Vidhi is a young think tank becoming a key advisor for the Indian Government

The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy (‘Vidhi’) is an independent think-tank doing legal research to make better laws and improve governance for the public good – and right now it is the Indian Government’s “go to” advisor on policy areas, research, drafting and other legal matters.

Vidhi is a combination of great brains but the one to watch is Arghya Sengupta, Founder and Research Director at Vidhi, Rhodes Scholar who spent time at Oxford and prior to founding Vidhi, he was at Oxford as a Lecturer in Administrative Law at Pembroke College.

His special areas include regulation of the digital economy – the hot topic of the day.

Vidhi is a strongly independent think tank.

But, just to give you some idea of their amazing achievements and output – Vidhi has produced 2 books, 87 blogs, 8 briefing books, 43 conferences, 1 film, gained 32 international partnerships, 30 journal articles, 411 Op-Ed pieces and 112 reports.

Vidhi has assisted the government in 29 draft statutes and in 35 rules and regulations drafts.

Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy is one to watch.

How does Indian democracy work?

Pictured above is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

I am often asked about India’s democracy – most people know of India as “the world’s biggest democracy” but few know the structure of it. Here is a short summary:

Indian government

The Republic of India is a federal democracy comprising 28 states and nine union territories. The Head of State is the President and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister – currently PM Narendra Modi.

Indian Parliament

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The Indian Parliament is bicameral, comprising the 545-member Lok Sabha (‘people’s’ or lower house) and the 245-member Rajya Sabha (‘states’ or upper house). Lok Sabha members are elected by universal adult suffrage every five years (except for two appointed Anglo-Indian members) using the ‘first past the post’ voting system. The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution; one third of its members retire every second year. One third of Rajya Sabha members are elected every two years by the legislative assemblies of the Indian states.

BJP is the current Government

The 2019 Indian national election for the Lok Sabha saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win a second consecutive term with 303 out of 543 seats.

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India and Australia are perfectly placed to become closer allies in the post-Covid19 world

The relationship between India should flourish in strategic and defence areas plus trade and investment.

Both Australia and India are significant powers in the Indian Ocean region.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is a major power.

The trade relationship

India was Australia’s eighth-largest trading partner and fifth-largest export market in 2018-19, driven by coal and international education. Two-way goods and services trade with India was $30.3 billion in 2018-19, and the level of two-way investment was $30.7 billion in 2018.

Strategic relations much closer now

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has worked hard on the India relationship and his personal connection with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

On 4 June 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, participated in the Australia-India Leaders’ Virtual Summit. At this meeting, the two Prime Ministers elevated the bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).

The CSP is based on mutual understanding, trust, common interests and the shared values of democracy and rule of law. Through the CSP, both countries have committed to work together across a range of areas.

The CSP also marks a step forward in the two countries’ ambitious agenda to expand our trade and economic relationship, as outlined in the India Economic Strategy (IES), which was released in July 2018 and endorsed by the Australian Government in November 2018.

India’s growing economy and young population need Australian goods and services

Over the next 20 years, a growing India will need many of Australia’s goods and services, including agriculture, education and skills training, and healthcare. There will of course be growth across most areas – but these are the standouts.

Since 2000, India’s GDP has grown seven-fold to reach USD3 trillion. India’s economy is forecast to become the third largest by 2030 (currently seventh) in market exchange rate terms. India already has the third largest economy in PPP terms and is set to maintain this ranking. The two-way stock of investment was valued at AUD30.7 billion in 2018. In 2018, Australia’s investment in India was valued at AUD15.6 billion and India’s investment in Australia was valued at AUD15.1 billion. India was Australia’s 18th largest investment destination.

The Aussie “India Economic Strategy”

Australia’s economic engagement with India is underpinned by the India Economic Strategy (IES), which was commissioned by the Australian Government in 2017 and led by Mr Peter Varghese, former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2012-2016) and High Commissioner to India (2009-2012). This document is the guide for future growth.

Education is huge but facing challenges

Education is Australia’s largest service export to India, valued at AUD5.5 billion and accounting for around 85 per cent of the total. Indian students in Australia number almost 110, 000 (year to date September 2019), which marks a 33 per cent increase over the previous year. These students made 132,079 enrolments in Australia, comprising 15 per cent of international enrolments. As an education export market, India is second only to China, with exports valued at AUD12.1 billion in 2018-19 and 246,454 enrolments in Australia. Adapting to post-Covid19 education market changes will be a challenge for Australian universities.

Austrade is showing and creating the way

The Australia-India Business Exchange (AIB-X) is a new, Austrade-led, Australia-India business marketing platform that will build on the success of Australian Business Week in India, last held in 2017. This multi-month campaign included a coordinated program of activities and events. Minister Birmingham led a business mission to India in late February as part of AIB-X, with sectoral events and workshops to be held in five cities.

This will provide an opportunity to deepen trade and investment ties, focusing on small and medium across the IES’ priority sectors. Further information can be found on the Austrade website.

Plus Austrade has set up The Australian Store at Amazon India – primed to take off over the next few years.

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People-to-people links

Australia and India are building strong and lasting ties through our people-to-people links.

The Indian diaspora (comprising both Australians of Indian origin and Indians resident in Australia) is now Australia’s fastest growing large diaspora. According to the most recent (2016) Census, the number of people born in India amounts to 592,000, representing 2.4 per cent of the Australian population, or 1 in 50 people. Around 700,000 people claim Indian ancestry.

India remains Australia’s largest source of skilled migrants and the second largest source of international students. Hinduism is our fastest growing religion and Punjabi is our fastest growing language.

The Australia India Council

The Australia-India Council is also advancing Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests with India. Each year it provides grants for programs linking the two countries. I was fortunate to support the Genesis Horticulture Services research mission to India in November – part funded by AIC.

(Thanks to DFAT for lots of the above information)

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India’s Reliance second to Apple in “FutureBrand Index”

Who said India could not produce strong brands?

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries has been ranked second biggest brand after Apple on the FutureBrand Index 2020.

“This year’s highest entrant at number two, Reliance Industries excels on every attribute,” FutureBrand said, releasing its 2020 Index.

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“One of the most profitable companies in India, Reliance is, very well respected and is seen as behaving ethically as well as being associated with growth, innovative products and great customer service. People have a strong emotional connection with the organisation,” it added.

FutureBrand, a global brand transformation company, said part of Reliance’s success could be attributed to Mukesh Ambani’s recasting of the firm as a one-stop-shop for Indians.

“The chairman built on the existing petrochemicals business, transforming it into a digital behemoth designed to meet every customer need. Today, this company is engaged in several sectors including energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, and telecommunications. Now that Google and Facebook are taking equity stakes in the firm, we may see Reliance jostling for the top spot in the next Index,” it said.

Britain’s invasion of India, the power of the Muslim rulers and Ayodhya

Indian PM Modi’s emotion in Ayodhya, “British” rule and the power of the Mughals – how can we understand what is happening today?

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To understand modern India and even PM Modi, I feel we need to turn to Swami Vivekananda – who said:

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We talk about the British conquering India and this defines today, but as William Dalrymple writes in The Anarchy, the seizing of power in India was done by a private company – probably the first outsourced act of violence in history.

That company was the East India Company and as Dalrymple writes: “The Company’s conquest of India almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history.” Worth reading that line again!

It is hard to know and even relate to how my Indian friends feel about the two major invasions of their country in recent centuries – first, the Mughal empire and then this East India Company.

Which brings me to Ayodhya.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprinkled sacred water and flowers into a small hole on Wednesday, part of a ritual marking the start of construction of a grand Hindu temple in the city of Ayodhya.

With emotion Modi said: “Today centuries of waiting are over.” For many of my Indian friends, this was a shared emotion.

Western media persists with the line that all this is “Hindu nationalism”. I am not so sure.

It will be up to Indians – and not to people like me or the media – to define what is happening under PM Modi and what the national motivation is. Most change is painful at first but in lifting people out of poverty and restoring confidence, he has brought great optimism to India.

Now India faces another struggle – Covid 19 – which makes arguments about history seem like something of an indulgence.

From our hearts to yours, we wish India success in this life and death battle against the virus.

With Covid19 we are seeing the vast and deep truth of that classic Indian saying Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – meaning “the world is one family”.

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Covid19 could lead us to a cleaner more innovative world – if we rethink what we do

About seven million people are killed by air pollution every year. The current model of modern society is unsustainable.

Two leading Professors say that looking through a COVID-19 lens provides us an amazing picture outside and shows some innovative pathways on living in harmony with nature, i.e. new-modern society.

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They are Professor Suresh Bhargava, RMIT University, Australia (pictured above) and Professor Seeram Ramakrishnan, National University of Singapore (below).

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Here are some points from their recent paper on the topic:

Contrary to devastating effects, the COVID19 had positive outcomes in terms of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of natural resources, and climate change.  Satellite imageries confirm the reduction of NOx, SOx and other pollutants in all cities of the world.

COVID19 provides an opportunity to rethink everything humans do. The current model of modern society is unsustainable. Reversing the clock and going back to pre-modern society built on fulfilling just the needs of humans is not realistic.

Pollution

Sustaining the modern society built on fulfilling the needs and wants of humans requires out of the box thinking. In the current climate of COVID, companies are struggling to survive on top of challenges in industry 4.0 or digitalization of products and services. How will they be able to think about sustainability while their worry is about resilience, and make the necessary adjustments to their business for the long term?

Sustainability has tended to be a secondary priority for many industries and especially SME businesses. Now faced with business survival and viability concerns, what is the status of existing sustainability initiatives in companies and across industries? How has the pandemic affected existing initiatives and longer-term targets, plans and ambitions on the sustainability front?  How can organisations get back on track with regard to their sustainability ambitions e.g. are there synergistic business-led propositions that can serve these aims? What countries can do in terms of sustainability, circular economy and Paris agreement to decarbonize while growing shrink economies and rising employment opportunities?

Using a COVID19 lens, there are opportunities for decarbonisation while not compromising the modern ways of living and economic growth.

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Countries and companies will shorten the supply chains and value chains.  Globalization will take newer form relying more on digital technologies and internet.  This will be facilitated by yet to emerge innovations in finance and commerce.

COVID19 has unexpected effect on food industry. Clean meat is touted as a solution to zoonotic diseases associated with current methods of producing meat from the animals.  Clean meat is made from plant based, cultivated cells.  Hence the carbon footprint is lower than animal sourced meat.

Critics will argue for slow and careful introduction of clean meat to the mass population.  Therein lies huge opportunities for innovations, technologies, new jobs and new pathways of economic growth while caring for the Earth.

Importance of safe water and its adequate supply is highlighted by the COVID19.  Sustainable future lies in the zero-waste water innovations and technologies.

The single use plastic wastes have been identified for their pollution of the marine ecology and subsequent negative effects on the food chain and human health.  Science, business, standards, and policy innovations are needed to replace the petrochemical derived plastics with degradable bioplastics derived from the renewable sources.  Designing products with end-of-life considerations and life cycle engineering opens up opportunities for economy growth and new jobs creation while improving the quality of environment.

The Energy sector is also affected by the COVID19.  Oil futures went into negative. It is an opportune time for the governments to eliminate the fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewable energy infrastructure as long-term nation building.

Perhaps, governments and companies should together accelerate the electrification of transportation.  New jobs and new economic growth to happen in vehicle design and manufacturing, digitization, as well as charging infrastructure.

COVID19 transformed shopping and brought almost the whole of humanity to on-line shopping.  The on-line shopping for groceries and food deliveries are on par with electronic goods and accessories.

Similarly, work has moved to telework, and the Education moved to on-line learning and assessment.

Digital services for virtual meetings, online learning, telemedical diagnostics, government services, ecommerce, grocery delivery, e-banking, and entertainment all experienced unprecedented growth in demand. The hyper scale data centres with their 24x7x365 resilient operation, are the heart of digital transformation.

Looking to the coming decade, the introduction of 5G will further accelerate the digital transformation era with its clear alignment with Industrial 4.0, in which real time data and automation will power more of the industrial world.

Clear messages emerged from the COVID19 pandemic include, the digital transformation is a necessity to keep society running; mental health is important for the general well-being and productivity of a person; and a healthy living environment is a basic human right.

The circular economy vision, decarbonisation and sustainability efforts mitigate climate change thus create opportunities for sustained economic growth and new jobs creation. 

Amazing research work by the two and continues the innovative and collaborative approaches of my friend Professor Suresh Bhargava – well done!

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Two Indian business giants are innovating during Covid19.

Expansion often means exploring the unexplored.

Two of India’s largest companies have done it.

Reliance Industries Ltd on Wednesday said it’s going to expand its food-and-grocery play in JioMart to include fashion, consumer electronics, and smartphones by this festive season. Tata Consulting Services (TCS) on July 8 launched Quartz smart solution to offer cryptocurrency trading.

jiomart

JioMart’s plan to revolutionise the e-grocery space involves the Kirana stores, the oldest form of local mum and dad retail in India.

JioMart has been bringing small stores online, thereby putting kirana store owners at the centre of its plans. What’s in it for Reliance? The Kirana stores become last point of delivery in the logistics trail, plus, by digitising a local store you open a minefield of hyperlocal information. With a larger size of kirana-store customers, B2B e-commerce platforms get a robust database of actual sales instead of estimates. This data can be sold to brand manufacturers. It’s one of the biggest revenue streams for any company taking kirana stores online. RIL is one smart business!

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TCS is looking to get an early-mover advantage with Quartz, having a big impact in the global enterprise blockchain-solutions market. Its new product, Quartz, aims to make swift inroads into cryptocurrency trading in countries such as Switzerland and Singapore where it’s legal. TCS is eyeing high-net-worth investors, private banking, and wealth-management segments. However, Quartz may not find takers in India in the absence of regulatory clarity.

How India is different from China – insights from Asialink Business

Asialink Business has a wonderful Asian Market Update Series and a recent one focused on India.

One of the speakers was Mary Manning – Portfolio Manager at Ellerston Capital.

Dr Manning manages the Ellerston India Fund among other Asian investments.

She detailed why India is unique and not the next China. For example, the structures of the two economies are very different and beyond coal, exporting bulk commodities is not going to be the bedrock of Australia’s relationship with India.

India is also at a very different stage of economic development to China, with different consumer preferences, price points and distribution channels. These factors give rise to a completely different set of sectoral opportunities, that will most likely require capital investment on the ground – but one size does not fit all when it comes allocating capital in India.

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Dr Manning cited several examples of successful investment in India by multi-national corporations that cut across geographies, sectors, time frames and business models, such as majority stakes in listed companies, through to unlisted joint ventures and distribution agreements. These companies include household names in Unilever, Suzuki, Prudential, Macquarie, Facebook, Alibaba, McDonalds, Walmart, and QBE.

Dr Manning said the higher returns on equity that could be achieved in India were a major reason why Australian companies should be considering investment opportunities there.

She said there was currently an investor scramble for ‘new economy’ assets in India in key areas such as healthcare and infrastructure and while good buying opportunities could present over the next six to 12 months for equity investors – with the Indian economy weakened by COVID-19 – a long-term view was needed.

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7 ways to succeed in wonderful India

This short list can be your guide to success in wonderful India:

  1. Bring a culturally aware and adaptable mind to India – you will need both. By “culturally aware” I mean more than how to greet and exchange cards. Cultural awareness is understanding how the other thinks and requires some study and effort.
  2. Develop some flexible plans for India – they will need to change!
  3. Commit to India for the long term. One or two years is not enough. I have been going to India since around 2005 and still learning new things and making new connections – to find a way through the maze that is India.
  4. Make social media a part of your program to build your brand and product awareness in India – the shift to social media/digital marketing there is huge.IndiaDigitalEco
  5. Adapt planning and approaches for the need of your business and sector. You might need a quick market study – or you might need studies over several years. Each is different.
  6. Learn as much as you can about your potential market – connect with your potential customers and see how they operate and what is happening in their sector.
  7. Let the market build a relationship with you and learn about your business. Again, like all the other points, this takes time.

CONCLUSION

It is going to take time to succeed in India. But for one of the biggest most dynamic markets with the youngest population on the planet, investing your time will pay off.

Why get closer to India? About 600 million people, more than half India’s population, are under 25 years old; no country has more young people. Remember the economic impact of the western “baby boom”? It is time the west moved closer to India in trade, culture and tourism. What do you think? As the great Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore said: “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

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Culture eats deals and even foreign policy for breakfast!

I write a lot about the vital role “culture” plays in doing business – especially in the context of the west and India. When things go wrong, generally the source is culture. Culture outlasts the deal and it is bigger than the contract.

The point about culture was researched at the University of Melbourne in 2013 by Dr Kadira Pethiyagoda in a doctoral thesis “The influence of dominant cultural values on India’s foreign policy.”

If you were wondering how India could simultaneously be friendly with the USA and Iran, culture has the answer.

The thesis identified four Indian cultural values that have survived the course of history – non-violence, hierarchy, pluralism and tolerance.

These cultural values have a significant influence on India’s foreign policy overall.

The most powerful value is non-violence.

The research found several non-violence driven preferences: global peace; caution in the use of force; and the preference for maintaining a non-violent image.

Hierarchy is found to be more influential in India’s nuclear posture than in its approach to humanitarian intervention. This value drives a preference for India rising up the global hierarchy of states.

Pluralism and tolerance strongly impact India’s approach to humanitarian intervention. These values support a pluralistic and tolerant worldview, the preference for sovereignty, and the preference for caution in condemning the internal actions of other states.

The author has a book out titled “Indian Foreign Policy and Cultural Values” which makes a major contribution to our understanding.

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