Can India be the magnet of global action post-COVID-19?

The global impact of the Coronavirus has brought thriving economies to their knees. Though there can be an opportunity for India to leverage the advantage it has in several sectors like pharmaceuticals and agro products.

In a recent webinar chaired by the former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, the capital flow will follow countries that are less battered in the Coronavirus pandemic. This is where India stands in a favourable position. As compared to even developed countries, India has fared much better in its fight against the COVID 19. It is one of the very few countries that are expected to post a positive growth rate this year.
 
Already taken the lead in pharma

So to take the full benefit of the advantageous position and to ensure the flow of funds in the country, India needs to act efficiently. We already have an advantage that India has taken the lead in the pharmaceutical space. The country has begun the export of several vital drugs, including hydroxychloroquine needed in the fight against the Coronavirus to several countries. The pandemic also offers an opportunity to the country's pharmaceutical sector to increase its trade activity in other parts of the world. The government too, can encourage the private players by offering more incentives and also making investments for setting up more pharmaceutical research units in the country.
 
Huge prospects in agri-exports

An analysis was done by the Ministry of Agriculture on the disruption of global supply chain revealed that there are around two dozen agri-products like potatoes, groundnut, chillies, etc. where India has pre-established supply chain and now with Coronavirus tinted world putting China under trade restrictions, it's share in the market can certainly be grabbed by an equally competitive and capable country, read India.
Incidentally, the country has witnessed a good harvest season, and the agrarian economy is all set for a revival. India, in a post coronavirus global order, can think about becoming a primary provider of food grains to several other nations as the demand for the same would most likely grow in the near future.
 
Sustainability going forward

It is vital that the country sustains the advantage provided in the post-pandemic world in the longer run. The government needs to rein in a much holistic approach towards this, such as:
 
A) Cluster farming need to be encouraged

It may be a time for the country to think of encouraging collective farming by dividing it into various farming zones. The crop on each zone can be decided on the basis of its climatic conditions and also proving adequate impetus in the form of high-quality seeds and fertilizers. It can give the responsibility of each zone to particular individuals (preferably a retired bureaucrat) for increasing accountability and also finding suitable markets to trade the crop. The crops can be insured, which will insulate the farmers from the vagaries of nature. This will result in increased yield and more income in the farmer's pocket. The affirmation and surety of a ready buyer will be an excellent motivator for the farmers. This would ensure a crop surplus that India can export to other nations given the rise in the demand soon.
 
Incidentally, the governments at both levels Centre and state have made considerable efforts to alleviate the uncertainty by announcing exemptions for the agriculture sector that includes labourers, seeds, and farm-related activities.
 
B) Boost all allied sectors

Food Processing: Though currently, the food processing industry also has its setback due to the lockdown, however, timely intervention by the government to open the industry sooner than later will ensure that it's back on track and would be able to take advantage of a bumper harvest this season.
  • The government should undertake education of farmer for the technological innovations and technique required to produce and handle crop to maintain the quality of produce for export and processing. There is also a need to create synergies between technology, agriculture and adaptation to new technology for product enhancement, establish the supply chain properly and bypass the hurdles at every stage from farm to the markets. India also needs to look at the newer avenues for export trade with countries that were not on the export map of the country.
     
  • Logistics & warehousing: The surplus crops need storage facilities and ways to reach the designated market. Therefore India is looking at a vast logistics opportunity in terms of the supply chain like warehouses and cold storage infrastructure and an overhauled transportation system. The transformed markets post-pandemic may have very different requirements like technology-enabled multi-level warehouses within the city limits to facilitate the much in demand and ever-growing eCommerce business.
     
    • Currently, most of the warehouses are situated at a distance from the cities but looking at the growing importance of the eCommerce and also the pressured retail sector post-pandemic, they would prefer quicker delivery of the supply and hence multi-story warehouses in the city limits might be the solution for the same. So the warehousing and logistics growth in the country can turn a new chapter in the country post-COVID-19. These warehouses can help companies reduce transportation costs and delivery time, adding to the success of the businesses. Apart from the current logistics hub situated in the metros or Tier I cities, new hubs will crop up to fulfil the new growing demand. The government has also provided an impetus to warehousing in the financial budget this year with several announcements for the sector that includes a plan to build a national cold storage chain.
Time for us to be future-ready

As it has been pointed out on many occasions also at times on international forums that India though high on intent relegates on deliverables in actuality when it comes to ease of doing business. There has been a constant demand for a policy overhaul from industry bodies' time and again. Single-window clearances, tax reforms, and changes in labour laws are some of the items on the agenda for those who want to make this country their investment destination. The gamut of opportunities that would be presented to India post COVID-19 will make a permanent base in the country based on the government's willingness to go that extra mile.
 
Deepak Sood, the author, is the Secretary-General of the National Industry body, ASSOCHAM