Sunday, November 2, 2008

Swadeshi or Videshi

The first time I visited Delhi was in 1990. We travelled for about 2½ days by train. Shopping, sightseeing, meeting friends, in short, do everything enough to last us a lifetime, certain we would not visit Delhi again. How is this related to the subject on hand?

Actually, I want to talk about Globalisation. I remember arguing against Globalisation & its evils at college with my friends. By the way, I work in an MNC, hard but comfortable job, salary enough to save for a rainy day. And I have travelled many times to Delhi, apart from other cities. See, my life changed. Thanks to Globalisation!

Globalisation changed India overnight. People from the rest of the world wanted to invest in India. The service sector, unheard of till then, grew into a giant bringing in the much needed foreign currency. Even prayers are outsourced to India! Of course, I needn’t say anything about the software sector. The purchasing power of the yuppies grew in leaps n bounds.

We can snack at Pizza Hut, Kentucy Fried Chicken, wear Lee Jeans, view our favorite movies at multiplexes, fly to even Hubli-Dharwad. In short, the international experience is here, fairyland at your door step.

What did we just hear?
· Jet Airways laying off 1900+ employees,
· Assocham predicting further layoffs about 30% of the national workforce!
· Indian foreign exchange kitty down by $15 billion
· SENSEX crashing to 8,000+ from a high of 20,000+
What turned the fairyland to this grim situation? Let me explain a little bit.
Huge chunk of the investments flowing into India are in the share market. FIIs brought in tons of money to invest in the Indian market propelling the SENSEX to unknown heights. They simply took it back when they needed it back home, whatever the reasons. At the same time, they are selling imported merchandise: Cell phones, TVs, apparel, food, beauty products & what not.

Were there any huge investments in infrastructure: Roads, power generation, manufacturing industries? Did we export value added goods: Finished products (save for the apparel industry)? I think the answer is NO!!

Mahatma Gandhiji proposed the mantra of Swadeshi during the 1920’s. He exhorted us become producers, not merely consume. It became an important driving force to win us our hard earned freedom.

But where we now?
We serve the others through ITeS, export semi-finished goods, mineral ores, etc & spend the money thus earned on cell phones, fancy apparel, pizzas, burgers, beauty products, etc. i.e finished goods, from the same countries
We generate value when we produce finished goods in India. But we are not producing substantially, but merely consume merchandise from outside India. So, the net value addition into the system is a near cipher.

Doesn’t Swadeshi have more relevance for us today than the Mahatma’s day?

Produce finished goods, add value to the system and then, consume should be the key words. Always!