Home / Opinion / Columns /  Indians should be leaders, not followers

India just celebrated Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. If we were to look at the distance we have travelled in these 75 years, it’s a rare accomplishment. From being impoverished and bruised, our precious resources extracted, we are now leaders in innovation, self-reliance, deep intellect, and making global-impact projects. Faced with covid-19, we essayed a journey that others thought was impossible, emerging as winners on the global stage, making and delivering medicines not only for the second-most populated country of the world, but for other nations as well.

The world is being influenced by us. Our entrepreneurship and digital talent, the ability to focus on industry, and our path-breaking digital innovations make us deeply attractive for other nations. We have 1,300 GCCs employing 1.3 million, and around 1,100 are scaling up operations, according to IT industry body Nasscom.

We are globally relevant. In space, we have more than 100 startups. In India Stack, we have a template of giving the remotest Indian a digital identity, and others want to replicate that in their own nations. Ayushman Bharat is the world’s largest government healthcare scheme to achieve Universal Health Coverage. The US is looking to emulate the way our government tech is being aligned to ensure high quality public services. Our proven digital capabilities and deep local markets have given us the confidence to think big, make in India, and code in India. While atmanirbharta was the anthem of freedom, it’s now a source of pride, with a new consciousness awakening.

When we are so good, we need not look up to foreigners, especially caucasians. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out in his Independence Day speech, we need to resolve to get rid of all traces of servitude and the colonial past. The Mughals and the British ruled us in the past, but now the mentality of servitude needs to change.

“Make for the World" what we “Make In India", PM Modi declared in his speech on Independence Day in 2020. Now, the sixth-largest economy in the world, contributing to 3.1% of the global GDP, India is emerging as a hub for manufacturing exports. Our manufacturing exports for FY21–22 touched a record $418 billion, an overall growth of more than 40% compared to $290 billion last fiscal. India is slated to scale up its manufacturing exports to $1 trillion by FY28, as per a recent Bain and Company report.

When the US talks of Chip 4, to boost supply chain partnership for semiconductors, between the US, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, it’s time to stake claim on a Chip 5 proposal with India. It now looks anachronistic that today, with our irreplaceable economic and political role, we are still not permanent member of the Security Council. In any important line-up, we are holding our own. India is the largest provider of generic medicines globally. Being the 4th largest automaker in the world, we are pitching to become a leader in the global EV space. In sustainable ideas, we are ahead of others. By 2030, 50% of our energy required will be generated from non-fossil fuels.

The world embraces yoga with pride. Our green and white revolutions have been remarkable. Our sportspersons have been breaking records. This year, Nikhat Sareen became the fifth Indian woman to win gold at the World Boxing Championships. In May, our men’s badminton created history by lifting the Thomas Cup title with a commanding 3-0 win over Indonesia. Neeraj Chopra created history, becoming the second Indian and first male track and field athlete to win a medal in the World Championships. Around 66% of our population is below the age of 35.

These digitally savvy, young Indians are restless and want more. The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) Digital Adoption Index estimates India to be the second-fastest digitizing economy among 17 leading economies globally. Tier 2 and 3 cities have emerged as new aspiration centres. Business guru C.K. Prahalad, who said aspirations propel growth, and bring resources, would have nodded in affirmation. Let’s dream big, have pride in our hearts, and resolve to open new pathways of success, the relic of servitude consigned to the past.

Dr Ajai Chowdhry is chairman of the Epic Foundation and founder of HCL.

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