India @75: The waves of digital transformation

This is witnessed in the development of the country’s place on the global map as a desirable State for foreign trade, investments and strategic alliances.

The FTAs that India has entered into in the recent past, with the UAE and Australia, along with ones on the horizon with the EU, the UK and Canada, display a conditionality of equal market access as an integral feature of the agreements, ensuring best possible outcomes vis-à-vis national interest on bilateral negotiations.
The FTAs that India has entered into in the recent past, with the UAE and Australia, along with ones on the horizon with the EU, the UK and Canada, display a conditionality of equal market access as an integral feature of the agreements, ensuring best possible outcomes vis-à-vis national interest on bilateral negotiations.

By Sunil Bharti Mittal

In the last 75 years, independent India has repeatedly exhibited a model of political, economic and democratic success to the world. This is witnessed in the development of the country’s place on the global map as a desirable State for foreign trade, investments and strategic alliances.

India’s foreign economic policy has followed a trajectory of pursuing unbiased core national interests. Thus, it has succeeded in shedding its post-colonial identity to be known today amongst the fastest-growing large free market economies. With attracting record FDI year after year, India’s exports continue to surge, making it a major stakeholder in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations. The FTAs that India has entered into in the recent past, with the UAE and Australia, along with ones on the horizon with the EU, the UK and Canada, display a conditionality of equal market access as an integral feature of the agreements, ensuring best possible outcomes vis-à-vis national interest on bilateral negotiations.

In addition to negotiating trade, India is actively engaged in making global supply chains more resilient in sharp cognizance of the opportunity for the country to seize the opening created by the sudden move away from long established manufacturing destination. In these engagements, not only has India established herself as a geopolitical trading economy in her own right, but has also enacted fresher, newer patterns of globalisation that involve keen calibration towards nation-states that are trusted partners.

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India’s success as a political economy is amply evidenced in the birth and growth of brand India. This has been a driver of a record FDI inflow of $83.5 billion in the last fiscal. With progressive and consistent reforms in ease of doing business, simplification of compliances through the years, India has consolidated its position as a 21st century investment destination.

A key driver of the brand India fortification has been policy that amalgamates reform while capitalising on our inherent strengths: Our demographic dividend. Throughout the world, India is known for its world-class services sector, especially with regards to skilled labour. This has helped channelise the burgeoning innovation that we see in India today. Not only is India the investment hub of the world, it is also now home to more than 100 unicorns.

Undoubtedly, India’s growth in the next 25 years will be determined by the sustenance of the digital revolution we are witnessing today. Rapid digitisation is today cemented in brand India: From financial inclusion to mobility and communication, India is making massive strides in both innovation and last-mile inclusion. The modern Indian economy is characterised as a market brimming with technology-based solutions to address the needs of the common citizen. This rapid evolution is the cornerstone of the telecom industry, made possible through incisive reforms through the decades.

In the 1990s, market liberalisation dawned upon us as a dire recourse that led to opening up of the economy, encouraging private investments in select sectors. Governments in India have since remained steadfast in making liberal policies across sectors, including the telecom sector – with the most recent one in 2021 that provided much needed relief to reinvigorate competition. Expeditious and equitable connectivity has been recognised as a necessity to India capitalising on her digital promise. Bridging the rural-urban tech divide will aid governance, public services, distribution and a wealth of other digital services across sectors such as healthcare, finance and entertainment to reach the very last mile.

India is at an exciting crossroads of tremendous opportunity, coupled with an appetite for steady and balanced reforms. From innovation to adoption of technology, the country has shown itself to be ready for futuristic trends in the way average Indians go about their daily lives. The competitive market along with rate of adoption of new services across sectors has compelled industries to diversify their offerings and foray into the digital space. The demand-driven Indian economy has shown itself to have a palette for consumption of innovation.

Achieving the prime minister’s trillion-dollar digital economy ambition is an inspiration to every Indian today. From cultivating new business models of entrepreneurship, India is also heavily focused on enabling equitable global technology transfers. Earlier this year, India and the EU set up a Trade & Technology Council to focus on emerging technology areas like 5G, AI and data sharing mechanisms. On the sidelines of the Quad Summit this year, India and the US launched an initiative on critical and emerging technology to encourage academia-industry-government collaborations on similar lines.

As we enter the 76th year of our independence, brand India grows from strength to strength at a global and domestic level. While we remain optimistic, we must as a nation focus on what more can be done to fuel the economy. For the astounding potential that India’s digital presence holds, India still has a large population that remains offline. At the same time, India also hosts the second-largest number of internet users in the world, making the paradox both an opportunity and a responsibility.

The Indian industry is working with intent to iron out such ambiguities to ensure democratisation of connectivity across the expanses of the country. The values enshrined in our independence translate to a rich demographic dividend and vibrant open markets, ultimately to underwrite the betterment of life for over a billion Indians.

The author is founder and chairman, Bharti Enterprises

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