India Today

  • Posted on: 11 March 2019
  • By: Aline Dobbie

The Election Commission of India announced the final dates for the Lok Sabha elections 2019. The elections will be held between 11 April and 19 May. The election result will be announced on 23rd May. The world’s largest democracy will demonstrate freedom of choice.

Paul Krugman, the American Nobel Prize economist, said recentlyIndia achieved as much economic progress in the last 30 years as Great Britain had done in 150 years."  But he has warned that India could end up with huge mass unemployment if it does not grow its manufacturing sector. 

Japan is now no longer a superpower because its working-age population declined. In Asia, India could take the lead but only if it also develops its manufacturing sector.

After 2016 China started climbing the steepest aging curve of any large population in world history. By 2028 Chinese demographers predict that the over 65s will exceed that of the population under 15, and number in the hundreds of millions; by 2035 India’s working age population will surpass China’s and by mid-century China’s average age will be pushing over 50. The Chinese are desperately trying to get rich before they get old. By contrast at least one third of India’s population of approximately 1.3 billion is under the age of 15.

In effect, in China the Government is the Entrepreneur, whereas in India’s noisy and unruly democracy Entrepreneurs can be found at all levels of society. India’s trajectory is the one that points to a brighter future.

A recent report by the IMF has also projected India’s outstanding growth. It said the country will likely overtake Germany in 2022 as the world’s fourth-largest economy and will push its former colonial ruler UK out of the five top economies this year.

Rural India is now showing signs of prosperity with masses of tractors in fields, villages building houses, healthy children going to school and diverse crops flourishing throughout the countryside. In the last 20 years of my annual return the infrastructure throughout India has progressed hugely, yet it still requires a massive building programme which is now all happening and travellers are able to appreciate all that the country has in terms of historic old cities, modern cities, great temples, palaces, wildlife parks, holy rivers, and the sheer beauty of its countryside, beaches, mountains, semi desert and wild places …. Modern airports have hugely advanced connectivity; all the major cities and the 2nd tier cities have good airports and budget air travel is thriving throughout India as well as the fact most Middle East airlines go into a host of cities.

The Indian Middle Class is about 300 million and they own property, go to restaurants, own cars, go shopping and enjoy tourism. Vast numbers still go on pilgrimages (which, after all, were the very first forms of tourism in the Middle Ages) but others who are prosperous travel within India, fly abroad for short and long holidays, and enjoy their new-found prosperity. In 2017 26 million jobs in travel & tourism were created in India. That figure demonstrates the scale of things in India.

There are incredible numbers of cars and many middle-class families have two or more. Motor Bikes are truly in their millions whereas cycles remain in more rural areas but also in their millions! The roads have improved hugely in the last 20 years with good freeways. Sophisticated people are busy conducting business in the great luxury five-star hotels in the capital and other great cities, yet sadly there is still dire poverty in some areas; India’s prosperity needs to trickle down to all the rural poor and the farmers & villagers so that all can reflect with pride on Gandhiji’s aspiration – he said:

I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country….”.

On a positive note we heard recently about the great success story of Tata the largest Indian group which has been celebrating 150 years since it was started. This $100 billion group that is now global has huge interests here in the UK and we are all aware of Tata Steel, Tata Tetley and Tata Consultancy Services Jaguar Land Rover (which will overcome its present challenges), their Taj hotels and other significant huge interests like aircraft manufacture. They had the confidence to come to the UK and invest here and are very pleased with the result. One should recall that Tata Steel provided 23,000 tons of steel for the famous Howrah Bridge in Kolkata in 1943 and more recently the steel for the famous Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Tata are now going to produce cheaply feminine hygiene products; that will help millions of females in India. Tata has again announced very recently in 2019 further investment in the UK.

The Mahindra Group is another hugely impressive group. We had been invited to visit their world cities in Chennai and Jaipur in recent years. Last year Graham and I had the pleasure of visiting the Chennai World City on a return visit.

For me, who was born and brought up in India, this Chennai Mahindra city immediately resonated strongly as the city is now some 17 years old and maturing nicely. It is green with great trees and parkland and shrubbery giving shade and respite from the heat of Tamil Nadu. It is very well maintained with clean roads and pavements, nicely designed industrial units and now residential avenues with different sizes of accommodation from villas to flats. A hospital has been built and a large elegant community club. Mahindra World School had been in operation for years. I had been invited to talk to some of the pupils. Both these world cities have incorporated every eco conservation aspect that can be used.

It was Aristotle who said, ‘A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one’. Hmm, in India where the population is 1.3 billion and anticipated to reach 1.5 billion by 2030 with the urban population doubling to 560 million that is a laudable aspiration.

Mahindra World Cities are designed to create sustainable places where people find work. Sustainability is essential in thinking about urbanisation…. through millennia history has shown that cities were built and were grand but if there was not a way of sustaining the populations therein then they withered and left us with wonderful great heritage sites.

Jaipur is the second Mahindra World City and is only 7 years old so not in as green and matured as Chennai. But it is twice as big in area. Together these two MWC cover 4,550 acres. Each one is committed to building and creating new economic nerve centres and already there are over 120 Blue Chip Clients from across the world who have made their headquarters in one or other. Prominent Clients in Chennai are Infosys, Wipro, BMW, Renault-Nissan, Mahindra Research Valley, Lear Corporation, Cap Gemini and other world brands. JCB the great British brand has its Asian HQ in MWC at Jaipur.

The India in which I grew up had 400 million people and now it is three times that population. I recall the wide roads that had been built long ago with huge great trees on either side; there was room for cattle, buffaloes, the goatherd with his flock and the bullock carts and the occasional elephant or camels in the north in places like Rajasthan. Of course, there were the ubiquitous lorries thundering along vividly painted and usually overloaded! Nothing much changed there…. and yes, the camels are still very much in evidence and the occasional elephants. The great railway network developed in the 19th century which is now requiring modernisation and receiving it, still carries 23 million passengers daily & the roads are increasingly busy.

Today, India’s major cities have Rolls Royce and Bentley showrooms and top of range German marques are Mercedes, BMW and Audi with huge 4 by 4s and sleek saloons. By the financial year end 2018 4 million cars will have been manufactured in India.

It would be easy to drive in the comfort of air conditioning, a confident reliable driver taking the strain and not be touched by that great world outside but my work takes me across the social spectrum and one minute I am in a bustling great city that barely sleeps or the guest of a maharaja in his exotic palace and the next day returning to visit the Indian Army at a regimental headquarters, or an ancient tribal community or a beautiful village that reveres all life and wildlife - The Bishnoi …..then in a wildlife park seeking out Tigers which need our strong conservation support; or relaxing on the backwaters of Kerala or on a beach in Tamil Nadu ….India has many faces and many challenges but she will overcome those with determination and commitment and democratically.

Mahindra World Cities’ ethos is Livelihood, Living Life. That is what ALL of India needs, security of work in a sustainable healthy environment where they build social cohesion with good values and educate the next generations and … folk can also grow old in safety. Mahindra plan two more world cities. Mahindra are the largest producers of tractors globally and manufacture large 4x4 high end cars and jeeps. Mahindra Group has 27 businesses, 18 subsidiaries and 9 companies. Tech Mahindra has now established in Manchester within the last month – Manchester has truly encouraged Indian businesses.

We visited the post graduate training university of Infosys in Mysore some years ago. This beautiful immaculate campus is very sought after by young graduates to perfect their IT skills. It seemed to symbolise the palace of today in contrast to Mysore’s old heritage royal palace. There is everything on site to make the learning and furtherance of IT knowledge efficient, but the conditions are stringent; the authorities stand no nonsense…. those who attend this academic technical institution are reminded that they are privileged and must adhere to the strict rules. Infosys has a global reputation. Infosys Limited is an Indian multinational corporation that provides business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services. Its headquarters are in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. Infosys is the second-largest Indian IT company by 2017.

Today it has been announced that UK-based automobile and aerospace major Rolls-Royce has selected Infosys as a strategic long-term partner to deliver engineering and digital services.
"As part of the engagement, we will offer Rolls-Royce engineering and digital solutions to meet its customers' needs for sustainable energy," said the country's second largest IT company. .

The USD 11-billion outsourcing firm has experience in delivering programmes in aero and land-based gas turbines spanning component development, next-generation manufacturing technologies, service engineering, support, testing and validation services.

"Through our engineering and digital services, we will support Rolls-Royce to become more productive, agile and innovative. We will also invest in the partnership to support the British firm navigate into its transformation journey," said Infosys vice president Jasmeet Singh.

With customers in 150 countries the world over, comprising 400 airlines and leasing companies, 160 armed forces, 4,000 marine customers, the 15-billion pound worth British behemoth Rolls-Royce had invested 1.4 billion pounds on research and development in 2018. 

 ITC is the other great group with which I have connections.

Its activities in subsidiary companies span tobacco, cigarettes, paper and packaging, paperboard, hotels and tourism, information technology, Food products, Pharma care, and Agricultural products. For its agri-export division, ITC procures various agricultural commodities such as soybeans, coffee, and oil seeds. ITC thought of and pioneered e-choupal in 2000. In Hindi, a choupal is a village gathering place usually under shade of a tree. The e-choupal initiative — whereby a choupal is equipped with a computer and Internet connectivity gives farmers direct contact with the company – it cuts out the middle man. ITC now contemplates building hospitals as well which is a very good idea.

ITC Hotels, number over 100, range from the super luxury, luxury, business to heritage categories. It is the only company in the world of its size, to achieve the three-major global environmental distinctions of being carbon positive (7 years), water positive (10 years) solid recycling waste (5 years).

These are just some of the great companies within India who also operate globally.  For instance, India is the largest milk producer in the world – people drink milk and eat home-made yoghurt in vast quantities, but also the huge quantities of Indian sweets – mithai which are so popular are milk based. It is the largest global producer of generic pharmaceutical drugs. The second largest steel producer globally and could be the 3rd largest Tourism destination by 2028 it is thought. (we will see).

India’s many distinguished Scientists and Engineers have been pioneers in so many fields and winners of numerous Nobel Prizes. Now the plan is for 100 Smart Cities, i.e. existing cities earmarked to become hubs of technology.

By 2017 the number of mobile phone users in India had reached over 730.7 million. The smartphone users in India was predicted to reach 340 million– that is over 1 billion cell phones. Everyone able to communicate efficiently revolutionised India; Naturally the more prosperous Indians all own them, but it was the affordability that gave all sections of Indian life individual access to communication that made the giant leap forward and is so good to see.

According to official estimates, the India-UK bilateral trade stands at $13 billion, with the UK being among the largest G20 investors in India.

Finally, India should have a permanent seat at the United Nations. The sub-continent has one of the most ancient, diverse and fascinating histories but the decade ahead is critical…. it should become a Superpower – but a non-confrontational one. India’s enemies remain China and her nearest western neighbour as recent events demonstrated.

Today is Commonwealth Day and HM The Queen accompanied by other royal family members will celebrate the significance of The Commonwealth in Westminster Abbey in London. India is the largest member of the Commonwealth and I grew up in that vast land as modern India evolved and developed. Her democratic process will once again demonstrate her importance in the world.

Trade is the Driver of Development, Stability, Peace and Civilization:

Albert Einstein said ‘Learn from the Past, Live for Today and Hope for the Future’ certainly that is: India Today. India’s time is now.