgrade for one of the world’s oldest civilizations, the coming of age for a young India. India has the largest youth population, according to the UN, with a stupendous 356 million citizens aged 10-24.
Whenever I interact with 20-year olds like a Sanjay Nekkanti, co-founder of India’s first private satellite manufacturing company Dhruva Space, I sense a generation far removed from the diffident, hesitant country of my school days.
I happily see a self-confident young India awakening, far more mature than we were at that age, and fully capable of making Make in India work.
1) The 25 Focus Industry Sectors in Make in India Week, Mumbai.
4) Sayagyi U Ba Khin, independent Burma’s first Accountant General: Burma’s Anti-Corruption Crusader.
Raja Murthy is a Mumbai-based journalist writing for the Statesman since 1990 and Asia Times since 2003 – besides having been a long-term contributor to the Times of India, Economic Times, Elle etc. He shuttles between Mumbai and the Himalayas.