Indo Spanish Chamber of Commerce (ISCC) held a webinar. ISCC is a private non-profit organisation and the only business aggrupation of Spanish companies in India. In 2019 ISCC got the recognition as the official chamber of Spain in India, by the endorsement of the Spanish Government. The aim of ISCC is creating a forum in which sharing experiences, exchange, and contacts, with the aim of promoting the economic ties between the Spanish and the Indian business communities. Today ISCC has as members the most representative Spanish companies operating in India, and many Indian companies including some of the Nifty index ones.
Talking about the India-Spain relations, Indian Ambassador to Spain, H.E Mr. Sanjay Verma said, “I think that is a story in itself, it sounds very suggestive of where India itself would be looking at in that sector. Our Arogya Setu app- the contact tracing app or Aadhar are digital identity platform. These are indicative of how India has embraced the digital world. We are also focusing on startups in India, I think I understand seven startups have reached unicorn status in 2020 alone, joining the 30 odd plus already in this table and the sector of the economy where I think the digital economy is going to have tremendous impact from the Indian perspective is health, agriculture, education, defence, and not very insignificantly in empowerment. And when I talk about empowerment, I mean the socio-economic mobility or the empowerment of women or marginalized sections of society. Of course, it’s a double-edged in that to break into this you need minimum infrastructure and facilities but after that, it can be a near-level playing field.”
Mr. Sanjay further said, “As far as Spain goes, our understanding is that 4% of Spain GDP depends on this sector. There are 34,000 companies here and the areas in which Spain is doing tremendously well is software for defense and utilities, banking, air traffic control, etc. I also understand the Barcelona and Madrid combined together would be the fourth-largest hub in Europe with about 2400 startups in this field. I think names like glovo and cabify are suggestive of the role Spain and Spanish companies can play in this regard. At the country and the bilateral level, I think there is synergy emerging. I mean both the countries are bullish on AI, Spain has a secretary of state for digitalization with whom I’m incidentally meeting next week. So the takeaways from this meeting, I will report to the Secretary of State. In India, Niti Ayoga has an ambitious national AI plan, our new education policy depends a lot on digitalization and I may also add that the Indian foreign ministry this year in January 2020 established a division called NEST, it is New, Emerging and Strategic Technologies Division which is going to handmaiden and interface Indian foreign policy with the trends in this area, combining both are security and business interests. So this is a wonderful topic taken and I will try to listen very carefully; I am sure and in essence, we are looking for the Christopher Columbus to take India-Spain relations forward in this area. Maybe there’s a Christopher Columbus among us, doesn’t have to be a man could be a woman. But I’m glad we all join hands together because this is the age where we are going to determine how we regulate the digitalization space, how we generate incomes, without being Luddites. You surely cannot escape the fact that we are a country of 1.3 billion people and this debate on whether this is going to eat up jobs or is going to create jobs. I mean, the human interface and all this, I would imagine, would add to jobs.”
Throwing some light on the current situation in the IT sector involving digital transformation, Prasad P. Meharunkar, Regional Director for Iberia & Italy, WIPRO said, “Basically I represent the Indian IT industry, India definitely has potential to become world’s capital for artificial intelligence. It is not only because we have a large pool of talent, but like as embassy said we are a country of 1.3 billion people and we definitely lead outsourcing age, Internet age and digital age. So, definitely, we are very well in a position to be the world’s capital for artificial intelligence. And this is not only because we have a large pool of talent, but, the thing is that India has like so many challenges, so many complexities which can be solved by artificial intelligence, the problems to a common man in the sector of health care and education are the problems of the normal truck driver or normal taxi driver or even vegetable seller. So, because of this variety of problem, the complexity of the problem, we will have a phenomenal number of use cases in India and such kind of variety of experiences, our number of use cases- it is very difficult for anywhere in the world to be generated. And this kind of experience we can bring to the world and we can apply these use cases to promote or to implement the artificial intelligence-led solution for citizens across the world, and by this India will be able to lead this era of artificial intelligence in my opinion.”
Addressing the SMEs and the IT sector in India, Shivendra Singh, Vice President & Head of the Global Trade Development at (National Assoication for Software & Service Companies) NASSCOM said, “It’s a very, very rapidly evolving world. Now, the fact of the matter is that even under the pandemic, when, you know, we’ve seen a huge amount of negative growth, the tech industry, in the last two quarters have performed amazingly well. And one of the areas where the growth is happening is in the area of digital transformation, so that’s one big area, nearly about 40, to 50%, of all the growth is happening in this area. Now it’s a very, very conducive environment, cause you’ve seen cloud migration happening, you’re seeing bundling of technologies, you’re seeing workplace technologies, you’re seeing, you know, high speed, secure infrastructure, so there’s a lot which is happening, platformization of services are all happening. So, a lot which is happening is conducive to the current environment, and the growth. And as alluded to by Prasad, coming to the artificial intelligence, we are seeing the huge opportunities that exist in this area, whether he talked about the common man and some of the benefits but let’s look at the banking, financial services & insurance sector. Now, that’s something which is probably the largest for the tech industry, and the maximum potential to grow in the current pandemic is also there. So things on contact lists, technology, things on mobile payment, analytics in terms of customer expectation and managing all of that definitely is something which is really going to push developments and the growth of AI. In fact, all companies are technology companies, so you look at a bank, you look at a retailer, all of them are now probably technology companies because the order flow-in is phenomenal. So I am pretty bullish about it and just to answer the question about Python, in terms of acquisitions, the way this is going to go is you will have organic growth, but a lot of growth happening is with the engagement with startups and the scale of startups which have a stack of technology, large companies are also engaging with them, that could be a joint go to market strategy as well, an acquisition is one part of it, but there are various ways in which that engagement can happen. And for those startups, the great thing is that the large reach and scalability provided by our large tech companies are phenomenal. So it’s a win-win scenario and this is going to lead to a lot of partnership between, on one hand, startups in the middle, you have these tech players, and you will have the enterprises. So this whole combined approach is going to drive a lot of this growth in digital transformation as well and we’re seeing that happening.”
Dr Kiron Ravindran, the Asst. Professor of Information Systems at IE Business School, one of the most reputed business schools worldwide, addressed the current picture of India’s IT sector; he said, “I’m actually very happy to be in technology at this point in time. And my point, my viewpoint is that, for the longest time, we’ve always thought of IT as something that fixes problems being discussed about the communication issues, the silos that our organizations are, the departments not talking to each other and we were given the task of cleaning up the mess within client photos. In the last few years, what we’re seeing is, we’re taking a more upfront and central role, where we’re saying, look, let’s not fix up your messes in the back end but let’s go up front and address how your end customers are actually dealing with your product or service or whatever, right. And that’s where design comes into the conversation. For the longest time, our IT developers were placed in the basements of your client organization, you know, separated from the end customers, because we’ve been told not to talk to them, they were specifically skilled people who are given the responsibility of talking to clients. And now recently, we actually contracted by the WIPRO design team and I was very proud to go to this organization and tell the rest of my colleagues, look, these are the guys who are technically an Indian company, that’s telling us how we should do our customer experience. And for me, it was a matter of pride and seeing this in a bigger picture, if we think of what it is that an IT service provider provides for a client firm, we’ve been trying to reduce costs for a long time, we’ve been trying to raise growth or profits for a long time and for which, we got better and better. We introduced AI and robotics and all of this stuff, basically, to make this cost reduction a more company argument when the labour arbitrage was not so strong anymore. Now, we get to the point where we fixed up most of the messes, we’ve cleaned up the processes, there’s not much more we can add value to, use a cliche, we there’s not much more we can add value in that aspect. So we have to go ahead and realize that what we need to do is, make this software or the products that we develop for these customers actually used by their customers and so we get better at delivering the experience. And if that comes from internal channels, excellent. If it doesn’t come from internal channels, there are sourcing capabilities just like we did it for their clients. But I think the part that we’re missing out, and I don’t hear much attention being paid to this, are the role of all of this being under the banner of compliance and specifically compliance linked with security, cybersecurity. My hunch is that in the near future, there will be a lot more emphasis on service providers from India or wherever, having to not only deliver service, not only meet the demands of design but also ensure or help the clients maintain a level of cybersecurity that they might not be able to manage themselves. I also think that maybe in the future, we will have another compliance pressure in terms of the economic impact of the services that we offer. If you look at other industries, they are waking up to the fact that the service that they produce or products that they produce have an impact on the environment. For us, we know what we don’t admit that it actually has a carbon footprint. You know, every artificial intelligence algorithm that we come up with has an impact on the environment, has an impact on energy consumption, and we’re not talking about it yet. And my hunch is, these are the directions that the smarter ones among us will seize the opportunity in cybersecurity and energy compliance. We know how to do AI, robotics, IoT, blockchain, all of that stuff. But I think the part that we haven’t heard many conversations is about cybersecurity and energy complaint.”
Addressing the institutional framework for the development of AI and digital transformation on the Spanish side, the Chief Representative of CDTI, for India, South & Southeast Asia, the Spanish Government agency for Innovation, pertaining to the Ministry of Science and Innovation, Adrian Gutierrez said, “There is, at EU as well as at national level right now, institutional backing, as well as a top-down strategic approach effort towards digital transformation and this again will be coupled with a significant investment that will follow soon now. So basically, when we look at the EU framework, we basically have the next generation e-recovery plan that basically puts the emphasis on the twin, green and digital transformations as the two basic routes to reinforce EU’s competitiveness, resilience and stand as a global power. So with that framework, basically, the European Union is envisioning an expenditure and investment of more than 750 billion euros and targeted reinforcements on the long term through the EU budget from 2021 to 2027. EU’s vision of a digital single market relies on three pillars basically, the first one is better connectivity and rapid deployment of 5G. The second pillar priority would be to develop a larger technical and industrial presence of European industry across strong, digital and strategic digital capabilities, such as AI, quantum supercomputers, blockchain and so forth. And the third pillar is the reduction of the fragmentation and striving towards more European common data spaces, visibly like China and the United States, because that will enable the EU firms and the EU players to develop products and services that could reach and have a larger impact, larger scale. So in full alignment with the EU priorities and framework, the Spanish government has also developed its own vision, its own priorities, its own strategy and basically the two frameworks I would like to draw your attention to, which are the Spanish digital agenda 2025, recently released in 2020, and the research development and innovation strategy in artificial intelligence. The first one, the Spanish digital agenda, identify the objectives and structural reforms that need to be pursued in order to roll out the supporting infrastructure, develop better connectivity, and make companies especially SMEs more digital. The digital agenda in Spain will mobilize a significant volume of public and private investment, amounting to approximately 70 billion euros up to 2025. And the initial period of 2020 to 2022, the public investment announced is around 20 billion euros, out of which 15 will come from the European programs and funding instruments that are to be implemented through the new EU recovery plan. On the other hand, the research development innovation strategy of artificial intelligence is another relevant framework that we have currently in Spain, because this is the first time that the government reflects on in which areas the Spanish R&D stakeholders should do AI R&D related activities and basically, they have prioritized several sectors such as industry 4.0, health and energy, which were mentioned already for by some of the other panelists, tourism, public administration, environment, safety and security. And it’s not only that they set the R&D priorities but also they are established certain policy recommendations in the area of training and skill development, or, for instance, in the development and rollout of supporting computing infrastructure. So basically, what I wanted to bring to the attention of the panel is that there is an institutional backing to the transition, to the digital transformation right now in Europe, as well as a national level, that there is a strategic approach, and that there will be a good and significant amount of funding supporting that digital transformation in Europe. So basically, those would be my contributions when it comes to the EU and national broad frameworks for promoting digital transformation.”
Taking the conversation further, Pablo Royo Martin, Business Consulting Partner at Energy&Utilities of Minsait, and Indra Group company, said, “First of all, and I guess we are very happy to hear that from a public administration point of view, there is a clear view that digitalization strategy and the digitalization of the economy are key values to develop the economy. I think we all have seen this a couple of years back, that’s in fact, just to put our example, we launched this main side brand within Indra because it was founded to address the transformation in digitalization across the sectors. So we are aware that it needs to happen, that it is important, as this is the future; how we will develop, we are still in this roadmap. I still believe there is a long way to cover, I was hearing Kiron and I don’t know if I understood you correctly; there are many things the IT department knows- how to do robotics, etc, I think that’s correct. But there is still a long way to go and why is that, I guess technology is now a very intrinsic part of the business, it’s not a separate functioning animal. We see that in doing a proprietary framework, we see how this technology is going to help the business and we see three different ways that are completely different among them. One keeps on doing what you are doing but use all these transformations to do the things better; you will run your operations more efficiently, you will understand your customer more efficiently and better be able to customize the products to him or her, but you will still keep on doing what you were doing before, so it’s the same business. There is another way where you can tackle this, as you can build a new business model while you still are in the same business; to put an example, you are supplying electricity and you are complementing it, but you create a new business model that didn’t exist before because the technology was not enabling it. And there is a third aspect, which is a completely different model, you are changing the industry altogether. For all three, that I think needs to be tackled very differently, the technological part is already embedded. And I said before, I think there is still a long way to go and a long way to go where we can see it from the companies we are collaborating with.”
Anindya Saha, CEO & Founding Partner of NERO VENTURES S.L. expressed his views during the conversation. He said, “My professional life revolves around grassroot levels. The Spanish govt is working towards making the money reach MSMEs. People from India need to understand that in Spain 95 per cent of the companies are small and medium scale and these are great companies. And most of the technological transformations have come from these companies. Even in Switzerland, most of these are small companies. So, the scenario is very different in this part of the world; it is not run by the WIPROs and the TCS and the Infosys of the world, at the grassroots levels, it is really run by the smaller companies. Indra, now has grown much bigger but at a point, it was a small company. And so has happened to many other companies and there are two aspects to that. Glovo for me is not a technology company, it is a business model. Flipkart is not a technology company, Amazon- what we buy on the internet is not a technology company, it is a logistics company with a technological background. If you talk about Amazon web services, it is a technology company. So, these were two different things and we need to clarify that. India has tremendous potential because the entire population of Spain is 40 million and just only Uttar Pradesh population amounts 200 million. The population multiplying factor is huge. We need to do business and people sitting in India will be surprised at how similar the Spain and Italian culture are to the Indian culture and how distinct it is from the American culture. India has worked very strongly with the US but surprisingly, not Spain where the work and environment cultures are so similar that you feel totally like home within six months. The only difference is that the roads are cleaner here, otherwise, we are very similar in our imperfections. I am very surprised at how so little business happens between India and Spain and that is because of the over bias of India with UK and the US.”
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NCPCR going to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse in Chandigarh
The National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is going to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse. On 26 July 2021, NCPCR is going to instruct Chandigarh Administration to utilise all mediums to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse using medical tests in case required. This whole program would be managed under the recently launched Joint Action Plan (JAP), in which the Narcotics Control Bureau, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Education are actively involved as stakeholders. NCPCR is going to start such initiatives under JAP across India.
NCPCR has identified 272 such vulnerable districts across the nation where State stakeholders would extensively work on Children who are substance abused and would wean away drugs from their lives while adopting various mediums. A recent study by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment identified 4.6 lakh children in the country who are addicted to inhalants, the only category of substance in which the prevalence was higher among children than among adults. The five states with the highest prevalence of inhalant abuse among children were Uttar Pradesh (94,000 children), Madhya Pradesh (50,000 children), Maharashtra (40,000 children), Delhi (38,000 children), and Haryana (35,000 children).
Priyank Kanoongo, Chairperson of NCPCR told The Daily Guardian, “We introduced to have exclusive De-addiction and Rehabilitation Facilities for Children in 272 Vulnerable Districts. The MoSJE shall expedite the process to establish exclusive de-addiction facilities meant for children. However, if there are any constraints or lack of space, a separate portion in the existing facility has to be identified and partitioned for the children. Also, there has to be a provision of separate toilets; and safety and security of children have to be ensured.”
“The action plan mandates that ‘Prahari Clubs’’ be set up in schools in collaboration with Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti, in which children will discuss issues related to drug abuse and become monitors of the abuse,” he added.
TECHNOLOGY WILL BE A KEY PART OF FASHION INDUSTRY’S GROWTH: SUNAINA KWATRA
Fashion & lifestyle leader Sunaina Kwatra spoke to NewsX India A-List about doing business during the pandemic, the impact of technology in the fashion industry and more. Sunaina has proven expertise in international retail management, brand positioning, and turnaround execution. She has almost 20 years of work experience, the majority of which has been leading fashion brands at the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesey (LVMH) group in the Asia Pacific. Sunaina began her career as an entrepreneur in the homeware and lifestyle industry working with retailers in the United States including Barneys New York and Pottery Barn. She pivoted into luxury fashion brand management after completing her MBA and has held strategic positions to expand and reposition brands within LVMH’s Asia Pacific portfolio.
In her most recent role, Sunaina was the country head of Louis Vuitton in India and legal director for all operations in the country. She was responsible for developing and expanding Louis Vuitton’s omnichannel retail operations, people and brand equity in this high growth market. She successfully led her team to achieve the highest sales, client experience and brand growth that had ever been achieved for the brand.
Q. Tell us more about your background and how your Indian roots brought you back to India?
A. I’m from Thailand. I am ethnically Indian but fourth generation, born and brought up in Thailand. I was very blessed to have an international upbringing. I have worked in five continents, travelled extensively. My last few roles have been within the LVMH group based out of Hong Kong.
My first role within the group was as the Regional Head of Asia Pacific for Emilio Pucci. In this role, I managed the entire scope of the brand’s direct retail business in Hong Kong and China as well as franchise, department store and multi-brand distribution in the Asia Pacific. My next role within the LVMH group was as the Commercial Director for Givenchy to identify and execute growth strategies to maximise brand development and repositioning. In my tenure, I oversaw 61 locations, opened 24 stores in line with the brand vision and improved productivity across the network. When they offered me the position to come back to India to amplify the Louis Vuitton business in India, I was thrilled at the opportunity and I am very proud of all we did to build the business and our team in India.
Q. What are the tools that have allowed you to succeed?
A. While growing up my father always said that travel is the best form of education. I had a very international education in Asia, Australia, and Europe and have worked in five continents. This allows me to be sensitive to people and cultures while executing different strategies to grow businesses. I am a commercially driven leader and am passionate about people and delivering excellence. My general management and end-to-end experience overseeing teams, networks, finance, logistics, merchandising, client development, and marketing allow me to be detail-oriented yet see and set the big picture.
Q. What have we learned in retail during the Covid-19 pandemic?
A. The biggest learning is that we have to embrace e-commerce and the online experience. The word ‘omnichannel’ was a buzzword a decade ago. I think successful businesses during the pandemic had to integrate different methods of shopping available to consumers. You have had to expand the supply chain through localities, fulfilment centres or direct consumers. E-commerce has been a key to successful businesses in the pandemic. Businesses had to be agile and responsive to different means of reaching consumers. The lockdown has also led to less physical interaction with consumers. Brands have had to re-think the consumer experience and how they engage with clients. The big thing is how we engage with clients in a number of different ways.
Q. How do you think technology will impact the fashion industry in the future?
A. Technology will be a key part of the growth of the fashion industry. Coming out of the pandemic, sustainable materials are important and a key focus for a lot of brands. Opting for materials that are good for the environment as well as good for us: non-toxic and more breathable. We know that there are now going to be ways to bridge e-commerce and the successful physical presence of stores. We can have VRs, augmented reality to help you try out clothing; jewellery, fashion and many brands have done it successfully. Just the engagement of technology and digitisation is the key to the success and supply chain management. This is an exciting time for us and technology will enable future growth in retail.
Q. What advice would you give to business owners in India as we come out of second Covid-19 wave?
A. I am sitting in the US right now and we are starting to see lines in retail stores again. People really want to embrace human connection. I would just like to say that there is hope and light. I hope that businesses now use this time to strategise and further activate their omnichannels, integrate, and improve their e-commerce presence, engage with their communities on social media platforms and really use technology to enhance the supply chain and logistics to better prepare them for the future.
Time out: Yoga asanas amid busy work meetings
Work from home means longer working hours, with more emails and even more work meetings. Attending those long back to back video calls can be boring, hectic, and it definitely makes your body stiff and sore due to long sitting hours at the work desk. It also affects your focus and productivity. Obviously, how can one properly concentrate while in pain? However, a little movement and stretching in between busy work meetings can save you from unwanted mind and body stress.
On International Self-Care Day, let’s decide to prioritise a healthy lifestyle amid busy schedules.
Try these simple yoga asanas that you can do while sitting on your chair or while standing in between breaks:
This asana can be done while sitting on a chair or while standing. It is a great shoulder and upper back opener. It also works towards removing stiffness from the lower body as well. Remember to repeat this asana on both sides.
· Sit up tall on the chair with your spine erect and feet flat on the floor
· Bring both your hands together, elbows touching each other. Take the right arm around the left and bring it around so both palms are facing each other
· Lift your right leg and place it over your left thigh, tucking your right toes around the left calf
· Gaze straight and breathe normally. Remove the bind to come out of the pose
· Repeat on the other side
2. SITTING SIDE BENDS
Sitting at the desk for a long time can make the upper body very stiff. Hence, it is important to engage in some simple movements like side bends.
This pose can also be performed while sitting on a chair or hile standing.
· Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the ground
· Inhale, raise both your arms up in the air and palms facing each other
· As you exhale, take your right arm over your head, stretching it over to the left
· Simultaneously, bring your left arm down to the right side
· Breathe normally, feeling the stretch in your right-hand side of the body
· Hold this pose for 30 seconds
· Repeat on the other side
This is one of the most simple and effective poses. It is beneficial for overall health. It helps with aligning body posture, relieves back pain, increases focus, and balance.
· Stand straight on the floor and keep a small gap between your feet
· Inhale and raise both your arms
· Interlock your fingers and stretch your arms upwards
· Now come on your toes, raising your heels
· Feel the stretch in the sides of your body and be in this pose for a few seconds
· Release your arms and come down on your heels
4. SHOULDER OPENER
This is an excellent stretch for the shoulders as well as the upper back. This stretch not only helps with stiff shoulders but also calms the mind as you fold forward.
· Sit comfortably on the chair with your feet flat on the floor
· Take your arms behind your back, interlacing your fingers
· Bend your torso forward, bringing your hands over your head, straightening it as much as possible
· You can place your head on your lap if that’s comfortable or else, just gaze towards the floor
· Be gentle and know your limit
Remember to do deep breathing during these asanas. It will help you relax and destress. Take out at least a few minutes every day to rejuvenate and recharge yourself.
The writer is a Yoga Instructor at SARVA.
WORLD ORDER AND INDIA: NEGOTIATING THUCYDIDES TRAP & GREAT CONVERGENCE
Standing as a gateway between Western hegemony and Chinese authoritarianism, India holds a global promise that is much more sustainable, inclusive, peaceful, and economic growth-centric.
Harvard Professor Graham Alison’s ‘Thucydides Trap’ and Geneva School of Economics Professor Richard Baldwin’s ‘Great Convergence’ are two dominant geopolitical perspectives today that guide and capture current global geopolitical transitions and turbulence of our times. Thucydides Trap and Great Convergence are recent propositions. There is, however, a very interesting third perspective too that was prophesied back in 1940s by former Director of London School of Economics, Sir Halford John Mackinder.
Mackinder’s perspective centred around the imagination and theoretical construct of China and India rising to world centre stage. Back in 1943, Mackinder, writing the last article of his life, prophesied that “the Monsoon Lands of India and China holding a thousand million people of ancient oriental civilisation will grow to prosperity and balance the remaining great geographical regions.” Mackinder further added, “They will then balance the other thousand million who live between the Missouri (River in the USA) and the Yenisei (Russian River). A balanced globe of human beings, and happy, because balanced and thus free.” In the midst of the World War II, Mackinder wrote this piece at the request of Foreign Policy magazine and imagined a great geopolitical turning point emerging from the Asian highlands where China and India shall hold and define the thread of international geopolitical balance.
After over 75 years of Mackinder’s hypothesis, while China’s rise has greatly ruptured the global power balance and distorted world order today, the rise of India into the world stage offers an alternative narrative. Away from the communist jingoism and carefully balanced from Western political prescriptions, India, as Mackinder imagined, has indeed emerged as the largest democratic polity in the world with a world view that is entirely native of India and flows from the civilisational values of the subcontinent while being organic in character and symbiotic with larger aspirations of the world.
RISING MULTIPLEX WORLD ORDER
Bretton Woods system is under great stress today symbolising a visible decline of American eminence in international affairs. The United Nations — the largest organ of Bretton Woods — is unable to respond to conflict situations in Syria, Afghanistan, Crimea, South China Sea dispute, terrorism, and radicalism issues. Demand for UN reform is quite rightfully growing. Indo-Pacific Region (IPR) emerging as new frontiers of conflict, newer security alignments and counter alignments like QUAD, joint military exercises like Malabar and MILAN, Sea Guardian et al are new strategic security experimentations. Given Chinese infrastructure investments in several Island Chain countries, long-neglected Island nations have suddenly emerged as critical investment destinations and phenomena of Island shopping by big powers.
Bretton Woods financial architecture is also under stress. BRICS Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are seen as alternatives to World Bank. While the dollarised world economy is threatened by the Eurozone, cryptocurrencies, and the Chinese digital Yuan, the international trade regime is vacillating between trade liberalism and aspiration for protectionism. New players and economic clusters demanding and competing for power and influence, it’s new world order of pluralism and multipolarity which Professor Amitav Acharya captures as phenomena of multiplex world order. While the political analysts from Robert Keohane to Joseph Nye, and Kishore Mahbubani et al are largely in agreement with the multiplex world order hypothesis, economists have far too matured explanations of this change and the change drivers.
GREAT CONVERGENCE HYPOTHESIS
‘Thucydides Trap’ sensitises all of us of a visible war. Baldwin’s ‘Great Convergence’ hypothesis on the other hand squarely simplifies this puzzle. Baldwin argues that a fundamental shift in the world’s mode of production has occurred leading to the emergence of wealth in many parts of the world — a critical structural shift. Baldwin calls it as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ where North American and Western European capital has integrated with cheap labour in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Vietnam et al. The net result — the erstwhile capitalist block is rendered de-industrialised and at their cost and expense, several countries of the world have become wealthier and correspondingly aspirational too. Knowledge economy and its critical arsenals like AI, algorithm, big data, digital currency, and decision tree et al have become new factors of production.
While China took great advantage of this shifting mode of production to build the Chinese economic power and its corresponding geopolitical influence and ambition, several other countries like India, East Asian countries, Brazil, and Mexico et al also prospered as growing economic powers. Goldman Sachs former Chairman Jim O’Neill spotted this transition and coined the BRIC acronym in 2001. Baldwin called this a phenomenon of ‘Great Convergence’ that led to the pluralisation of the wealth of the world which was earlier limited to industrialised G-7 countries only. Several cluster economies like BRICS, ASEAN, and EU et al also emerged as sovereign country clubs to share the benefit of this change and better negotiate their fortune and influence.
INDIA AS A SWING STATE
Meanwhile, Richard Fontaine and Daniel Kliman’s hypothesis of ‘Global Swing States’ is yet another explanation that captures countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey as the possible Swing States of the world and its transition. Global Swing States, as Fontaine and Kliman would see, are those nations that possess large and growing economies, occupy central positions in a region or stand at the hinge or gateways of multiple regions, and embrace democratic governments at home. They are increasingly active, aspirational, and desire changes in the existing international order. They greatly represent the aspirations of the developing countries that were systematically marginalised in the Bretton Woods arrangement.
DOES INDIA OFFER THE WAY?
India, in many ways, offers a very proactive and positive way forward towards a smooth transition of international order. In spite of being a nuclear power, India traditionally has downplayed military adventurism or musclemanship in foreign policy practice and choices. As a country of civilisational value order, India champions participatory and inclusive international governance order. While India’s democratic polity is an assured global value, as a critical representative of developing countries’ aspirations, India symbolises consensus than conflict. Since 1947, India has always advocated respect for territorial sovereignty for all nations and demanded strategic autonomy for itself in foreign policy choices. As the second-largest global market, India boasts of a huge labour force and attracts much more global interest than all other Swing States put together. In the Indo-Pacific Sea lanes, India talks of rule-based governance and ‘security and growth for all’ — a cooperative development module than predatory hegemony. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, India acted as a benevolent vaccines supplier than monopolising or profiting out of the crisis.
India characteristically holds a ‘goodwill value’ which is beneficial to the world at large. While Mackinder imaginatively predicted the rise of China, he was equally apprehensive of the rise of ‘Yellow Barbarian’ and anticipated that the rise of India shall beneficially balance the world order. Standing as a gateway between Western hegemony and Chinese authoritarianism, India, undoubtedly, holds a global promise that is much more sustainable, inclusive, peaceful, and economic growth-centric.
Rudra P. Pradhan is an Associate Professor at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, BITS Pilani, KK Birla Goa Campus and serves as a Distinguished Fellow, Political Economy at Centre for Public Policy (CPPR), Kerala.
Fashion & lifestyle leader Sunaina Kwatra advises on changing modes of doing business in pandemic
Fashion & lifestyle leader Sunaina Kwatra speaks exclusively to NewsX India A-List on a host of issues including doing business during the pandemic, impact of technology in fashion industry and the future of luxury inc.
Sunaina has proven expertise in international retail management, brand positioning, and turnaround execution. She has almost 20 years work experience, the majority of which has been leading fashion brands at the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesey (LVMH) group in Asia Pacific. Sunaina began her career as an entrepreneur in the homeware and lifestyle industry working with retailers in the United States including Barneys New York and Pottery Barn. She pivoted into luxury fashion brand management after completing her MBA and has held strategic positions to expand and reposition brands within LVMH’s Asia Pacific portfolio.
In her most recent role, Sunaina was the country head of Louis Vuitton in India and legal director for all operations in the country. She was responsible for developing and expanding Louis Vuitton’s omni-channel retail operations, people and brand equity in this high growth market. She successfully led her team to achieve the highest sales, client experience and brand growth that had ever been achieved for Louis Vuitton in India.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. Congratulations on all you have achieved. Could you tell me more about your background and how your Indian roots brought you back to India?
A. I’m from Thailand. I am ethnically Indian but fourth generation, born and brought up in Thailand. I was very blessed to have an International upbringing. I have worked in five continents, travelled extensively. My last few roles have been within the LVMH group based out of Hong Kong.
My first role within the group was as the Regional Head of Asia Pacific for Emilio Pucci. In this role, I managed the entire scope of the brand’s direct retail business in Hong Kong and China as well as franchise, department store and multi-brand distribution in Asia Pacific. My next role within the LVMH group was as the Commercial Director for Givenchy to identify and execute growth strategies to maximise brand development and repositioning. In my tenure, I oversaw 61 locations, opened 24 stores in-line with brand vision and improved productivity across the network.
When they offered me the position to come back to India to amplify the Louis Vuitton business in India, I was thrilled at the opportunity and I am very proud of all we did to build the business and our team in India.
Q. What are the tools that have allowed you to succeed?
A. Growing up my father always said that travel was the best form of education. I had a very international education in Asia, Australia, and Europe and have worked in 5 continents. This allows me to sensitive to people and cultures while executing different strategies to grow businesses. I am a commercially driven leader and am passionate about people and delivering excellence. My general management and end-to-end experience overseeing teams, networks, finance, logistics, merchandising, client development and marketing allow me to be detail oriented yet see and set the big picture.
Q. What have we learned in retail during the pandemic?
A. The biggest learning is that we have to embrace e-commerce and the online experience. The word ‘omni-channel’ was a buzzword a decade ago. I think successful businesses during Covid had to integrate different methods of shopping available to consumers. You have had to expand the supply chain through localites, fulfillment centers or direct consumers. E-commerce has obviously a key to successful businesses in Covid. Businesses had to agile and responsive to different means of reaching the consumers. The lockdown has also led to less physical interaction with consumers. Brands have had to re-think the consumer experience and how they engage with clients. The big thing is how do we engage with clients in a number of different ways.
Q. How do you think technology will impact the fashion industry in the future?
A. Technology will be a key part of the growth of the fashion industry. Coming out of Covid, sustainable materials are important and a key focus for a lot of brands. Materials, that are not only good for the environment, but good for us being non-toxic and more breathable. We know that there are now going to be ways to bridge e-commerce and successful physical presence of stores. We can have VRs, augmented reality to help you try out clothing; jewelry, fashion and many brands have done it successfully. Just the engagement of technology and digitization is key to the success and the supply chain management. This is an exciting time for us and technology will enable future growth in retail.
Q. What advice would you give business owners in India as we come out of our second Covid wave?
A. I am sitting in the US right now and we are starting to see lines in retail stores again. People really want to embrace human connection. I would just like to say that there is hope and light. I hope that businesses now use this time to strategize and further activate their omni-channels, integrate and improve their e-commerce presence, engage with their communities on social media platforms and really use technology to enhance the supply chain and logistics to better prepare themselves for the future.
Wanted to explore something other than film music: Sunidhi Chauhan
Singer Sunidhi Chauhan recently joined NewsX for a candid conversation wherein she talked about her new single ‘Ye Ranjishein’, besides sharing her incredible journey.
Singer Sunidhi Chauhan recently joined NewsX for a conversation as part of NewsX India’s special A-List series. She talked about her new single ‘Ye Ranjishein’ and also shared insights from her incredible singing journey.
Sunidhi Chauhan began by telling her side of the story, answering why it took 20 years to launch her new single and said, “Yeah, I know it sounds weird, right? I didn’t want it to be that way. But actually film music just generally kept me busy. So I didn’t have the time to think about what I wanted to do other than film music. During this lockdown, I happen to sit down and think about, what is it that I want to say in my own song? Because film music will keep happening and I am a product of the film music and I love it but on the side, I did want to explore something different and I just met the right people at the right time. Which was during the lockdown and I’m happy that something productive has come out of it.”
When asked about her new song, she began by praising the music video’s director, Ranju Varghese and said, “The credit for the music video is totally our director. We shot in a barren land, there was nothing that you could see too far. I don’t know how he put all of that together on the table of the Edit and it just looks so brilliant right now. None of those things were there while we were shooting, except for some properties. There was nothing and he’s really brought it to life and done a fab job. I met Shruti Rane, who’s this amazing young composer and sings very well, through Gaurav Dasgupta, a friend of mine who I’ve worked with. He himself is a music composer and I have really liked singing for him. So I thought maybe he’s meeting me for a song that he has composed and Shruti is one of the singers he is introducing me to but when I got to know that it’s her song written by her as she’s a songwriter. I was blown away, she’s a very sweet cute little girl and I didn’t think a serious song was coming out of her. I was really taken aback and I complimented her and I was like, let’s do this song.”
She urged people to be more responsible in these difficult times and said, “Through the song, I’m sending all the good vibes, positivity, love and prayers. Of course, we are losing a lot of people and these are crazy times. I urge everyone to be more responsible, you’ve been doing great, but I think we need more because it has hit us for the second time now and this wave is even more dangerous. It’s almost airborne now, you have to be more responsible and take care of each other. And it just takes to wear a mask properly. That’s all.”
Speaking about how she managed with the obstacles she encountered last year, she said, “We were just grooming, mopping, and dishes at home, and nothing else. And a few songs here and there. Which were recorded from home for the movies. Because even movies were shut, nobody was really working, but whatever little was happening was this and then after that, when I started getting used to the new norm, which was staying at home and doing nothing and days would just pass by just OTT and housework and that’s all and of course, a kid to look after. Then finally I got some space for myself where I could think about the fact that I have to do something different other than music. I am a product of film music, of course, and I love it.”
“Thanks to the lockdown it did give me a little place where I could think about who I want to work with. Like I did a single with Shalmali recently, it’s an English song called here is beautiful. I did one song, One non-film song with Daboo Malik and he was the first one to actually approach me during that time for me to sing a non film song and I did that and that was such a humble attempt. We couldn’t even make a nice video out of it. We just shot some portions at home and just made a video but we received such great response so that kind of gave me a boost to keep walking in that direction. And now here I am with three songs out already and I’m very excited. I plan to do a lot more songs not from songs because that’s like a little different side of me which is coming solely from completely from heart,” She added.
She also shared her defining moments from her career and said, “I’ve been lucky to receive a lot of love and a trophy, of course, because I won that competition, which was produced by Lata ji. And I had participated in that show, because I wanted to see her once in my entire life and I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen. But luckily, I won the competition. And she was the one who gave me that trophy. So that was one moment which I can never forget. Of course, then my child who completely changed my life. Now I’m very happy about this new, independent space. So I think it’s a rebirth. I actually feel that.”
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