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Standpoint: Are we really geared for another Swadeshi Movement?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Atma-nirbhar (Self-reliance) and being “vocal about local” are the latest clarion call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As India moves towards an exit strategy from the current lockdown, Modi’s latest address to the nation signals the way forward for the country, which involves manufacturing and consumption of Made in India products.

This return to Swadeshi has its roots way back in pre-Independent India’s Swadeshi Movement and the boycott of British products, which saw imported clothes and products being hurled into bonfires across the country then fighting for her Independence.

The Swadeshi Movement this time comes amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a heavy toll not just on human lives, but economies too. The road to recovery is a long and difficult one. With no cure in sight for the virus at the moment, we all will have to learn to live with it, observing all safety measures. We can no longer keep the country’s economy under lockdown and the wheels of economy have to be set in motion.

Modi’s speech on May 12 has set the Government’s lockdown exit agenda and the message is loud and clear – India needs to be self-reliant in all aspects and not look to other countries to revive herself. In his speech, he talked about how Yoga and Khadi have gone international today. He called on all Indians to “become vocal for local – not only to buy local products, but also to promote them proudly”. As several industry experts pointed out, with the world’s attention on India now, Modi’s speech was also for global leaders who are looking at a country to invest in beyond China. With quite a few countries blaming China for not warning the world about COVID-19 on time, and some even seeking compensation from the country, India can become a formidable market force for the world.

But are we prepared?

Coming to Indian brands and companies, there is no dearth of success stories. From Reliance, Tata Group, Infosys, Mahindra & Mahindra, Wipro, Airtel, Godrej to Amul, Britannia, Dabur, Patanjali, Hamdard, Himalaya, Zee Group, Times Group, HT Media, Muthoot Pappachan Group, Ola Cabs, Paytm, Byju’s and many, many more.

There is no dearth of skills, after all there is a huge Indian workforce that has been powering US’ IT industry; there are numerous Indian doctors at the forefront of the COVID-19 healthcare system globally.

The major fight that Indian brands and companies have is that of perception – of not being up to the global mark. Maintaining consistent quality of products is also something that we need to really work on. Packaging, promotion and maintaining a strong supply chain need to be shored up on an urgent basis.

Besides, we Indians need to first develop confidence in our own products. We have embraced Jio enthusiastically, but have we taken to brands like Micromax or iBall as we aspire for a Vivo or an Oppo or Samsung or iPhone?

After the first few years of extreme highs, why have the consumer products from Patanjali not been able to keep up with the MNC brands? It wasn’t due to lack of promotion, because Baba Ramdev was visible on every media platform endorsing Patanjali products and for some time, the brand was the highest ad spender in the country.

Will we Indians really come out and wholeheartedly take up Indian brands or will we opt for prudence over patriotism? Will our corporates and brands meet up to Modi’s call to take locally-made products up to global standards, without pushing the prices sky high? Chinese products are preferred mostly due to their cheap prices, will our locally-made products be able to fight them on the price front?

I, for one, am ready to buy Indian, but will the locally-made products match up to my expectations?

This is an opportunity like never before and there is no time like the present times to bring forth another Swadeshi Movement in India.

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