For a better India
© Getty
April 2021

For a better India

By Andrea Neumeyer
On a fast track to becoming an economic superpower: with agile thinking and advanced technology, India might be ranking among the world’s top three economies by 2030.

India is determined to bridge the gap between a developing and a high-tech nation. The subcontinent is planning to become a “Bridgital Nation,” which is a telling portmanteau of bridge and digital. The goal is an ambitious one because there’s still a gap between poverty and prosperity that needs to be closed by a growing middle class.

India’s key to broader prosperity lies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – according to a proposition presented at the World Economic Forum by two top executives, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons, and Roopa Purushothaman, Chief Economist and Head, Policy Advocacy at Tata Sons.

From shopping to work to travel to healthcare – there’s hardly any area of life that’s untouched by digital advances. Chandrasekaran and Purushothaman predict that major opportunities for India will evolve from the advance of technology. “We believe that if applied properly, it will lead to more jobs and better jobs – an approach we call Bridgital,” the two top executives explained at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos.

5 facts about India
  • existing additional languages,
    alongside Hindi and English, serve as official languages at regional levels.
  • 1.3 million people
    are employed by Indian Railways, which makes it the world’s largest employer. Indian Railways hauls more than eight billion passengers and more than one billion metric tons (1.1 billion short tons) of cargo per year.
  • 7 % of India’s gross domestic product
    is generated by the automotive sector – as much as in the EU.
  • 10 billion $
    Google is planning to invest this amount in India’s digitalization in the coming 5–7 years.
  • In 2016
    India banned the use of 500- and 1000-rupee notes that used to account for 86% of cash as part of its plan to lead the country on a path towards a digitalized and cashless society.

“In India, 77% of workers currently participate in the informal economy – working on farms or in low productivity jobs like construction or running small local shops. They earn about $160 a month on average. For this vast informal pool, a contextual technology intervention could boost productivity and wages, thereby improving livelihoods,” the two experts write in their paper.

Dharmesh Arora, Schaeffler CEO for the Asia/Pacific region that also includes his native India, views the subcontinent as being on a positive path as well (see also interview): a young population, a stable democracy and important infrastructural investments including in renewable energies are going to further improve the economic upswing.

For a better India
Due to modern technologies, 30 million well-paid jobs could be created in India in the coming decade© Getty
From digital to bridgital for a better life

Modern technologies can also decisively help improve the frequently still precarious living conditions in India. Looking at healthcare, for instance, Chandrasekaran and Purushothaman write that it will take a further 600,000 doctors and 2.5 million nurses to close the access gap. “The doctors we do have spend a quarter to half of their time on activities that anyone else could accomplish: filling prescriptions, logging appointments, administrative paperwork. With a Bridgital intervention, we could change how doctors work. Many pre-diagnosis activities currently undertaken by doctors could be turned into a checklist programmed on to a kiosk, a handheld tablet, or even a smartphone. These could be used by someone without a clinical background, but who has received three to four months’ training on the technology, freeing up the specialist medical team to treat more patients, while giving jobs to those less skilled.”

Freeing up the specialist medical team to treat more patients, while giving jobs to those less skilled

Natarajan Chandrasekaran and Roopa Purushothaman
30 million new jobs

Looking at six selected sectors – including transportation, healthcare and the judiciary – a Bridgital reimagining could lead to 30 million jobs, according to Chandrasekaran and Purushothaman: “In truth, we already have what it takes to create more and better jobs. We also have the capability to improve and make better use of the existing skill levels of our people, especially once we tailor digital approaches and technologies to our needs. We need to stop thinking of humans and technology as competing for the same work and instead realize that using both together will definitely be more powerful than either alone.”

4 questions for …

... Dharmesh Arora, Schaeffler Regional CEO Asia/PacificPacific

For a better India© Schaeffler

What was the advantage of integrating India into the Asia-Pacific region, as Schaeffler did two years ago?
Some of India’s key customers, both in the automotive and industrial sectors, are based in Japan and Korea. They have a global footprint with a dominant presence across India and South East Asia. Integration of India will help build better and coordinated approaches to those customers. India is both a huge market and a source of tremendous resource – be it talent, technology or manufacturing capacity. Integration opens up new opportunities of collaboration among the region for the benefit of all. Our employees across the region will have new opportunities to learn from each other and grow mutually.

The region you take care of for Schaeffler is considered the most agile economic area in the world …
Asia Pacific is one of the key drivers of the global economy with high-growth markets like India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam as well as the mature and innovating markets like Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Australia. Over the years, we have built excellent market positions, customer relationships and a technology footprint in the region. Countries in the region have also emerged as the main development hubs and hotspots for new technology and innovation in areas like Robotics, Industry 4.0, New Mobility, Digitalization and Clean Energy. These developments coupled with rapid economic growth in the region provide huge opportunities for Schaeffler.

How strong do you think the Indian market is in particular?
India’s GDP today is roughly $3 trillion, expected to grow at a healthy 7% annually and become the third-largest in the world by 2030. A large population – one of the youngest in the world – a stable democracy and rising per capita income make it a very attractive market. The country’s push on infrastructure development, increasing power generation and diversifying its energy source towards renewables, improving competitiveness of the manufacturing sector and rising mobility needs will drive sustained growth for years to come. Global and Indian automotive OEMs have a very strong presence in the country, they engineer and manufacture products locally. It is already one of the largest producers of two-wheelers, agricultural tractors and trucks. Schaeffler has operated in India for over 5 decades and we have built a very strong customer connection that is supported by a very capable local footprint. Customer sectors like two-wheelers, motor vehicles, agricultural tractors, railways, wind and raw materials in particular present very attractive growth opportunities for us.

What is your long-term vision for the Asia/Pacific region?
Asia/Pacific is an exciting region with many possibilities. I hope we can build a robust business in the market by making the most of the opportunities around us. Today, about 13 percent of Schaeffler Group’s revenue comes from Asia/Pacific. I envision this contribution to increase further, not just in terms of revenue and sales but also in areas of innovation and creative solutions that address the pressing needs of our customers and society in general.