As India progresses on its journey towards attaining ‘Aatmanirbharta’ or self-reliance, it is the perfect time to rethink the country’s manufacturing strategy. A robust manufacturing sector can act as a strong lever for economic advancement in these times. To build a self-sufficient manufacturing operation locally, we need to accelerate the pace of indigenisation by taking a quantum leap in the way it is approached to reach the aspired scale. With a calibrated approach, India’s manufacturing sector can leapfrog traditional phases of development and achieve the country’s self-reliance ambitions.
As a country, we have on offer a big market, and are now able to leverage the capability and capacity to scale up for a global market. India today has the width and weight to invest in co-creation programmes through collaboration with willing global players to co-develop relevant technologies and intellectual property (IP) in critical areas. With co-owned IP in areas of strategic importance, not only can India commercialise production locally, but also use its base to become a global supplier and exporter of defence technologies. There are several examples of such a model thriving in this part of the world, such as the UK-Japan co-development program for joint air-to-air missiles, UK-Singapore collaboration to co-develop new technologies that will power the future of aircraft propulsion, better counter-terrorism measures and a more efficient military logistics system.
A thriving local industry powered by India’s own technology will provide an apt platform for its skilled and ambitious workforce. The essence lies in building an ecosystem that supports robust logistics infrastructure, provides connected and efficient value chains that link raw material providers, technology services, multi-speciality service providers, skilled talent, and research and development.
The future of manufacturing will also be defined by enhanced data and connectivity, manufacturing innovations related to automation and artificial intelligence, digital disruptions and access to resources augmented through global value chains. Technology adoption is critical today and the future will be about developing a more digitally connected world. The quick shift from traditional means of interaction to digital platforms due to the pandemic is testimony to the increasing role of technology in our lives. We must look at technology as the differential – a tool that can help us make a quantum leap in elevating the sector quickly to become competitive on the world stage. Investment in disruptive technologies such as AI-enabled machine learning can improve productivity, create cost benefits and even help improve production speed by increasing predictability for downtimes and transition times. The data and insights gathered across manufacturing operations can also help in predictive problem solving by identifying issues that may not be easy to spot.
For a rechristened manufacturing vision, an equal and exceptional commitment from both government and industry is paramount. We must take a holistic, integrated approach to develop the entire ecosystem and connected value-chain. This calls for creating a distributed manufacturing ecosystem where we can create design in multiple locations, produce prototypes, and export tried and tested designs to multiple locations for manufacturing. Given all the above factors, India can well become the destination of choice for global manufacturers in the post-Covid era as it offers tremendous opportunities in engineering, services, supply chain sourcing, digital ecosystem and a rich and diverse talent pool.
It is time we envision a new India with greater strategic autonomy and technological far-sightedness to anticipate and respond to the challenges of the future.
(The writer is President, Rolls-Royce India & South Asia)