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There is no established blueprint to making the jump from a middle- to a high-income economy. India will have to chart its own path. Today, it is the fastest-growing of the world’s large economies. A new wave of economic reforms has propelled the country to the forefront of the global economic stage.

The challenge now is to sustain this performance into the coming decades, creating millions of good jobs and rising incomes, until India joins the ranks of high-income countries.

This is no trivial task. Few countries have succeeded; they were very different from India, and they achieved continued fast growth in a very different global economic environment. No other country has the same combination of size, talents, strengths and challenges as India does.

But India has always done things a little differently. To make the jump to sustained economic leadership and growth, India needs to strike a balance of quickly creating more jobs for today while starting to build the jobs of tomorrow. For India, the future of work is both digital and industrial.

India developed a world-class information technology (IT) services industry well ahead of the curve, and some of its companies have already asserted themselves as global champions. India’s early push into digital know-how and technologies now proves prescient; as digital innovations transform global industry, India should take a pragmatic approach in exploiting this advantage.

India still suffers substantial infrastructure gaps and inefficiencies in sectors ranging from energy to transportation. But new technologies—from production techniques like 3D printing, to software and sensors that transform industrial equipment into interconnected devices, to digital collaboration tools that connect talented people across the country—can help solve these challenges.

Digital-industrial solutions can already deliver greater efficiency and lower costs in a range of industrial sectors. And India can leverage digital platforms to improve efficiency in health care delivery, power distribution, payments, and a number of other infrastructure and social development areas.

Traditional manufacturing still needs to play a bigger role in India’s economy—and quickly—to create millions of good jobs in the next few years. India should aim to rapidly boost the size of traditional manufacturing, while adopting the new digital-industrial technologies. There is a strong synergy between the two—the efficiency gains of digital technologies will allow traditional manufacturing to scale faster.

The same pragmatic attitude should guide India’s efforts to equip its workers with the right skills. India should boost education in data science and coding, and start providing combinations of digital and mechanical engineering skills that will be in high demand as the digital transformation of the world unfolds. But at the same time it should build the more traditional, factory-floor vocational skills that most manufacturing companies need today. Again, the two efforts are complementary.

Here, government and private firms should work as partners, because they have a common interest. For firms, both domestic and global, finding the right talent will be the top priority in the coming decades. And the government needs to leverage India’s young, diverse, and fast-growing population into fast-growing employment levels.

Initiatives must be undertaken to understand what skills are needed for today and for tomorrow, design the right curricula in schools and complement them with company-sponsored training programs as we argue in a recent white paper titled The Future of Work: India at the door step of next growth revolution.

To rapidly boost its industry, India needs to remove the major obstacles that have held manufacturing back so far, bolstering infrastructure and improving the business environment. Power generation and distribution should be one of the priorities. Today, some 240 million Indian people have no access to electricity. But lack of sufficient and reliable electricity access is not only a human and social priority: without access to reliable electricity, the manufacturing sector cannot take off.

Similarly, the transportation infrastructure needs to be strengthened; and as urbanization proceeds apace, urban infrastructure will need to be correspondingly improved. On the business environment side, the government has already made important progress, with steps to facilitate foreign investment and open up the economy to greater competition; the launch of the Goods and Services Tax is also an important milestone.

This reform momentum should be maintained, to sustain the robust domestic and foreign investment that India needs.

Digital innovation is reshaping the world economy, and reshaping the future of work. India can now leverage its natural advantage in digital technologies to chart its unique path to prosperity, with a pragmatic approach that will create millions of jobs in the short term, and sustained improvements in living standards for the coming decades.

Marco Annunziata is the chief economist and executive director, Global Market Insight, GE; Nitin Bhate is chief marketing officer, GE South Asia.

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