HCL co-founder Ajai Chowdhry said Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) in the manufacturing sector is a long haul, and it would take the country another decade or two to be self-reliant. Chowdhry, who is one of the six founding members of IT-giant HCL, was speaking at Financial Express Boardroom 2022. India needs to grow not just in breadth but also in depth, in order to have globally competitive manufacturing capacities, and hence it needs to look beyond the government’s production linked incentive (PLI) scheme.
Government’s PLI scheme is a step in the right direction but the scheme is time bound, therefore, to reach the next level, India needs to create a global supply chain, dramatically improve its logistics and need faster implementation of the recently announced PM Gati Shakti scheme, Chowdhry said. PM Gati Shakti scheme which is dubbed as National Master Plan for multi-modal connectivity, is a Rs 100 lakh-crore project that aims to build strong infrastructure connectivity in the country, across channels such as railways, roads, highways and coast.
“PLI will finish in five years, then what. You need to think through that. Every manufacturer needs to think through that,” he said. In future, countries like Cambodia or Vietnam can also start offering schemes similar to the PLI scheme to global companies – in order to incentivise them to produce in their country. And thus there is a need for India to look beyond the PLI scheme, Chowdhry said.
Speaking about labour issues, Chowdhry said India needs to adopt a system similar to China where they have built dormitories inside the company’s campus. This helps the factory to run 24*7. In India, the government is also working on doing something similar so that labour can live near factory locations, and save time on travel. He also said the country needs a uniform labour code.
Chowdhry, who is also the Chairman of the Electronics Sector Skills Council and Chairman of FICCI Startup Committee, said in electronics manufacturing, India has strong capabilities in areas such as engineering design, silicon foundry, and packaging, but we lag in research and development.
Nikhil Sawhney, Vice Chairman and MD of Triveni Turbines, who was also a speaker in the session, also echoed similar views. He said the government’s PLI scheme has helped in fixed capital formation in areas that directly come under the scheme’s orbit such as specialty steel, chemicals and textiles but it has also spread to the sectors that are indirectly impacted. He, however, added that the current need is to focus specifically on building research and development units in the country. To achieve this, even corporations need to step-in and be more agile.