In a free market system, the private sector has to get into the driver’s seat and step on the gas – Feodora Chiosea
Those who will use the opportunities provided by the Budget to create world-class products and more jobs
The game is on, the field set, and it is time for industry and entrepreneurs to come in and bat. Real entrepreneurs. Not scheme hunting, subsidy seeking, incentive eyeing businessmen but nimble and visionary entrepreneurs driven as much by contribution to greater national good as they are about converting opportunity to gold.
Many are commenting of a supply-side bias in the Budget over demand, but that perhaps is reflective of this directional clarity. Times are difficult, resources are limited and stretched. A shotgun approach of spraying pellets of subsidies all around would be one way and aiming for that one crack rifle shot at a high intensity target with the few bullets that remain would be another. The government has rightly chosen the latter. The high intensity target is infrastructure and hopefully we will hit bullseye to unleash a fireball of growth.
But hidden within this option lies a silent call by the government to industry and private sector that hopefully they do not miss. An ardent plea that they ride the plumes of the growth fireball in the form of an economic multiplier effect, creating value, jobs and finally demand.
On its part the Finance Ministry’s intent seems clear. It will spend around ₹35-lakh crore and will focus its energies on organising resources to afford it through revenue and capital receipts that include strategic divestment and asset monetisation. No. House silver will not be sold. It will be monetised. And currency printing is not an option.
An already healthy forex reserve, progressively reducing share of oil imports and a favourable credit rating for being a responsible citizen of the world will ensure that the government’s wallet will be able to afford the supply side.
But it is the demand side where industry is being called upon unequivocally to play its side of national duty with a hope that it picks up the baton and creates value and jobs. And that in any case is a free market imperative. The government cannot be expected to open a grocery shop and also give you money to shop in it. That would be counterproductive and even unfair.
In a free market system, a government can only kickstart the economic engine but somewhere down the line private sector has to get into the driver’s seat, step on the gas, collect passengers along the way and beat competition.
If not, then we fall on the other side of the economic philosophy and we have seen what a little bit of everything for everyone in every direction does. It is time for a clear statement of intent and a call for a Macro-PPP by the government seems to be the larger intent of this Budget.
For too long now industry and the private sector have got used to government schemes, sops and other statutory benevolence without the free market pressure of producing world-beating products or solutions. All this will have to change now and perhaps that is what the government arduously desires and hopes for. Yes, there will be some gaps in planning but then the situation will never be ideal, and constraints will have to be mapped.
What else is entrepreneurship if not this? Carping on how much or how little allocation, GST rates or even being sceptical of execution of the laid-down policy would be a waste of energy.
For example, what is the point about the automotive industry getting elated about a scrappage policy or a few extra buses that the government will buy when the industry itself in its current avatar will cease to exist. The shout-out instead should be to re-envision the industry a la Elon Musk!
And that’s where the call for the visionary entrepreneur becomes urgent. One who is not jaded, not impeded by the past and raring to take on the future by creating world beating products, solutions and services but more importantly eager to take on the national cause and keep his side of the equation in a free market system. To ride on the opportunities provided by the country and its people to create more value, jobs, demand and ultimately national and self-pride.
The way the sentiment and the ecosystem are poised today, there is a potential visionary entrepreneur in every sector. The government has given directional hints. From defence to healthcare, from agriculture to education, from software to space there are possibilities abound. And within a decade if we see the emergence of even a handful of groups like the Tatas or Birlas from amongst these visionary entrepreneurs the $10 trillion mark should not be out of range.
Reminiscent of the Reagan era that unleashed the decade of entrepreneurship for America, this Budget will unleash that much delayed decade of entrepreneurship for India. The game is on.
The writer is CEO, Helicon Consulting