Understanding the misunderstood Make in India

Welbound Worldwide’s P Sajith narrates a tale, a fiction of sorts. This tale of the narrator’s encounter with a friend, attempts to explore the true sense of Make in India – a concept that we all seem to have misunderstood.

23 Dec 2015 | By P Sajith

CK is a printer-publisher. I work for an MNC.
We have been friends for a while, now.
CK feels the karmic reason for his existence is to be my conscience keeper. And I don’t usually mind it. 
This is the governing principle of our friendship. 
CK plays his role well — making me stay away from making decisions, good or bad. He does this over long-lasting phone calls, my phone drains its juice and along go the ideas on my mind.
The phone rings
CK (Annoyed): Don’t you feel guilty of helping an MNC establish itself as the leaders in their field in India? Why don't you help an Indian manufacturer, instead? Haven’t you heard of our PM’s great initiative - Make in India, that will provide a market for Indian products, not only in India but across the globe. 
And when our leader is globetrotting, trying to sell our products, you promote a global giant at the cost of many deserving MSMEs who can give you a similar product.
The phone disconnects
That was my friend losing his cool. I could hear a lion roar, somewhere in the background. 
I was disappointed. Despite so many articles, reviews, discussions and ‘news at 9s’ around this subject, even learned friends like my CK had no idea about what Make in India is.  
Made in India, Made for India, Made against India, Can be made in India, and Can’t be made in India, all these suggestions combined together form 'Make in India, right ?
I call up CK. 
No answer. 
The landline is answered by his wife.
Regular pleasantries are replaced by swearing. As CK comes on the line, I can hear: “Why does he have friends who make him lose his sleep?”
CK is still sore with me for I being the single largest stumbling block to the ‘Make in India’ dream. Without taking any further risks of him cutting me off, I invite him for a play in the evening, Mahadevbhai, an offer, I knew, he could not refuse.
Mahadevbhai (1892-1942) explores the relevance of Gandhiji in today’s world. CK sat with his eyes glued on Jaimini Pathak (who plays Mahadevbhai, Gandhiji’s secretary), tears trickling down, sobbing at times, and in the end when even his kerchief starts crying, I loan him mine.
I ask him for a walk after the show.
The lion starts roaring again. "Do you have any nationalism left in you? Didn’t those historic moments in our freedom struggle, which were so beautifully depicted in the play, wake up the Indian in you?”
I reminded him that I did loan him a wet kerchief.
I cannot take this any further; the last abuse I wanted him to give me was anti-national. Over a dozen cutting chais and vada pavs, I go on the offensive, trying to trash his misconceptions. 
“The MNC I work for manufactures their products in Indian factories, employs five thousand people in these factories, all Indians. And Indians are at key positions in their offices and factories in other parts of the world, too. They provide best in class products cost-effectively to our Indian customers so that they can improve their quality without resorting to imports. Tell me, what is anti-national in this?”
“But they repatriate the profits back to their countries.”
“After paying all taxes in India, right? And as against these, your small scale manufacturer friend employs less than 100 people. Both are making in India, factories in India, using Indian labour, raw material either sourced locally or imported - in same percentages, and which is more beneficial for India.” 
CK takes more time to gulp down the sip of tea, as if he was tasting wine. 
Unable to bear a silent lion, not hungry any more, looking at escape routes, I provoke him further.
This time with numbers.
“Fifty percent of labour in India is employed by the agriculture sector. And this contributes just 15 percent to our economy.
“The service sector that includes the IT sector, employs 30 percent of the labour pool, but is responsible for 60 percent of India’s GDP. The rest is contributed by manufacturing. 
“India’s GDP has been growing at three times the rate of employment in the last few years. From now, for the next ten years, we will add ten million youth to the labour pool, every year. 
“Agriculture employment is declining by five million every year. As against this, we have been able to grow jobs by about seven million per annum in the last decade and this includes low paying construction jobs and the government rural employment schemes. 
“Imagine the unrest, if we can't bridge the gap?
“The developed nations had progressed from agriculture to more productive manufacturing during industrial revolution. At the peak of efficiencies, they progressed further to services that added more value. It was different in the case of India where we moved to services from agriculture. While this helped creation of more jobs, the modern services needed highly skilled and trained people, somebody who cannot migrate from farming.
“Manufacturing has the potential to provide more jobs as the growth in services may not result in a similar growth in employment. Agriculture provides the lowest wages and as you move to manufacturing or services, the income improves. In short, you cross the poverty line, somewhere in between. That's what Korea and China did.”
CK (interrupting): Again China? Why do you want us to follow China? This is why I say you are not patriotic.
“But CK, let's not forget this: twenty five years of liberalisation and growth in industry resulted in half a billion people coming out of poverty in China. Is it not something for all of us to cheer about? 
“We need to be worried about the four hundred million poor in India, the numbers that can swell if we do not find enough jobs for new ones. So, Make in India with a branding of the lion, is nothing but a branding of our national manufacturing mission, that needs to find one hundred million jobs in ten years, and this is the biggest challenge faced by our nation till now.
“More than the Indian manufacturers making for the world or brands from India succeeding in global markets, the need of the hour is that large corporations set up factories in India, generating opportunity to unskilled or semi skilled labour. 
“What will make them invest here? May be government initiatives to bring in labour reforms, better infrastructure and so on; but a key benefit for them will be the huge potential of the domestic market.” 
CK: You mean to say that we are inviting large global corporations to come and invest in India, use our cheap labour and then compete with Indian manufacturers to sell their products in India; and then the Indian companies close shop and more people lose jobs?
The lion’s roaring is now a changed tune, more like a wolf and he has stopped ordering more chai. 
It is time for me to keep mum.
“I don't know. I am treading an unknown zone. It has issues and dangers on both sides. We need to find jobs; we also need to protect jobs. If what the economists say is true, then there are no simple solutions.
“Starting with the question: why should the large corporations come to India - with so many fundamental issues like archaic labour laws, poor infrastructure, complex land acquisition policies - if home grown brands provide more employment opportunities? 
“The biggest issue is the scale; it's not about hundreds but millions of jobs.”
It's December and the night is cold. CK has gone back to sulking. I wish I had Mahadevbhai with me.