“Hitch your wagon to a star and you will land up on the moon; hitch your wagon to the moon and you will be hanging from a lamp post”, goes a popular English saying. In a society that is largely cynical and jealous about someone else’s success, and more salaciously curious about how it was attained, having a seemingly audacious ambition often invites a jeer and skepticism.
The goal to achieve a 5 trillion dollars economy by FY25 is sensible and achievable! It is also desirable, even if one falls short to achieve it by the designated year or takes a few more years to attain. The conversation should determinedly focus on ‘how’ rather than ‘what’ or ‘when’.
There are three things that merit attention, and these are all softer interventions, rather than the hardcore physical or fiscal actions that most amount of attention is focused upon.
First, inculcating a spirit of entrepreneurship and respecting failure that comes as a part of that journey. This should start with the middle school education framework that includes primary appreciation of business, commerce, and entrepreneurship as possible career options. These topics must find honorable place in the social and general studies curriculum. If nothing else, it will engender, the dignity of labor, hard work and risk taking. High GDP growth rates will not come from large scale industries or big service sector growth alone. It will have to be fed and fueled in large measure, by the robust and sustainable growth of medium and small businesses – whether as ancillaries or as service providers or distributors or downstream processors. To ensure this, two things must happen. Reduction of regulatory cholesterol for small businesses and working on the principle – “I trust you, till you breach my trust”. Second, if a business fails the entire focus of the State and the Lenders should be on resolution and not realization. If realization is made the last resort, the entire machinery will be geared to find a sensible path to rehabilitation and recovery. The laws, rules, the IBC framework, lending norms and covenants will need a rescript towards this approach.
Second, a wider, diverse, and more inclusive growth across various industry and service sectors, geographies, communities, and gender. The spread and footprint of the wealth creating infrastructure across the nation should be widely visible and result in wellbeing across the country. In India, distribution has always been a greater challenge than wealth creation. Disparity of economic well being and prosperity, real or perceived, will never be able to create the optimism, harmony, synergy and hence the momentum that exponential growth would require. The law of diminishing utility inherently self limits growth beyond a point. A large country like India needs an elephantine growth movement to reach an ambitious target. Each of these participants – whether a State or a community has different inherent strengths – granted by nature, genetic prowess, and community ambitions. These need to be carefully harnessed to design a strategy that is nuanced and calibrated to increase the probability of success. Not everyone needs to do everything. With expanding physical and digital infrastructure, goods and services can move economically and expeditiously to various corners of the country, even if produced or created or delivered in or from certain pockets.
Last but not the least, the legal and judicial infrastructure needs a complete revamp and makeover, to reinforce the primacy of justice delivery over law framing. Things that need urgent and committed attention are:
- Stability of laws. ‘Don’t fix it if isn’t broken’; allow businesses, individuals, and institution to plan their destiny with certainty. It is not the rigor of the law or the burden of fiscal obligations that frightens or deters entrepreneurs, it is the unpredictability, and uncertainty and the fears that come with it.
- Design and enact laws in a simple manner and language, that generally enables and facilitates the do-gooders, rather than catch and punish the wrong doers. The entire legislative narrative and outlook needs to change along with the attendant mindset at the field level. The larger section of citizens that want to follow the law should not be held to ransom by a handful that don’t or possibly ever won’t.
- Promote, encourage, and expand, alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, particularly mediation, to enable businesses and business families resolve their differences and disputes, cheaply, quickly, and privately, and move forward. Unresolved conflict damages them financially and in spirit alike. Both are needed in equal measure for economic success.
Entrepreneurship has been a strong Indian trait. The success of the Indian diaspora in the remotest corners of the world stands testimony to the genetic ability of our people to generate wealth through commerce and industry. We need to harness this pedigree better within our own nation.