Intro: This week in our Socio Economic Voices column, we have Dr Hindol Sengupta, Vice President and Head of Research, Invest India who in his personal capacity chose to answer some straight questions on the national and global policies that India must improvise upon or adopt during the current scenario, for the betterment of the masses. Let's take a read of the interaction done with Senior Journalist Mahima Sharma via whom he informs the masses to be quite careful while investing into cryptocurrencies.
MS: What kind of national and global investments should India be looking at in the next five years to stay consistent on the path of post-pandemic economic recovery? In which all sectors in India needs more investment from national as well as foreign investors and why?
HS: During the pandemic India took very significant steps to boost manufacturing (through the production-linked incentive schemes) and deepen its process of digitisation. These are unlocking value across the board whether in the growing number of start-ups (and among them unicorns which hit 100), or rapid expansion of manufacturing across the board. India’s exports and FDI (foreign direct investment) have hit new milestones. I believe these two ingredients - digitisation and manufacturing would be the key areas where investments will grow rapidly. Whether it is in digital education or health, or tech-enabled manufacturing, India is going to gain very significantly as the world looks for stronger, more resilient supply chains after the pandemic. Some of us have been writing regularly that the World Economic Forum’s ‘digital FDI’ model is particularly relevant for India and the country’s deep digitisation process is unearthing great value in many areas. Additionally as India pushes towards greater sustainability goals, investments will also come in renewable energy, mobility and other such areas.
MS: Amid tensions between Russia-Ukraine creating a ripple effect globally, what kind of Investments must India be looking at to strengthen not just its Economy but also its Defence Sector?
HS: This is not about a war or any threat alone - there is a much bigger picture. As a rising power, India needs a much more evolved indigenous defence industry which can protect its sovereignty and tackle any challenges. An indigenous defence industry is a fundamental need for India today and this is why the country is rapidly moving to ensure that more and more of the armaments it needs are produced at home. Any investments coming in would be aligned to this broader, strategic goal.
MS: In one of your articles, you recently said: "India has already seen a considerable depletion of its foreign reserves due to rising energy prices triggered by the war in Ukraine. Any technological disruption would be equally debilitating." Thus, what kind of pre-emptive investment strategies and execution of plans would you suggest to avoid any deeper crisis?
HS: India is not only working to secure its energy pipeline and its reserves but even more importantly it is pushing consistently to change its energy mix and move more aggressively towards fossil fuels. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently championed the cause of renewable energy and India is following one of the most aggressive targets in the world to achieve its sustainability goals.
MS: The Indian Healthcare market is expected to reach $190 bn by 2020; $372bn by 2022 at a CAGR of 39%. But the urban-rural healthcare divide is still extremely wide (considering what we all saw during the COVID19 wave in 2019)? What kind of strategic investments and timely plans' execution are further needed to bridge this divide faster?
HS: Digital health is a critical idea in this space. The use of digital technologies to fasttrack health solutions especially in logistically difficult areas is an idea whose time has come. Already investments in digital health and allied services are pouring in and more are expected in coming years as India’s digital health programme strengthens along with the digital health id architecture.
MS: Crypto investments and future of the Indian Economy - your take on the same?
HS: This is too early to comment on. In an allied way, blockchain could be used successfully in streamlining things like land transactions in India. Such use could be of great importance in promoting higher ease of living and reducing graft.
MS: A certain news report asserts that due to rising inflation, India leads in the total number of first-time crypto investors in the first quarter of 2022. Though the law towards secure investments in Crypto Investments is yet to be formulated in India, the citizens have to pay tax towards their earnings from the same. In absence of this safety net, what’s your advice/words of caution to the Indian citizens regarding investments in Crypt Currency?
HS: My suggestion on this is the same as almost every serious expert - this is a nascent technology and field, and therefore needs a lot of care before people invest in it. The regulation around it is uncertain in many parts of the world and people learn about its pitfalls such as they are in great detail before rushing into investing money in it.
MS: As per Invest India's latest figures, the country has the highest FinTech adoption rate globally of 87% which is significantly higher than the global average rate of 64%. But then the Indian youth and women are far away from basic financial education in terms of managing their lives in an independent and a better way. What kind of Educational Investments and Planning needs to come into action to upgrade the New Education Policy that includes financial education at grass-root levels for all?
HS: Financial literacy should increasingly be a fundamental pillar of basic education. How to use money better is a life lesson. This should be imparted early and frequently. As financial systems get more complex and digitised, and easy to use, the more it becomes important that people understand these systems and understand financial risks. It is easier to invest in the stock markets than ever before - which can be empowering if people are empowered with knowledge on how to use the markets to help their financial decisions and planning. Therefore thinking about financial education at the very basic or grassroot level is absolutely critical. The time to implement this is now.
MS: Higher Fuel Charges are eroding profitability in the recovering aviation sector of India. The fare hike is inevitable. What is - your take on it - how must the aviation sector move ahead so that the domestic flyer doesn't get pinched harder?
HS: This is a short-time issue created by the conflict in Ukraine and should be seen as a short term issue. It is causing price pressures but these shall ease as the conflict reduces (it cannot carry on indefinitely). There are experiments happening in sustainable fuels even in aviation (including electric planes) and these kinds of research and experiments should be embraced in India.
MS: Rising fuel prices, EVs (Electric Vehicles) still a far-realised dream and CNG vehicle’s prices shooting up. Overall, sustainable development is a huge task; it cannot be achieved alone. Thus, what kind of joint strategies India needs at Government and Citizen levels to walk hand-in-hand towards tackling a safer environment situation amid rising pollution levels?
HS: Two words - embrace sustainability.
About Dr Hindol Sengupta
Dr. Hindol Sengupta is the Vice President & Head of Research, Invest India. He is also an award-winning historian and author of 10 books. He has been a Chevening Scholar at Worcester College, Oxford, and a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Views expressed by him in this interview are his personal and do not represent those from Invest India.
About the Interviewer
Mahima Sharma is a Senior Journalist based in Delhi NCR. She has been in the field of TV, Print & Online Journalism since 2005 and previously an additional three years in the allied media. In her span of work she has been associated with CNN-News18, ANI - Asian News International (A collaboration with Reuters), Voice of India, Hindustan Times and various other top media brands of their times. In recent times, she has diversified her work as a Digital Media Marketing Consultant & Content Strategist as well. Since March 2022, she is also an Entrepreneurship Education Mentor at Women Will - An Entrepreneurship Program by Google in Collaboration with SHEROES. Mahima can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer : The opinions expressed within this interview are the personal opinions of the interviewee. The facts and opinions appearing in the answers do not reflect the views of Indiastat or the interviewer. Indiastat does not hold any responsibility or liability for the same.
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