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Atmanirbhar Bharat  is the vision of the pride Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi of making India a self-reliant nation. The first mention of this came in the form of the 'Atmanirbhar Bharata Abhiyan' or 'Self-Reliant India Mission' during the announcement of the coronavirus pandemic related economic package on 12 May 2020.This self-reliant policy does not aim to be protectionist in nature and as the Finance Minister clarified, "self-reliant India does not mean cutting off from rest of the world". The law and IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that self-reliance does "not mean isolating away from the world. Foreign direct investment is welcome, technology is welcome  self-reliant India translates to being a bigger and more important part of the global economy."As part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, numerous government decisions have taken place such as changing the definition

of MSMEs,increasing FDI in the defence sector; and the vision has found support in many sectors such as the solar manufacturers sector.

Examples of initiatives helping Atmanirbhar Bharat:                                                                      The growth of India's personal protective equipment (PPE) sector from zero before March, to 1,50,000 pieces a day by the beginning of May, is considered as a fine example of a self-reliant India.The PPE industry in India has become a ₹7,000  crore  (US$980 million) in two months, the second largest after China.

The largest fund in the country worth ₹21,000 crore (US$2.9 billion) was setup by the IIT Alumni Council with the aim of supporting the mission towards self-reliance.

India's own 'Made in India' 5G network was also announced in July 2020 by Reliance Jio. Mukesh Ambani announced in mid-July "Jio has created a complete 5G solution from scratch, that will enable us to launch a world-class 5G service in India, using 100 per cent homegrown technologies and solutions".

the first time, in July 2020, it was announced that Apple would manufacture one of their premium iPhone models in India.

The economic impact of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in India has been largely disruptive. India's growth in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020 went down to 3.1% according to the Ministry of Statistics. The Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India said that this drop is mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic effect on the Indian economy. Notably India had also been witnessing a pre-pandemic slowdown, and according to the World Bank, the current pandemic has "magnified pre-existing risks to India's economic outlook".

COVID-19 pandemic-induced market instability and lockdown outcomes:.      

1.Sharp rise in unemployment. 

2.Stress on supply chains.

3.Decrease in government income.

4.Collapse of the tourism industry.

5.Collapse of the hospitality industry.

6.Reduced consumer activity.

7.Plunge in fuel consumption. 

8.Rise in LPG sales.

The Government of India announced a variety of measures to tackle the situation, from food security and extra funds for healthcare and for the states, to sector related incentives and tax deadline extensions. On 26 March a number of economic relief measures for the poor were announced totaling over  ₹170,000  crore  (US$24 billion). The next day the Reserve Bank of India also announced a number of measures which would make available  ₹374,000  crore  (US$52 billion) to the country's financial system. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank approved support to India to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The different phases of India's lockdown upto the "first unlock" on 1 June had varying degrees of the opening of the economy. On 17 April, the RBI Governor announced more measures to counter the economic impact of the pandemic including  ₹50,000 crore (US$7.0 billion) special finance to  NABARD,  SIDBI, and NHB.On 18 April, to protect Indian companies during the pandemic, the government changed India's foreign direct investment policy. The Department of Military Affairs put on hold all capital acquisitions for the beginning of the financial year. The Chief of Defence Staff has announced that India should minimize costly defense imports and give a chance to domestic production; also making sure not to "misrepresent operational requirements".On 12 May the Prime Minister announced an overall economic package worth ₹20 lakh crore (US$280 billion),10% of India's GDP, with emphasis on India as a self-reliant nation.

During the next five days the Finance Minister announced the details of the economic package. Two days later the Cabinet cleared a number of proposals in the economic package including a free food grains package. By 2 July 2020, a number of economic indicators showed signs of rebound and recovery. On 24 July the Finance Secretary of India said the economy is showing signs of recovery at a faster rate than anticipated, while the  Economic Affairs Secretary said that he expects a v-shaped recovery for India. In July the Union Council of Ministers passed the  National Educational Policy 2020 aimed at strengthening the economy.

Aatmanirbhar Jobs

For a country that was already dealing with a shaky job market, Covid-19 has given a deadly blow to India's unemployment rate. Estimates from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy reveal that over 122 million Indians lost jobs in April 2020. While 75 per cent of these workers were small traders and wage-labourers, the catastrophe has impacted every section of the working class. 

India, thus, needs to be Aatmanirbhar with more job creation. Immediate bailout and assistance to at-risk sectors are imperative as they could avoid pushing hundreds of millions of Indians into poverty. Reviving the rural economy with setting up industrial clusters in the rural areas could be a significant step too. It will not only create more jobs in needy areas, but will also address rural migration.

Aatmanirbhar Healthcare

Covid-19 has exposed India's dilapidated public health network. With a government spending of just 1.6 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and total healthcare spending (out-of-pocket and public) of 3.6 per cent of GDP, this industry reeks of chronic underfunding. To make the public healthcare system robust, we need a government expenditure of at least five per cent of the country's GDP. After all, we can't take away the fact that India needed one of the most stringent lockdowns worldwide because our health network is inefficient and underregulated. With a scarcity of hospitals, beds, clinics and ventilators, the government just bought some time to regulate things on the health front.

Similarly, India's Research & Development (R&D) scenario is perturbing too. With an expenditure of 0.7 per cent of GDP, the country's R&D sector is worryingly underinvested. Research and Development form the backbone of innovation, and no country can be on the path of economic recovery unless it funds more R&D and innovation in healthcare. With an alarming Covid-19 upward trajectory, the government needs to re-establish the healthcare system at the earliest. And its focus should be on health infrastructure, healthcare R&D and pharmaceutical production.

We must also invest in universal health coverage. The Modi government has already been propagating

Ayurveda's use and has even set up the AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) Ministry. However, more measures are required to take the Indian traditional medicinal system to a global level.

Aatmanirbhar Agriculture

With an agriculture-driven economy, where almost half of its population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture and allied industries, India needs to be self-reliant and self-sustainable in this sector. Agriculture, which accounts for 17 per cent of the GDP, could soften the blow on India's shrinking economy if it gets due consideration of the government. For one, we need to increase the adoption and usage of technology in the agriculture space.

Just like research in healthcare, we need a drastic improvement in agricultural research too. Note that India spends only 0.3-0.4 per cent of its agricultural GDP on research. This must be increased to at least one per cent to bring in strategic and technological initiatives in the long run. Transport optimisation, elimination of intermediaries, crop diversification and setting up an agri-business bank could be some other immediate steps that can strengthen Indian agriculture space.

Aatmanirbhar Infrastructure

Ever since the Modi government took charge, infrastructure has been one of the government's top priorities. With significant developments in highway and road construction and with the National Smart Cities Mission, India has been on the right track. But to help global companies make a beeline to India, we need world-class infrastructure. And we need it at a faster rate.

From investing extensively in roads, highways, metros, railways, and bridges, to building plug-and-play facilities, infrastructure requires a significant boost in India. Rural areas, too, demand the government's well-deserved attention in the form of better roads, broadband communication, educational and recreational infrastructure. Plus, by improving rural infrastructure, the government can decongest megacities and curtail rural migration as well.

Aatmanirbhar Defence

On May 2 and 3, we lost a colonel and a major in the Indian Army among five security personnel in an encounter in north Kashmir's Handwara. We need to step up our military now more than ever, no matter what the opponent voices may say. When it comes to protecting India's borders, we must not fail. And given the recent escalations at the border in North Sikkim and eastern regions of Ladakh, India needs multiple level growth in the defence sector. History teaches us to prepare for the worst. As a geographically vulnerable country sharing its land borders with countries like China and Pakistan, India needs to be self-reliant in the defence sector too. 

Remember, as India moves to the next step of progress, Pakistan will not leave any opportunity to attack India. And we must not forget that almost every Pakistani attack on India has a backing of Pakistan's all-weather ally — China. So, if India has to become an Asian giant, it must have a robust military policy. The government is treading on the right path with its aim to catalyse domestic defence sector manufacturing. But building a defence ecosystem needs high-scale technological advancement. We must also provide a level playing field to the private industry for developing defence technologies that aren't just indigenous, but also meet the quality requirements of modern armed forces.

Aatmanirbhar Education

To revive an economy that's bestrewn with the shattered dreams of millions, we certainly need a self-reliant education sector. It's about time India ramped up its public expenditure on education and had its due focus on skill development.

It is a source of regret that a country with prestigious educational institutions — with the likes of IIMs and IITs — has been finding it hard to drive the value in the job market it once did. This brand dilution can only be subsided with a massive increase in the quality of education. It's only mass quality public education, supported by qualified teachers, that can eliminate the inadequacy of human capital. India needs a solid educational policy that can fortify the ecosystem in our institutions. The basis of this system should be scientific and spiritual education — something that we need to fight the existing moral degradation occurring in our society.

Emerge stronger from the pandemic

With a bold fiscal stimulus programme, India has high chances to grow than sink.We don't have a perfect system, I agree. Several reforms are overdue. A multitude of bottlenecks handicap business productivity. And outdated laws come in the way of the economy's progress. Still, India can transform itself into the Asian giant it always wanted to be. The goal of all the legislative efforts should be to utilise the country's assets well enough to realise millions of expectations in the new economy post Covid-19.

As India is gradually emerging from months of economic hibernation, we must not cave in to the duplicities. We need to rise above anachronistic ideologies, inefficiency, and petty politics. A self-reliant India sparks demand for change. With a greater emphasis on healthcare, agriculture, infrastructure, defence, and reforms, the idea of Aatmanirbhar Bharat can be translated into reality.

We just need to make this happen

How Modi’s ‘vocal for local’ campaign is going places

In the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, particularly in food, Indian brands have been following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘vocal for local’ or localisation vision for a while now.

Emphasising on a self-reliant, or ‘aatmanirbhar’, India, the government has asked that products not just be made in India, but also for the promotion of local brands, manufacturing, and supply chain.

“When the Prime Minister said go ‘vocal for local’, he meant that products be made competitive vis-a-vis global brands. It didn’t mean that one must only buy products that have a logo ‘made in India’ on it,” RS Sodhi, MD, Amul, told BusinessLine.

“The Prime Minister’s ‘vocal for local’ and ‘local for global’ mantra has also brought out the significance for our local brands to have a global presence. India is the biggest and the fastest-growing market in the world for the majority of the product categories,” added Sodhi.

Indian brands

In the Indian FMCG market, Indian brands have been leaders in ‘Indian categories’ such as hair oils, chyawanprash health supplements, whereas international brands have been leading in ‘international categories’ such as shampoo and toothpaste, affirmed Lalit Malik, Chief Financial Officer, Dabur India Ltd. “...Indian brands have also been gaining market share even in these highly competitive categories such as toothpaste with their highly differentiated offering,” he added.

The trend within the food industry is totally ‘vocal for local’ when it comes to consumer demand, said Sodhi. “Over 30 years ago, they would have bought a foreign brandbecause the (Indian) brands weren’t there at that time. Along with that, there was a concern of trust on the local bands as far as the manufacturing is concerned. Now, there are a lot of national food brands, and they have developed over the years. More than 60 per cent of the brands in the food industry are local brands unlike personal hygiene, cosmetic, and consumer durable segments,” he explained.

ITC has invested extensively in developing a portfolio of Indian brands, with 25 created from the scratch, said the company’s spokesperson. “Investments in cutting-edge R&D and state-of-the-art manufacturing drive these winning Indian brands,” said the ITC spokesperson.

Meanwhile, campaigns to promote ‘vocal for local’ campaigns have been under way. ITC has been undertaking a ‘proudly Indian campaign’ on social-media platforms. Dabur has also launched a series of advertisements, as well as special videos, as part of the campaign. Dabur has been highlighting the Indian roots of the company and its “135-year-old heritage of caring for every Indian households’ health and well-being”, said Malik.

As for Amul, Sodhi said it has been having similar campaigns since the mid-1990s such as ‘Amul, the Taste of India’. “So, we don’t think we need to shout ‘Made in India’ over the top of our voices. It’s a compilation of everything,” he said.

Not challenge-free

But there have been challenges. When Amul was launched in India in the mid-1950s, the Indian market was dominated by multinational brands that had more money than Amul, Sodhi pointed out.

The government’s efforts to ensure ‘vocal to local’ at least in the food industry have been pretty obvious, according to Sodhi. The government, in its efforts, is trying to make sure they use and promote local produce as much as they can, as well as ban lower-graded ingredients, he said.

The government could consider levying a uniform 5 per cent GST forAyurvedic products and medicines comprising classical, proprietary and OTC products, said Malik. Currently, over 80 per cent of Ayurvedic products fall under the proprietary and OTC categories that attract a GST of 12 per cent, he said.

But why go global? Sodhi has an answer: “For any commercial organisation the brand is its most valuable asset. When a brand sells in the global market, irrespective of where it is produced, sold or ultimately consumed in the world, apart from royalties in technical fees, the owner of the domestic firm enjoys appreciation in the valuation of his brand. This is also a proven MNC strategy. I feel this is also consistent with the PM’s stand of not being a part of the RCEP agreement and opting for a complete make in India policy.”

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