Indian Economy At The Crossroads

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The business pages of Indian newspapers are an interesting read of contrasts these days. Take for example last Friday’s Mumbai edition of The Times of India. Its business page headlines presented a nice summary of the economic state of nation. Full of contrasts with a near equal measure of positive and negative news about macro and micro issues of Indian economy. While the negative was news about Core Sector growth last month contracting to an 8-year low, Cognizant planning to slash 18,000 jobs in a major rejig, Lavasa project up for sale, etc. the positive news included the Sensex touching an all-time high, Yes Bank stock rising 24% in a single day, etc. Truly, the reflection of an economy at the crossroads.

In a country where political discourse always takes precedence, such news doesn’t bother much. We are more concerned about Shiv Sena’s next possible move in Maharashtra or the health of recently formed Haryana government.

Economic interest reigns supreme to any individual. Everyone is alert to protect self-interest and gain maximum out of an opportunity. I find nothing wrong in the approach. But it hurts when the same individual is swayed by a political narrative while ignoring the economic shortcomings of the policy makers. People need to be reminded that the family is of utmost importance. For an entrepreneur, the family includes his/her loved ones, employees and everyone whose growth depends on their decisions. If the family suffers for no faults of the entrepreneur, then it is sad indeed.

I meet a fair amount of business leaders owning small to medium sized businesses. All of them smart. All of them responsible. I haven’t met any one of them in recent times who looks happy on his/her growth prospects in near to medium term. One of them predicts that we have three years of pain left. Other, the head of a chain of beauty salons, told they are staring at negative growth for the first time since inception nearly 15 years ago. The extent of economic slowdown can be gauged by the fact that people have stopped having facials and are going for cheaper alternatives. The third businessman friend was ruing the state of economy as the investor is not investing in his business for past one year despite agreeing to all things.

It would be interesting to ask about festival-season performance to jewellers, fashion brands, builders, mithaiwalas, brown goods manufacturers, gift articles makers, etc.

That the economy is at crossroads is visible everywhere. The government must act decisively to ease the pain. No one doubts on the intentions behind Demonetisation or GST implementation. The fact is that the economy grew even earlier too. If the government’s aims to bring Ram Rajya, then it needs to go beyond Demon, GST, Ayodhya, religion or corruption. It needs to focus on people’s welfare.

Welfare is well-being. Modern Ram Rajya will be largely about economic well-being.