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Why this gross under-performance?

We have the best of economists, civil servants, scientists, engineers. Are we tapping their potential?

Why this gross under-performance?

In 1962, I launched the transport monthly Mobile. Those days India had three companies manufacturing cars – Hindustan Motors, Premier Automobiles and Standard Motors. These together produced less than 20,000 cars a year. 

I had the opportunity to look closely at the automobile industry in West Germany and UK. In the post-war boom, their economies were peaking: Production volumes were mind-boggling. At Wolfsberg, Volkswagen was producing @ 6200 cars (Beetles)  a day!  I contrasted this with the annual production of the three manufacturers equivalent to three days production of this single German manufacturer. On return I decided to phase out Mobile and launched IE! 

 

The game-changer…

The advent of Maruti Udyog in the early 1980s was a game changer. Led by the brilliant V Krishnamurthy and his prized colleague like R C Bhargava, Maruti revolutionised car production in India. There was rapid assimilation of the Japanese work culture ensuring consistent quality and volume production. Maruti today has capacity for close to 2mn cars per annum and accounts for half the total car production in India. In 2016-17, the company sold 14,44,541 units grossing Rs. 669,094 mn.

R C Bhargava, a former IAS officer, has been associated with Maruti right from the start. Enjoying the full confidence of the majority Japanese partner Suzuki, Bhargava has been functioning as chairman aiding the growth of the company all through its 34 years of production. 

With his rich experience and contribution to the spectacular evolution of the Indian automobile industry, Bhargava expressed concern over the country not working to its potential. In an interview with IE he urged attending to the needed corrections. Excerpts:  

1.It is true that many welcome changes have happened. The automobile industry has grown exponentially; we have experienced a revolution in telecom. But related to the potential we have under-performed. We have dropped behind several countries. Our agriculture productivity is much lower than most other countries. This despite the best climate and best soil endowments. Look at our railways: there has not been great improvements since the time the British left. We are still short of electricity: supply is not reliable with voltage fluctuations and breakdowns. 

2.I am concerned over corruption that has grown over the years. Of course, it is not unique to us; most countries live with this problem at the top. But what concerns me is the pervasive corruption affecting the daily life of the common man. He faces harassment in accessing goods and services that he should get as a matter of course.

3.Sadly we have also become a non-compliant country with lack of respect for law. A country cannot progress if its citizens have scant regard for complying with rules and laws.

4.Why should these happen in a country like India which has abundance of brilliant people? To make improvements we need to look at the failures, analyse the causes and strive for improvements. We have the best of economists, civil servants, scientists, engineers. Sadly a lot of them have gone out of India.  Are we tapping their potential?

5.We need to improve vastly our education and health services. Raise large numbers above poverty.

6.However, I have cause for optimism. I recently heard our vice president Venkaiah Naidu saying: “to distribute wealth we should first create wealth. If you distribute wealth without creating it, everybody will become a pauper.” This implies getting a fair return on investments made. 

7.Technology is changing continuously. India must go for electric vehicles. Energy dependency is of strategic importance as the lack of it has the potential to choke one to death. There is also the environmental pollution. Development of non-renewable energy sources and nuclear energy are the options over long term.”– SV


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