A new India from the perspective of an NRI
A new India from the morass of past
There is saying that ‘it takes a minimum of five years to be an overnight success.’ Even by that standard what has happened in India in little less than five years is nothing but a miracle.
India--and let me not hold back--the land of touts, insane system, crumbling infrastructure and rampant corruption has suddenly emerged as a country of hope, inspiration, progress, vision and clarity of purpose. Just one man and his party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP, has brought the nation on its feet.
Modi has changed the idea of India and its’ bent back. From the politics of appeasement to policies of empowerment. From weakness to position of strength in world arena. From party first to nation first. From weak/ populist to bold decisions without a thought on gallery. From corruption-is-system to system-sans-corruption. From people for government to government for people. From an opaque culture of liaisoning to one of transparency and direct governance. We all are witness to a transformative moment in India’s history of subjugation of a thousand years.
I left India in the first decade of 21st century, and my reasons to leave India were not different from many like me. Despite being well off and doing well in our lives in India, we had a deep feeling of frustration and dejection. We felt like our country is running on a treadmill. Despite running for seventy years after our independence, we hadn’t covered much ground. The success of India was despite the bureaucracy and red-tapism we had and not because of it.
We all waited for change and waited for long enough but there wasn’t a ray of hope to uplift us from our morass. We always think that we are a small cog in the wheel and we cannot change the bigger system. But don’t they say that all journey begin with a single step. Or that a man can move the mountains?
In the last few years the feeling has been that yes, even a single man can change destiny of a billion people, an ancient land and can be a catalyst for a new identity. You don’t have to wait for everything to change or give up because nobody else is doing anything. You might debate if it is good or bad but can’t deny that India is seeing a sea-change in the last five years. The way problems are looked at, the way they are resolved and how the last person is being empowered is staggering. There is revived hope and enthusiasm amongst one and all that we also matter. Also, somebody does think at the top that we all are needed.
Bharat from India is a significant change blossoming within me. There is a surge of pride, a rush of blood, a rediscovered identity of being a Bharatiya and my motherland being the Bharat. Most people when they leave India, their connect with Bharat is primarily because of friends and family or purely business. The evolution for most NRIs is the same: knuckle down in pursuit of success and once having arrived, long to do something for the people and land you have left behind.
Politics has always been about creating perceptions . Demonetization and GST, in the worldview of Modi critics have been the two biggest dampeners to the economy in the last five years. However, I get a different feedback from my friends back home. There is this young generation who does not even wish to deal with cash. As per them, demonetization has been blessing in disguise as they nudge their stakeholders towards a business without cash. When one is dealing in cash, growth is limited and most of the time it doesn’t flow back into the veins of the system. Its use is limited, kind of personal in its bandwidth.
Some of the businesses have grown more than 20-30 % per annum in the last five years. One of my closest friend now has 300 employees compared to 70 a mere five years ago. The factory is running double shifts and primed for expansion into new units. There are similar tales in small to medium-sized enterprises. Rather than managing undisclosed, they are concentrating on real growth as one cannot outsource the black economy, whereby being above board one can delegate more and grow faster. There could be bigger reasons as well as far as PMO or government are concerned, but I let that for so-called economists to debate. I am only sharing perspective of small business and how empowered youth feels about this.
GST too I must admit was confusing and bewildering to start with. But now having travelled down the road, it’s generally making businesses happy. Being from a logistics background, I know the efficiency it has brought in terms of no barriers in movement of goods between states. Remember the past when moving from one state to another was nothing less than a nightmare: clogged for what passed as highways, the wastage of time and cost it entailed. Now with input credits under GST, it has not affected pricing for end users. After initial hiccups, it is all settling down for good and taking India into the direction of being a superpower at the world stage.
We talk about favoured nations and international trade treaties, yet different sales tax structure all over India was like trading within different countries inside own borders! Trucks crossing USA-Canada border would take lesser time than crossing borders within Indian states prior to GST. Again execution could be debatable, but not the intent. And we need to bear in mind that execution in countries with fraction of our population and magnitude is a completely different kettle of fish.
Ask any NRI and he would mention with glee on the small, small changes which are sweeping the corridors of Indian embassies on foreign shores. Gone are the days when there was the same mechanism to get passports renewed or visa applications when you had to look for people you know to get the job done. It is all transparent and could be done without looking over the shoulder. There are ways and means to get visa within hours for the Indian diaspora in case of urgency which could happen with parents/ family living so far. I have heard getting passports in India also has become way more straightforward than it used to be. Isn’t this a dream scenario, that in a foreign land under duress, you can reach out to the foreign & external affairs minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj on social media and she will not only respond or reply but also make a genuine attempt to resolve your matter? But that is also exception as generally issues are satisfactorily addressed on ground at first level itself.
Overall, whenever I go back to India, there is a feeling that the country is on the surge. There is a sense of pride and purpose. Everyone has a role to play, and if you are willing to go the distance, you have all the opportunities to express yourself. India needs some momentum and stability in terms of leadership to sustain this growth. There is a long way to go and lot more effort and energy is needed to manage this evolution.
Alexander the Great said once, ‘I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.’ I am hopeful; the new Bharat understands the importance of the ‘Lion leadership’ it presently has.
(Ritesh Malik is a first generation entrepreneur now based in Canada who views India from a perspective of past to the potential it exudes in present times).