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Source: Government of India

I appreciate this opportunity to speak today you about Leveraging Business Opportunities in a post-Covid Scenario, I am particularly delighted to see my colleagues, our Ambassadors in Belarus, Romania and Uzbekistan in this forum, as they are spearheading efforts for deeper economic engagement. I also thank the experts from multilateral and specialized institutions for their contributions. My congratulations to the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) for taking the initiative to host this seminar and the virtual exhibition. It is a timely discussion to explore the way ahead in a rapidly transforming world.

Covid was an unprecedented disruption, at all levels, across the world. It was not only a health crisis but it also imposed socio-economic challenges. Global economy slumped, social interaction was curtailed and individuals were fearful. It was imperative for the global community to coordinate efforts in the fight against corona virus. This became even more evident as we sought new social norms to keep Covid at bay and explored solutions in vaccines and therapies to deal with the pandemic. India extended cooperation to more than 150 countries across the globe. Besides, India’s response in dealing with Covid was impressive. We built a robust health infrastructure and protocols and the spread of the virus was slowed down; we also saw high recovery and low death rates.

We cooperated on repatriation of stranded citizens, in both directions. We facilitated the return of over 1 lakh foreign citizens to their homes. Vande Bharat Mission, the largest repatriation exercise, which brought back 30 lakhs stranded citizens, was possible because of the active support from partners across the world. India provided emergency medical supplies to several countries and deployed medical teams, emerging as the first provider of humanitarian assistance to Covid. Thousands of Indian healthcare professionals went overseas to help them address the challenges of Covid. We strengthened cooperation in Covid research and testing. We stand ready to support in vaccine availability from India, as we will be the largest producers, once the vaccine is approved.

But Covid has shown that we have to redesign our interactions while accepting that the coronavirus may not be completely eliminated. In the new-Covid era, as there may not be post-Covid era for some time, there will be changes in social interactions, institutional exchanges and individual preferences. We see the preference for social distancing, internet based virtual meetings and tendency to work from home as some of the emerging trends. At the economic level, our new normal will depend on the revival of old business, seeking innovation and complementarities and exploring new business models. As business leaders, you will give shape to our economic engagement. The key opportunities will lie in:

First, Aatmanirbhar Bharat provides a vision of India’s plans to become a $5 trillion economy by promoting Make in India – Make for World. This will happen through our integration with the global economy. The thrust will be on joint ventures in infrastructure and manufacturing, integrating into supply chains and tapping sovereign wealth funds. Another focus will be on innovation and start-ups, for entrepreneurial collaborations that are future oriented. The success of Indian start-ups in IT, e-commerce, hospitality, logistics and others can leverage higher growth and economic ties.

Second, New Emerging Technologies, especially in ICT, consultancy, fin-tech, logistics, edutech, healthtech, biotech and others have enormous potential. These will promote efficiencies and leverage future growth and development. Further, cooperation on Industrial Revolution 4.0 will stimulate continued growth into the future and keep us abreast of the changes in technology. In some ways, we need to transform a segment of our economic interaction to an “ahead of the curve” partnership focused on technology collaboration, R&D and high capital-intensive projects that drive future oriented growth.

Thirdly, High Technology cooperation, especially in defence and space has potential to be stepped up. We have cooperation agreements in both sectors with many countries. With the increased participation of private sector in these areas, the potential for cooperation is much higher. In defence, we can expand equipment and armament export as well as collaborations under Make in India. In space, where we are world leaders, there is potential for training, fabrication and launch of satellites, use of satellite data and others.

Fourth, Indian business must venture into less-explored markets, which can yield greater dividends. The current focus of Indian business for trade, investment and technology exchanges is with relatively larger economies. While these can be expanded further, there is large untapped potential in other countries and new markets. An important element in this effort will be the need to scale up production capacities, provide timely inputs into supply chains and becoming integrated with global value chains. Similarly, it is important to improve our human capital through upskilling and reskilling. This will facilitate presence in new markets, apart from the traditional ones, and also into new skills, which have emerged due to changes in technology intensity and economic transformations. Migration of professionals and workers provides strong boost to our economy through overseas employment and inward remittances.

Fifth, high-level exchanges between India and our growing circle of partners have promoted deeper understanding and cooperation. This is an opportune moment for the business community to develop deeper links, based on each other’s national priorities and development plans. Business houses can take advantage of the post-Covid scenario to deepen economic engagement by seizing the opportunity of the changing nature of global supply chains, which seeks greater reliability and transparency. With increased scale of operations, for which many of the new programmes and incentives announced recently can be taken advantage of, Indian corporate sector can make significant progress in global markets.

We are engaged in reforms and transformational changes in our economy, there is strong political understanding with foreign partners and traditional goodwill between the peoples gives more wind to the sails. This is the equivalent of a “sweet spot” to change the nature and scale of our economic engagement, to new heights. I would be particularly pleased to see entrepreneurs in Bengal, led by ICC, take this endeavour forward.

Thank you.

New Delhi
November 21, 2020