Four Ways India Can Thrive In The Fourth Industrial Revolution
I travel a lot, so I read a lot. And as I made the journey to this year’s India Economic Summit, I’ve read a number of articles asking what good digital disruption and the internet of things are to the world’s majority – especially when they don’t have access to electricity, education, shelter and public healthcare services; or even to a toilet. The question is particularly relevant for India, a country that has made huge advances in digital technology recently, while still grappling with basic infrastructure challenges.
How can India make the most of this new technological age, this fourth industrial revolution, while still dealing with pre-industrial problems? And where can companies contribute the most to finding and implementing the best solutions?
India is now the fastest-growing of the world’s large economies. Its challenge is to sustain that performance, provide jobs and ensure steadily rising incomes. It will be a tall order to become a $20 trillion economy – 10 times its current size. There is no global blueprint for success; each country must chart its own unique path to prosperity. And India needs to do this at a time when digital innovations are rapidly transforming global industry.
The country’s growth outlook is strong, and business confidence is rising. The new wave of economic reforms shows the government’s commitment to increasing transparency and improving the ease of doing business. But India still needs to undergo basic development if it is to meet the growing demand of the Indian population:
- Jobs for youth, where 45 percent of the population is below the age of 25
- Increased traditional manufacturing – only 17 percent of GDP, but factories need power
- Easier access to affordable, quality healthcare, when infant mortality remains shockingly high
- New skillsets to keep the country competitive, when skilled workers account for only 2 percent of the workforce
We All Know The Challenges. So What Gets India To The Next Level?
1. A Solid Foundation Of Strategic Infrastructure
Companies like GE must work together and in cooperation with the government on affordable and appropriate solutions to make progress on critical infrastructure challenges like reliable sources of electricity, clean water, sanitation and improved healthcare. These infrastructure decisions and their implications last for decades, for lifetimes. We need to find digital solutions in order to unlock value across India’s economy, eliminating major inefficiencies.
2. Boosting Traditional Manufacturing While Adopting New Digital Technologies
India must take a pragmatic approach to quickly boost traditional manufacturing while adopting new digital industrial technologies that will secure long-term competitiveness. Efficiency and productivity is where digital industrial is changing the game. Advanced manufacturing and industrial internet innovations can help India increase the efficiency of traditional industries, at the same time as it develops new cutting-edge technologies.
India must participate in global markets to create more jobs. Producing globally traded goods can more rapidly generate high-paying jobs at scale, while allowing workers to learn valuable skills.
4. Human Capital Development
Training and development programmes build local capability and ensure a long-term vision for the country. India needs to strike the right balance between vocational and new digital industrial skills, boosting education in data science and coding but also providing greater training in traditional manufacturing skills. Private companies must play a key role in this. This means:
- Creating highly skilled sustainable jobs
- Making use of research and manufacturing networks across the country
- Developing local supply chains (small and medium-size companies will play a key role in this)
- Investing significantly in training and development
Traditional And Digital
The fourth industrial revolution plays to India’s strengths; the country has a natural advantage in digital technologies, ahead of many countries. By putting the two pieces of the puzzle together, it is possible to redefine what industrialization means for countries like India: digital connectivity, new materials and advanced manufacturing techniques to transform industry – combined with traditional manufacturing and vocational skill development.
(John Rice is the vice chairman of GE and president and CEO of GE Global Growth Organization)
This article has been produced in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and in line with the programme topics of the India Economic Summit under the theme “Fostering an Inclusive India through Digital Transformation.” For more information about the meeting visit http://wef.ch/ies16
The views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.