Twenty-five years post liberalisation, India has seen a plethora of changes in various fields and a new anthology looks at how the country has metamorphosed since the first set of reforms was introduced.
In ‘What’s Changed: 25 Years of Liberalized India”, 14 experts write about the changes they have witnessed in their respective fields. The anthology is edited by Kartikeya Kompella.
The transformation of Indian business over the past two-and-a-half decades has been unprecedented, in tune with the changes in the nature of the playing field and the rules of the game, according to Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the Aditya Birla Group.
“The most fundamental change is that the business environment has become extremely competitive and unforgiving. This is in sharp contrast to the rent-seeking behaviour that predominated prior to 1991,” he says in his piece “The Changing Face of India”.
“Before liberalisation, the most important asset sought by businesses was an industrial licence. Once secured, that licence acted as a formidable entry barrier. The package of privileges around the licence often included additional protection to the manufacturer by way of import restrictions and high tariff walls.
“Post liberalisation, the policy thrust is towards encouraging entrepreneurial activity, rather that obstructing it. That’s a huge plus,” he writes in the book, published by Penguin Random House.
Birla, however, argued the risks to business have increased. “With the props supporting established players having being removed, competition has intensified across every sector. Organisations that are slow to adapt have their survival at stake. Business permanence is no more a safe assumption.”
One of the key perspectives that has changed about filmmaking in India is that it is no longer only about a big Friday, says Disney India MD Siddharth Roy Kapur in his article ‘Bollywood in the Post-Liberalization Era’.
“Filmmakers are looking at the lifetime value of the movie. The entire focus is to see how one can optimise the commercial value of the movie, whether it is through more aggressive distribution, more focused marketing, looking at more avenues to monetise the movie beyond the theatre, whether it is through TV, digital to music rights,” he says.
“Filmmaking has evolved a lot in India after liberalisation and things are continuously improving. The future looks very exciting. There are interesting challenges in front of us such as creating franchises without big stars.” Roy writes.
In “The Effect of Liberalization on Cricket”, cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle and Kompella write that liberalisation created tumultuous changes in society, and this is amply demonstrated in Indian cricket too.
“Often the story of liberalisation’s impact on cricket is reduced to a rags-to-riches story but it’s a little more than that, and some of the seeds of change were sowed well before liberalisation,” they say.
Chairman of Zee and Essel Group Subhash Chandra says the remote control for the DTH or digital cable connection is perhaps the best symbol of the post-liberalised consumer class of today’s India, from the perspective of the evolved Indian television industry.
In his essay “Key Changes That Define the Television Industry of India Post Liberalization”, Chandra says that the remote “empowers you, the consumer, with the choice of switching to any of the hundreds of TV channels, a simple mechanism for a layman, yet it embodies the changes our TV industry has gone through in the last two-and-a-half decades.
“It also acts as a tool for interacting with advertisers or helping you place requests for video-on-demand, movies, internet and games, among others – something that was unthinkable before the TV revolution started in 1992.”
The other contributors are Rama Bijapurkar (The Context and Contours of Consumer Behaviour in New India); Ira Trivedi (A Nation in Heat – On India’s Sexual Revolution); Damodar Mall (From No Shopkeepers to No Shops!); Kompella (The Liberalized Brand); Debashis Chatterjee (Education as Legal Right or Failed Responsibility); Sangeeta Talwar (Empowerment of Women in India – A Slow and Evolving Phenomenon); Meena Kaushik (Globalization and Its Impact on the Indian Consumer); K V Sridhar (Buland Bharat Ki Buland Tasveer); Rohini Nilekani (Indian Philanthropy – Ready for Take-off); and Hindol Sengupta (Who Is Afraid of a Bit of Luxury?)