When Acharya Chanakya said, “Dharmasya moolam arthah” – ‘economy is the strength’; he was quoting a great fact of all times. Without a strong economy, no government can protect or sustain a country. But along with this is the age-old philosophy that Hindu Sanatan Dharma believes in, ‘sat hasta samahara, sahastra hasta sankira’ ie. ‘Create wealth with 100 hands; share it with 1000 hands’. In short, wealth and prosperity are required for the survival of any race, but both grow when such wealth and prosperity are shared. World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF) believes that this is what will help the progress of the Hindu race and in turn humanity at large. A glance at the highlights of the WHEF held at BSE, Mumbai on January 20, will make every Hindu understand the importance of a becoming a ‘united force’:
An eagle’s vision is one of clarity, of vast coverage from a distance and detachedness towards all except on that which has to be focused. A sannyasi’s vision is the same. That is why when Swami Vigyananand heard a Chinese saying that the reason why they overtook the Bharatiyas’ strong control over business in Malaysia was because ‘Hindus are individually smart, but not collectively’, he understood what had to be done. He immediately decided to organize the Hindu business community in the world to come together as one force. A vision for a strong Hindu samaj (community), with the detachedness of a philosopher – an attempt to connect the local with the global, in areas of resources, opportunities and know-how using modern technology and resurgence of application of our ancient knowledge and networking systems – a force to reckon with.
Ashik Bhuta, secretary of the Hindu Economic Forum (HEF), Mumbai introduced the delegates to the HEF vision and its link to the WHEF. He stated how the Hindus were intrinsically strong because ‘we are capitalist by action and socialist by heart’.
When Mohandas Pai emphasised that the 21st Century is a “knowledge economy and economic, intellectual, military, diplomatic and political strength stem from using such knowledge effectively,” he was speaking from experience. Without strength in the above fields –
- Culture dies
- Religion dies
- Tradition dies
- Generation migrates
- Injustice prevails &
- Talent is suppressed
Today 96 percent of GDP all over the world is from non-Hindus while our population is 16 percent of the world population. He mentioned that because of such a disparity, we have to put in six times more effort to get our ideas through. He also cautioned that “If we do not work towards creating our own digital platforms (like Facebook, Whatsapp, etc.) we will slowly inch towards becoming a digital colony & towards slavery of a new kind”. “Creation of wealth is concentrated in fashion, technology, production, military and oil. We have to up our ante in these fields,” was his clarion call.
Even Ashish Chauhan, CEO-BSE was of the opinion that everything revolves around technology and the changes that occur in the world, occurs in technology. He also drew attention to the fact that these changes come in waves and that now, the waves are coming faster and faster.
Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce & Industry, emphatically stated that no one can stop us from becoming the second biggest economy in the world. He also said that if the economy had to be fundamentally strong, it should have manufacturing to sustain and strengthen from within. He said that 20 percent of the GDP had to come from manufacturing. “India’s progress had to be relevant to contemporary times,” he said. While acknowledging that we are strong in ‘intellectual capital’, he felt that “Bharatiya entrepreneurs should identify new industries, invest in futuristic industries and protect their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). He was a part of the third ‘New Industrial Policy’ in the country and he believed in ‘rejuvenation and reinvention’. He exhorted the youth to keep developing ideas and themselves too in the process.
S P Tulsian, CEO – sptulsian.com, was appreciative of the fact that while industries in ‘modern Bharat’ were earlier privy to some powerful people, it was more open now. He had words of advice to entrepreneurs:
- Concretise your ideas … then getting capital is not a problem
- Give a lot of importance to corporate governance
R Chandrasekaran executive director and CRO of LIC rued the fact that the erstwhile development institutions which financed start-ups and small-scale/medium scale industries have died. Long-term finance which is the requirement of the start-ups should be tackled by institutions like the LIC since they can afford to wait for 10 years for the return of funds. He explained that earlier, project loans were given out by such institutions and ‘short-term working capital’ was given by banks. He also felt that if such distinction was made once more, private entrepreneurs could flourish in each and every districts and help in increasing the development of the Nation.
Ashish Gangrade, Director, Smart Cities PwC, pointed out that contribution by cities to the national GDP was 60 percent and will keep increasing. According to him, “physical infrastructure, accompanied with digital infrastructure will ensure a smart infrastructure, which will, in turn, ensure a developed Bharat.”
Gaurav Bhatiani CE & COO, IL & FS spoke about how infrastructure availability makes opportunities available and reduces poverty. While crimes increase because of no employment, it is in India’s favour that we will have more and more people coming of employment age – he called it the ‘demographic dividend’. “While other countries were moving towards an older population, India is going to have enough young people who can be the moving force of the economy. The need is to give them a direction and focus,” he said. He showcased a CSR project of his company – ‘Project Gulmeher’ to show how even the unskilled can be given a place of pride in society.
Ajoy Mehta, Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai gave a very spirited presentation of the challenges he faces in being the infrastructure provider of a metro like Mumbai. He mentioned how 63 percent of the space in Mumbai is non-usable and how only 27 square metres, the smallest space per person in the world, is available per person in Mumbai. He drew attention to a very startling fact that one of his main focus was to provide jobs to the people in the city because without jobs, there would be no city at all. As per him, the ‘economic hub’ of the world, Mumbai would need 8 million jobs by 2034. And if so many people had to live and work here, both, commercial space and residential space had to be made affordable and this was indeed the most difficult task in front of him. He mentioned that quality of infrastructure included the ‘soft infrastructure’ (ease of living, schools, hospitals, etc.). Another surprising fact came to the fore and that was that in Mumbai only 12 percent of the women are working.
Satish Modh, Director, VESIMSR, informed the delegates that MSME which included cottage, handicraft, micro, small and medium sector industries, gave employment to eight crore people. He also pointed out that strength of the economy was dependant on the strength of the people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Anil Bharadwaj, secretary general, FISME, spoke extensively on the history of the financing pattern in modern India. He mentioned how less than five percent of the MSMEs have institutional funds, but they account for 50 percent of industrial production and exports in India. He was dismayed that MSMEs in the manufacturing sector are shrinking and felt that government should exit manufacturing and trade, ie. It should disinvest in manufacturing industries. He gave the wonderful example of the scissor manufacturing industry in Meerut to show why small manufacturing industries are disappearing. Because of competition from China, producers in Meerut (manufacturing industry) are forced to close shop, but at the same time, barber shops/parlours (part of service industry) flourish because they do not have any competition from world rates. This has to be addressed before the service industries too are opened up and we face stiff competition and ruin.
Guna Mageshan, VC IAR Gandhinagar, felt the need to develop entrepreneurship among the farming community because small and marginal farmers are neglected and affected. While the new e-markets have helped, because only 40 percent of the land is irrigated presently, small farmers are facing severe problems. Farming is a very important sector since its contribution to GDP is 17.4 percent and 43 percent of our land is used for agriculture.
Ravi Mantha, Angel Investor gave some excellent advice to start-up companies:
- It is difficult to get funding for single person companies.
- Only three percent of the people are natural entrepreneurs and so a team of 3 or 4 persons together, handling various areas of business stand a better chance to get funding.
- Research is usually not funded.
- Angels look for ‘investible companies’ which can sell products.
- Selling is the most important skill in a start-up.
- Clarity of thought and process helps in making the start-up very successful. He gave the example of Bollant Industries, Hyderabad.
The final speaker Dr Radhakrishna Pillai, deputy director CIILS, University of Mumbai, provided the perfect end to the conference by drawing our attention to Chanakya or Kautilya and his Arthshastra. He mentioned the importance of a healthy, logical debate and representation of traditional systems v/s modern systems. Some snippets of his speech:
- Chanakya stressed that among the four purshaarthas (dharma, arth, kaam, moksh), for a ruler, it is always, “arth eva pradhaana” iti Kautilya – arth (wealth) is the one and only important purshaartha because, without arth, dharma is not possible.
- An ideal ruler should have rajas guna because, without continuous activity, even existing wealth will be frittered.
- Not just self, wealth has to be created even for the families of the employees.
- Growth should lead to stability and once stable, one has to learn to ‘give up’ (vairagya).
- A leader has to be anviksiki. He has to think differently and be a guiding light of all sciences.
The HEF & WHEF will cover the gap between the budding Hindu entrepreneurs/financiers and their contribution to the nation’s economy and the world economy. It is now just a matter of time before we retake our place as world leader. Come, be a part of this glorious movement.