7 sutras India needs to follow to attain economic power

  • Milind Pant, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 20, 2015 12:30 IST

In a $75 trillion world economy, India with almost 20% of global population has just over 2% contribution. On the other hand China, in the last three decades, has turbo charged growth to become five times the size of the Indian economy. For all of India's strengths, size, accomplishments, it remains a country that has punched well below its potential.

It is a mathematical certainty that in the coming decade India will become one of the exciting, fastest growing large economies. Here are the seven 'sutras' or threads of thoughts which can help India in its path to economic greatness:

1. Magnet for global capital, technology

The world is awash with capital. Brazil, Russia and South Africa (of BRICS) are sputtering. Global investment funds are on the lookout for the next growth market. In parallel, global companies are scanning the horizon for a low cost manufacturing alternative to China. Vietnam and Thailand are a few options but India has a much larger labour pool (and growing). It also has the bonus of a large domestic market, strong foundation in engineering, management talent plus a proven track record in adapting, developing new technology.

As India becomes an easier place to do business; with stable policy, tax and currency, it is destined to become a magnet for global capital, ideas and technology.

2. Achieve global scale

Global leadership requires global scale. In the Fortune 500, among the top 10, there are two US and three Chinese companies. China's ICBC is the largest bank in the world by assets. For India, achieving that global scale may require some deft pragmatism. Some of India's largest companies--SBI, ONGC, Coal India, NTPC--are state owned and need to be unleashed to build global capabilities, competitiveness and eventually scale.

In addition, India's private sector has the platform of a large domestic market which, coupled with access to global capital and smart overseas acquisitions, has the potential to build world class companies.

3. Build iconic brands

Today, there is no Indian brand in the Interbrand Top 100 global list. The market capitalisation of Apple (No 1 on Interbrand) is 40% of India's GDP! Iconic brands are built on the foundation of great products. India has the potential to build big businesses, brands in new sectors like digital and the ones with distinct 'Indianness' such as movies, food and fashion. After all, five years back, it was unthinkable for Xiaomi, Huawei, Taobao, WeChat and Haier to embark on a quest to build global Chinese brands.

4. Turbo-charged urbanisation

China's development in the last three decades has been driven by planned urbanisation--adding 1% of urban population every year. Today, 55% of China's population lives in cities that are connected with high speed bullet trains and highways.

India with its democratic credentials and inclusive society can lead the world with innovation in urban development, management and local government accountability. In China and the US, city mayors compete for attracting businesses. Chengdu, a city in western, inland China claims to be the home of 230 Fortune 500 companies. Michael Bloomberg, one of America's most celebrated entrepreneurs, ran New York City for a decade.

5. Nurture world class universities, technology labs

During the Gupta dynasty, some of the world's best institutes of learning were in India. Before WWII, some of the top universities were in Germany. Today, the best ones are predominantly American. Silicon Valley has a symbiotic relationship with the web of universities in and around San Francisco.

None of India's institutes feature in Top 10 or even 100. In order to be a global leader, IISc, IITs, TIFR and more will need to step up to attract global faculty, students, private funds and a culture of restless creativity.

6. Innovate with social entrepreneurship

India cannot aspire to economic greatness with a fourth of India's population below the poverty line earning only $1.25 per day. On most of the Millennium Development Goals, India remains a laggard. The opportunity is for India to be a world leader in social entrepreneurship -- innovating new business models in nutrition, sanitation, education, agriculture, banking and more.

7. New model of local accountability

Despite all the above ingredients, India can 'trip' on its journey to economic greatness without fundamentally transforming the micro part of the government bureaucracy -- the one that touches the everyday life of every entrepreneur. The district is the smallest unit of administration in India. District administration must be accountable to all entrepreneurs (in fact, all citizens) to provide timely licensing, inspections, efficient services, utilities, maintenance of infrastructure -- all with digital enabled transparency.

In modern times, China has had the fastest per capita GDP growth of 30 times in the last 30 years! Now the stars are aligned for India's marathon to economic greatness with disciplined planning, pragmatism and flawless execution of the seven 'sutras'.

(Milind is the president and COO of YUM China. He has lived and worked in India, South Africa and Thailand and is based in Shanghai now. He blogs


and can be reached at


. The views expressed are personal.)

also read

PM Narendra Modi
Show comments