Eight years ago,Indiawas a different country.It had juststarted to shake off the inertia of slow growth that had hobbled it for decades.Today it’s the fifth largest economy in the world, the third, if you count by purchasing power parity.
The changes are not only fully resected in numbers. There have been profound shisin politics and policy, in diplomacy and digitization, in arts and sports. Good governance is being recognized as good politics, for the first time.
India’s economic expansion has brought a record number of people out of poverty. A growing middle class has fuelled impressive consumer growth. It is the world’s third-largest market for smartphones and the third largest for cars. India’s software industry employs more than 5 million people directly and more than 10 million indirectly.
Almost half of India’s population today is under the age of 26. While this holds the promise of making India a thrumming engine of the world economy, it also poses staggering challenges of finding jobs for the million-odd Indians who enter the employment market every month, not to mention providing for the health and education of such a large nation.
The Indian passport is getting respected. Indians can avail of visas on arrival in 82 countries. Economic heft has brought with it a greater strategic sway. For the last three years, India has given more aid than it has received. This has added to India’s diplomatic heft. Ministers from the largest economies can be routinely seen making a beeline for the nation’s capital.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has undertaken hundreds of foreign trips since taking office in May 2014. Apart from meeting heads of state, he has also addressed members of the business community and the Indian diaspora in these countries. He is widely promoting the fact that India jumped 23 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business list for 2021.
India has implemented the boldest tax reform in history by replacing dozens of state and federal taxes with a national Goods and Services Tax (GST) to create a more unified national market.
On 8 November 2016 Prime Minister Modi announced the abrupt withdrawal of two high-value currency notes, sucking out 86% of the currency out of circulation in one stroke. This showed that the government was willing to rip up the rule book to drive home its anti-corruption agenda. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act has been given more teeth in recent years with an expanded Enforcement Directorate tasked with fighting money laundering. Transparency international has shown an improved ranking for India on fighting corruption since 2014.
The Companies Act of 2013 has brought clearer accountability to corporate anti-corruption and anti-fraud measures. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been given more power in 2017 to act against loan defaulters.
The Indian groups that have extended their international footprint during the decade have changed in more significant ways. In January 2007, the Tata Group bought Britain’s Corus Steel for $13 billion. The next month, Hindalco, the aluminum company of the Aditya Birla Group, announced the acquisition of Canada’s Novelis for $6 billion. The next year Tata Motors bought the Jaguar Land Rover car businesses from Ford Motor for $2.3 billion. Some of the global growth has been organic too: Tata Consultancy Services operates in 46 countries now. Indians have been appointed to top jobs in some of the world’sleadingcompanies.
One of the dividends of India’s young demographic is that a large number of Indians are quick adopters of new technologies. The Modi Government has launched Digital India, a campaign to improve the country’s digital infrastructure and offer more Government services online. However, this should be accompanied by measures to protect the privacy and confidentiality of Individuals and companies. The challenges and opportunities in front of us are quite different from those that faced us a decade ago.