Interesting prospects for enterprising businesses

S. Shanker | Updated on March 23, 2011

Outlining potential: Mr Arun Nanda

A corporate chieftain, who firmly believes that innovation is not the sole domain of the R&D labs, Mr Arun Nanda, Chairman CII (Western Region), and Director of Mahindra & Mahindra, carries the responsibility of steering the CII Western Region in his stride.

In an informal chat with Business Line, he outlines the potential the country holds for the corporate world, the roadmap chalked out for the welfare of citizens, and the interesting prospects in store for enterprising businesses. Mr Nanda holds the view that India is the best poised country for growth, with average age of human capital below 25, a good education system and a huge middle class with disposable income in its favour. However, the anomalies are that the growth has not been evenly distributed geographically, and across all economic segments. Besides, the environment has not being accorded the requisite importance it deserves, he noted.


To address these concerns, the CII has embarked on a sustainable development programme: ‘Promote and Sustain Competitiveness through Human Development, Economic Reforms, Environment Protection and Market Development'.

The programme encompasses CII's initiatives across fields with focus on sustaining growth through education.

Mr Nanda observed that the system of higher education has seen an impressive growth since Independence. Back then, there were 20 universities and 500 colleges, with total enrolment of less than one lakh students. Today, there are 504 universities and 25,951 colleges enrolling 136.42 lakh students.

For technical education, a wide network comprising IITs, IIMs and NITs have been established alongside an array of private technical institutions.


However, India despite having the largest number of higher education institutions in the world, barring IIT Bombay (ranked 30) and IIT Delhi (ranked 35) hardly any other institution figures among top institutions of the world. This raises concerns of the standard and quality of the higher education system, and this has not escaped CII's attention.

Major concerns are the massive gaps between access, equity and quality of higher education and absence of qualified and well-trained faculty, in addition to the consequent impact on employability and competitiveness.

“We need to impart skills required for industrial growth and for service sector growth as well, rather than sticking to the conventional system of education. The focus areas are skill development and higher education,” said Mr Nanda.

The CII is currently working with engineering colleges and ITIs. Industry members work with colleges, handle classes and get the academics to visit their work place. “It must be understood that the teaching faculty today had graduated some 25 years back and life has moved on since,” explained Mr Nanda.

To improve course content, industry experts and academics partner to work out content the industry wants its recruits to learn.

Skill development

On skill development, 10th and 12th standard students are equipped with requisite skills sought for vocational employment and services sectors. About 60 ITIs have been adopted by the industry and upgraded, for churning out the quality of manpower the industry wants. Today, blue collar jobs are not as preferred as the ones in the services sector. Unless one gets into higher education, the services sector scores. But as people demand more and consume more, the manufacturing sector remains a very large employer. “We need to channel the youth to the shop floor,” surmised Mr Nanda.


Genetically, Indians are entrepreneurs. The need is to create an ecosystem to nurture entrepreneurship, where they get access to capital, ideas and business place. At Nashik, the CII has been conducting workshops where large corporates such as the Tatas and Mahindras provide entrepreneurs an interactive platform to leverage upon.


R&D is but a subset of innovation. It could be a process, product or the way things are done.

The CII has taken it upon itself to educate its members on how to create a workplace where innovation becomes part of the work culture.

Good ideas should be recognised but more importantly, accepting failures in a positive manner is a must.

Fear of failure is the biggest enemy of innovation. It has to be part of the DNA of a company, he said.

Industry works in spite of Govt

On the political climate and the industry perspective relating to the scams that have hit the headlines, Mr Nanda said, “Today industry works in spite of the Government, more because it is less dependent on the Government than before due to the open economy. However, what is hurting is the need for better governance.”

Sovereign rating, he says, matters for interest rates and the like, but the worrisome concern as of now is inflation. Profits next year are under pressure as people have benefited from inventory profits this year.

Switching to corruption issues, he notes that it is a bane, while outlining that the silver lining came in the form of the RTI Act. None of the issues would have come to the fore but for the Act.

Even in the US, there was 12-14 year restriction before the data could come out, he pointed out.

“I think the Government took a very bold decision on the RTI and we will have a much cleaner administration as people have realised what RTI is,” he said.

While RTI and a free media are expected to help in cleaning up the Government, it should be understood that mere cleaning up does not mean good governance. “We need accountability for not doing the right things,” he said.

Published on March 23, 2011

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