Boosting India’s economic growth through policy measures is a debate that is revived every year in the form of speculations around policy matters, and market predictions that culminate into a national annual custom that we formally call the ‘Budget Announcement’. In the last few years, the influx of digital infrastructure has made the announcements even more relevant and hopeful because people have been reassured about the swift and smooth implementation of policies.
In my opinion, agriculture, robustness of the financial institutions, and pragmatic policies around the data-governed cyberspace are the three leading areas that would define the agenda for our economic progress this year. There are critical aspects of these factors that the policy makers and the ministries must meticulously address to ensure the existing/potential roadblocks to fiscal growth can be negated while ascertaining security of the citizens and sustainability of the industries. Simultaneously, India Inc. needs to be on its toes to not only comprehend the reforms appositely but also to leverage the opportunities arising from them.
1) Smart agriculture in the age of fourth industrial revolution
We have observed a phenomenal rise in agricultural budgets over the last few years, and the high growth in agricultural outputs today correlate with our pursuit of agricultural self-sufficiency since independence. However, owing to multiple varied factors, the farmers in the country are not faring well enough and only about 33 percent of the agriculture companies have posted profits in the recent years. Most of these profit-making corporations have implemented certain strategies to generate value, such as de-risking the business by guaranteeing availability near the customer zones, diversifying geographies, and pursuing operational excellence. Technological disruption/intervention is being seen as the silver lining for all farmers and the agro-based companies.
Industry 4.0 is significantly unlocking value throughout the agriculture value chain through digitalisation and advanced analytics. Smart agricultural methods have made farming more precise with the integration of field data, weather and yield forecasts and patterns, and agronomic advisory. Agro-financing is evolving with advanced farm lending techniques through electronic applications, Direct Benefits Transfer, weather-linked disbursal of loans and insurance pay-outs. Diverse applications of IoT devices in manufacturing plants are enabling analytics-based insights to improve production and availability in a cost-efficient manner. The supply chain management has improved with real-time, integrated technologies such as Blockchain that have directly connected farmers with the wholesale markets and this ensures a fair and timely price realisation for the produce. The immutability of the Blockchain technology has made it possible for all the links in the value chain such as farmers, consumers, retailers, etc. to register and share information with maximum safety, transparency and agility. Information related to the climate and environment, soil moisture, seed quality, demand, sale price, payment status, etc. can be accessed by the farmers on a single platform. Small farmers will be empowered to operate in an organized manner while bypassing the involvement of the middlemen.
The government must consider a budget that promotes a tech-led agricultural ecosystem in the country. A risk-intelligent approach to innovations will drive a positive change in the business models, and lead to a paradigm shift that will generate value for farmers, increase their share-of-wallet, and offer tremendous support to the wellbeing of the economy.
2) Robust financial institutions – the cornerstone of economic development
2018 saw the economy and the markets getting shaken by the tremors of the banking frauds and corporate governance failures. According to RBI’s Financial Stability Report, the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in India have been the major victims of financial frauds over the past four years, and this is an indicator that the PSBs are lacking adequate risk-control processes to be able to operate in a threat laden landscape. The public-sector banks accounted for 90 percent of all banking frauds. The RBI report also highlights that the number of large frauds rose from 4,306 (>=1 Lac) cases worth INR 10,170.8 crore in 2013-14 to 5,917 such cases amounting to INR 41,167 crore in 2017-18. A total of 3,416 large frauds worth INR 30,420.2 crore were reported through the first half of financial year 2018-19.
Such trends definitely demand a reform especially in an environment where operational risks have led to governance and board oversight fiascos. The risk culture needs to evolve and high risk maturity must be demonstrated by the banking sector. The onus is on financial organisations to invest in security, check and balances, and a framework for thorough analysis while on-boarding vendors, establishing partnerships, and even during the recruitment of personnel. Governance standards will need to upgrade to incorporate an exhaustive compliance mechanism and a more robust internal audit function.
We believe that the government will continue its focus on strengthening the corporate governance regime, financial operations and security measures, especially in the PSBs, to regain the investors’ trust in the market. An increased share in the annual budget dedicated towards wider digital deployment across processes in the financial organisations may go a long way in restoring their operational credibility.
3) Ecommerce, cybersecurity, and data protection: Correlation and implications
Technological development and data proliferation have created a host of opportunities for employment, industrial expansion, emergence of the ecommerce sector, and the overall market growth. Data protection has emerged as the trending subject of discussion across the globe, and eventually, the need for a plenary data protection mandate has been manifested by the government in India through the Personal Data Protection bill.
While the propositions in the Bill are being praised, there is no denying the fact that it has to be refined further to elucidate certain provisions, calibrate the wide discretionary powers of the State and specify “appropriate mechanisms” for procuring consent. The Bill will need to be tweaked to strike the subtle balance between the citizen’s right to privacy and the ease of doing business in India. Non-compliance to the requirements can attract severe civil and criminal penalties considering which absolute cognizance and comprehension of all aspects of the Bill are critical for data-driven businesses.
Actualising the idea of India’s economic dominance, the government, the policy makers, the bureaucrats and business leaders will need to adopt an advanced approach to governance and the delivery of services. There are a myriad influencers that impact the economic indicators of a nation as diverse as India, but success in mastering the fundamental factors could give a momentous boost to India’s economy.