Book review: Made in India: 75 years of business and enterprise
A compact and readable volume on the country’s achievements across fields since Independence, and where it is headed in the future
The title, Made In India, echoes one of the many catchy slogans coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the book cover has the familiar image of the (Gir) lion with chips and circuits and not the usual wheels and gears. Both send out the message loud and clear: emerging India can only become the ‘voice of the global south’ if it can raise its game and produce for the world. The disruption of international supply chains, first during the pandemic, and then deterioration in Sino-US relations has created unprecedented opportunities for India.
The author––who is identified as one of the indispensable ‘nav ratnas’ of PM Modi and has been appointed the sherpa for the G-20 summit to be held in September this year––deserves kudos for not falling into the hagiographic trap. Subtitled ‘75 Years of Business and Enterprise’, the book presents, in a grand historical sweep, the endeavours and accomplishments of the private sector in the country despite severe constraints during the era of mixed economy. What is remarkable is that Kant, who has also served as the former Niti Aayog CEO, does this objectively, giving past governments and policymakers their due.
The history of resurgent India doesn’t begin in 2014. Liberalisation started in 1991 when PV Narasimha Rao assumed office as the prime minister and appointed Manmohan Singh his finance minister. It continued under NDA1 and Manmohan’s first term as prime minister. The momentum was lost in the following instalment of his tenure. All this is well-known and doesn’t require detailed narration or analyses. Thus, the recap is quick and informative.
The book, which blends a retrospective with a scan of the horizon, is divided into seven chapters followed by an epilogue. The first two have self-explanatory titles: ‘Legacy of the Past’ and ‘From British Raj to License Permit Raj’. The third chapter, ‘Tryst with Reforms’, evokes the nation’s fresh encounter with another destiny. And, once the promise of it is redeemed, the world becomes an oyster on the platter of now-unshackled Indian companies. This and the following chapter make for engrossing reading.
The fifth segment deals with the challenges of revitalising the economy. The complex task required new paradigms, which is what the following section, quite fascinatingly, focuses on. It talks about startups, endearingly addressed as ‘upstarts’—brash and bold, not burdened by tradition or lineage.
The final issue that the book takes on is climate change––a catastrophic crisis looming over the not-too-distant future that threatens to derail the best-laid plans of mice and men. This is the realm where
a community of interests among nations must outweigh any conflict of interests. The author, who is credited with powerful brand building—whether it is positioning Kerala as ‘God’s Own Country’ to unleashing the ‘Incredible India’ campaign—minces no words and emphasises that this is everybody’s business.
The epilogue examines the horizon as India moves confidently (some would think over-confidently) beyond the 75th milestone towards the centenary celebrations of its Independence. In about 20 crisply written pages, we are provided with a glimpse of India’s strengths and potential in diverse fields. Comparisons with east and south-east Asian economies are provided in easy-to-refer tables.
The slim volume is packed with stimulating matter. Kant has reviewed a vast body of literature and condensed in a readable manner the work of experts to give his readers an opportunity to share the excitement and pride of the transformation of India as a result of nearly 25 years of economic reforms. Careers opening in different fields–– IT, hospitality, pharmaceuticals and others––empowered the young generation and encouraged them to dream big. India’s growth story will certainly make readers feel good. How one wishes some space had also been spared to warn against pitfalls and threats that may yet hinder our rise.