Meeting the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians
- We cannot hope that by the sheer force of our population, India will turn into a golden land that readily fulfills the aspirations of its people.
- Producing educated and employable youth with entrepreneurial skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities are essential.
- Successful entrepreneurs should take responsibility for leading change and investing in India's youth and potential.
AdvertisementThe news of India becoming the most populous nation has made headlines. On the face of it, India overtaking China seems to be a good milestone if sheer numbers can be construed as an indication of success!
With 40% of its young population, India boasts another impressive statistic. These numbers and milestones will become meaningful if and when we become the world’s No. 1 economy and actualise the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians. So how do we make it happen? How do we turn our massive population to our strategic advantage? Hope is not a strategy.
With an enormous population comes an enormous responsibility! Leaders across the spectrum, in the government, in businesses and other institutions and organisations, are obligated and responsible for ensuring all Indians get enough opportunities to grow and shine in the world.
We cannot just hope that by the sheer force of our population, India will turn into a golden land that readily fulfills the aspirations of its people. Just hoping is not a strategy — we need a take a deeper look at how we can realise these aspirations.
I believe that we should focus on 5 key strategies to convert 1.4 billion aspirations into a strategic advantage for India. Here they are -
Single point of success or failure
The first strategy to turn India's 1.4 billion aspirations into a strategic advantage is to revamp the education system. Producing educated and employable youth with entrepreneurial skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities are essential. A few elite schools churning out super-achievers will not move the needle; we need to focus on the government schools at the bottom of the pyramid, which caters to 50% of India's children.
Additionally, the top of the pyramid must become globally competitive by leading and owning value creation. India's single point of success or failure lies in providing quality education to all children, regardless of government or private schools, so that they can create and own the next generation of technology and brands, making India the most developed country in the world.
While initiatives such as FLN (Foundational Learning and Numeracy) and bringing global universities to India are steps in the right direction, empowering our teachers across all levels is crucial to enhance our education system. Providing teachers with the best resources, including technology tools and freedom from other duties, will allow them to focus on their primary duty of teaching. If we fail to empower our teachers, all other efforts will be futile.
Let 100 towns bloom
The second strategy involves transforming 100 small towns into smart towns with state-of-the-art infrastructure. It is human nature that the environment around them fuels aspirations. It takes just one great road, one good building or one good office to fuel the aspirations of the many to create better and more. Each of these 100 towns should focus on developing expertise in a specific skill to become best in class. Despite its downfall, the history of Detroit and how it came to be known as the Motor City is a story worth emulating for our towns.
The town-specific certifications for the skills should be challenging and prestigious to attain, the latest technology and machines should be brought in, and adequate funding provided to start-ups – in short, artificially create the conditions that will create in India a hundred Detroit’s with different skills.
The third strategy I propose is urgently upscale our health infrastructure to enhance the quality of life. Lack of medical facilities and ill health can extinguish any aspiration. In our country, it is common to see a family sinking into debt due to medical treatment-related expenses. Healthy workforce is as important as ‘plenty’ in the workforce.
Fourthly, India must think globally and act locally to exploit global trends in various sectors. While the IT industry has been booming in this regard, there are opportunities for growth in other areas such as ship-building, medical tourism, education campuses, fundamental research, drug discovery and electronic manufacturing that cater to the global market. By identifying and investing in such sectors, India can develop competitive advantages and achieve global recognition.
Up the value
The fifth and last strategy is closely tied up with my first point. We as a country need to shift from a services mindset to a product mindset. Manufacturing an Apple watch may give us a few dollars; however, if we own the product, the earnings will be greater, not to mention the uptick in our positioning on the global stage.
Successful entrepreneurs should take responsibility for leading this change and investing in India's youth and potential. The idea is not only to create more skill-based jobs but to make India a wealthy nation and ensure the aspirations of its citizens are turned into a strategic advantage. Only then will our numbers speak!
(The writer is the former CEO of
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