As India comes to grips with the unforeseen threat of Covid-19, it sees opportunities up ahead. And they appear in the form of growth led by innovation, especially in the light of the recent focus on self-reliance in manufacturing as part of the government’s ambitious Aatmanirbhar Bharat project. This is where the navigation skills of entrepreneurs, as captains of industry, come in. For the coming generations, the mantra should be conscious entrepreneurship, which helps create a sustainable business that also serves a larger purpose. Because, let us not forget that while pursuing profits, companies can have a significant impact on the ecosystem.
Conscious entrepreneurship puts equal emphasis on the bottomline and the creation of a culture of empathy. “Be a colleague, not a boss”, goes the mantra. Create a professional, positive work environment where employees feel part of the company. I learned this from my father Qimat Rai Gupta, who was well-known for his man-management. There was some innate wisdom that gave him insights into human behaviour. It’s been over five years since I took over as CMD at Havells, and I’m proud to say even during the pandemic, our people (both employees and retail partners) remained connected, ensuring a sustainable relationship. In fact, it further fuelled the need to stay connected, invoke the spirit of togetherness, humanity and hope among our stakeholders. That was one of the key reasons for our growth.
One must also understand that the initial challenges an entrepreneur faces need not always end happily, with the successful founding of a company. Entrepreneurs are always living with questions, doubts and challenges, which keep varying according to their situations, business growth, industry landscape and so on. Often, existing problems morph into a different set of challenges. To combat these, an entrepreneur must always feel a sense of paranoia. Paradoxically, it helps them rise to the challenges. Hence, it is safe to say that a healthy paranoia can only benefit entrepreneurs.
More than this, though, I believe that as a leader, it is critical to reflect and correct things in time. Future entrepreneurs must prepare a business strategy that navigates through the fluctuating market environment and caters to evolving consumer or ecosystem needs. It is incumbent for every entrepreneur to demonstrate agility and plan for the future. For instance, given the new hybrid nature of work, entrepreneurs need to leverage collaborative technology platforms to provide employees with many learning and development opportunities.
Next Wave Of Growth
Indian innovation, skills and creativity have already changed the dynamics of the global economy. As per the Care Ratings’ 2021 report, our GDP growth, driven by agriculture and industry, is likely to be 8.8-9 per cent in the current financial year. In addition, various government initiatives like privatisation of public sector enterprises, national infrastructure pipeline, targeted investment through the Production Linked Incentives (PLI) scheme, etc., chart a positive, long-term prospect for the Indian economy.
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The next 10-20 years pose a huge opportunity. Let’s look at the Fast Moving Electrical Goods (FMEG) industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving a digital wave in home automation, making it imperative for brands to offer innovative life solutions that help customers realise their smart home aspirations. Today, the consumer is far more aware than they used to be only five years ago. Moreover, rising disposable incomes and changing values are acting as a key catalyst, propelling consumer demand. Rising internet penetration has further accelerated the adoption of smart solutions in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
Today, digitisation has transformed the market, as well as consumer needs. Businesses, especially after the pandemic, have been compelled to adopt an online strategy as more and more consumers are switching online. Competition is also getting tough with a rising preference to buy locally.
Make In India
We at Havells were already “making in India” before it became a political agenda. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s call to boycott all things foreign, my father chose to adopt a strategy of manufacturing locally as early as in the 1970s. Although he bought the Havells brand name, he remained true to his “Swadeshi” pledge, at a time when almost all electrical brands were importing products.
I recall an incident my father told me. One day, he met a dealer from Kanpur while travelling by train, who used to stock switches made by Siemens and Larsen & Toubro, and would not entertain my father’s request to display Havells switches. He told my father, rather derisively, “Do you think you can sell whatever you want? Go and worry about manufacturing first.”
Most others would have been disheartened, but my father saw in it an invaluable message. If he had to address quality concerns, he had to get into full-fledged manufacturing. But the perception of poor quality, a carryover from the past, was not easy to shed. Once he and his team had brought manufacturing under control, they focused on quality certifications. They would go over technical details of products with customers and explain that Havells’ quality was second to none. The baton has now passed to the next generation, but Havells still manufactures 95 per cent of its products locally. Today, the foundation of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, which raises the need for the country to become self-reliant through indigenous manufacturing, finds its place in the white goods industry. At Havells, we did not limit our capabilities to manufacturing locally, but emphasised investing and strengthening research and development. It complemented the strength of our product portfolio to cater to needs of our customers. As today’s consumers raise the “Vocal for Local” call, entrepreneurs who manufacture locally will be able to tap a larger market share.
The Global Manufacturing Hub
As a part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign, India is taking steps to emerge as a new global manufacturing hub. According to a recent CII-EY report, India has the potential to attract $120-160 billion in FDI annually by 2025, provided we maintain the FDI to GDP ratio within 3-4 per cent. To achieve this, it is important to acknowledge that technology will be a key enabler for various sectors to spearhead the transformation. The future is tech-oriented, and to have a long-term business, you need to adopt technology in every aspect of your organisation.
Industry 4.0 can help strengthen the industry and be a strong foundation for the post-Covid ecosystem, especially for some sectors like manufacturing. According to a United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) report, Industry 4.0 can contribute to finding new ways of dealing with significant global challenges, such as climate change, lack of clean energy access, depletion of natural resources, economic stagnation and reducing the digital divide.
Ensuring technological breakthroughs and providing a differentiated experience will harness future growth in most industries. At the same time, the last one year of the pandemic has evoked a sense of consciousness and self-awareness. Entrepreneurs need to adopt a flexible yet robust business strategy that meets future needs of consumers, as the coming years are going to experience rapid changes—both in mindset and business environment.
(Views are personal.)
Anil Rai Gupta CMD, Havells India