How a National Supply Chain Network Can Enable India to be Self-Reliant: Looking Beyond COVID19

The compelling need to go into lockdown and maintain social distancing to minimize the transmission of the COVID19 pandemic serves as a glaring case study for enterprises in India to analyze the challenges caused by global supply chain disruptions. Given the projected decline in the real GDP growth rate by at least 1% and a surge in unemployment to 23% due to the freezing of the economy into an abominable lull, it makes sense to: (1) critically examine manufacturing-led exports, (2) explore the scope of a national supply chain network to boost domestic manufacturing and investment, and (3) assess export promotion as a strategy to boost employment generation and economic growth through the multiplier effects thereof. 

What Makes India a Strong Contender to Emerge as a Global Manufacturing Hub Beyond COVID19?

A new normal is set to emerge coming out of the COVID19 pandemic accompanied by a major restructuring of global supply chains. While the manufacturing sector has been affected by the global supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID19 pandemic, there is ample reason for enterprises in the manufacturing sector to be optimistic about the India growth story. 

Diversification of Export Portfolio of Indian Manufacturing by Geography: 

Prior to the COVID19 pandemic, the value of exports of manufactured goods from India, stood at USD 18 billion of which China accounted for USD 1.8 billion while, the United States, India’s top export market accounted for USD 4.2 billion. This is indicative of the highly diversified portfolio of manufacturing exports of India and in hindsight both an opportunity to grow as well as a major lever to de-risk the supply chain of the manufacturing sector in India. 

The Resilience of Indian Manufacturing Exports to Sino-U.S Trade Wars:

India’s revenues from the export of manufactured goods had been registering consistent growth for some time before the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic. In FY 2019 reached its highest ever at USD 330 billion, surpassing the previous peak performance of USD 314 billion in 2013-14. It was achieved despite the strong headwinds due to the reciprocal Sino-U.S imposition of tariff and non-tariff barriers that were projected to weaken growth in global trade by 1.70% for a number of Asian economies including China. The fact that India emerged as the only Asian economy to register 1.7% growth in the value of manufacturing exports proves its resilience to a weakened global economy.

Growth in Exports of Intermediate Goods and Technology Penetration in Manufacturing:

A significant progress in the performance of India’s exports of manufactured goods is the growth registered by various categories of intermediate goods in FY 2019. Major growth drivers in the category of intermediate goods include engineering goods (+6%, USD 83,704 million), petroleum products (+28%, USD 47, 954 million), chemicals (+22%, USD 22,573 million) and pharmaceuticals (+11%, USD 19, 188 million) respectively. Other verticals that registered growth include textiles, electronics, and plastics. The growth in the value of exports of such intermediate goods holds significance from the standpoint of how technology enablement in manufacturing can push Indian manufacturing enterprises up the global value chain in a post COVID19 world. The share of FVA in India’s exports stood at roughly 17% in 2018, with the share of IDA (domestic value-added) in its exports stood at 83%. 

National Supply Chain Network Can Enable India to Grab a Greater Share of the Global Value Chain

A National Supply Chain Network can connect Indian manufacturers in the hinterlands to new opportunities in the global supply chain and enable them to earn a greater share of the GVC. This calls for exploring avenues to strengthen domestic manufacturing and attract foreign direct investment to make a greater proportion of the global manufacturing output, locally in India and embrace export promotion. It calls for an integration of initiatives to create fixed assets for infrastructure, improve logistics connectivity, and drive the technology enablement of supply chains through digital connectivity to de-risk global supply chains from the unprecedented shocks experienced during the COVID19 pandemic.

Improving Infrastructure is the Key to Building the National Supply Chain Network

The creation of world-class infrastructure is at the heart of the idea of a National Supply Chain Network and remains a strong impediment to India’s performance in manufacturing. Infrastructure in India has a strong investment-to-GDP multiplier effect of 2X. This means that a 1% increase in investment in infrastructure can create 1,360,000 jobs. The National Infrastructure Pipeline that has been envisaged at the cost of INR 100 lakh crore over the next five years can be leveraged to improve logistics connectivity. The creation of fixed assets like 9000 KM of the economic corridor, 2500 KM of controlled highways and 5000 KM of highways before 2024 in 12 bundles if designed from the ground up to provide greater connectivity beyond terminal gates ports and airports to the hinterland in rural areas can significantly raise the attractiveness quotient of foreign direct investments for global corporations in core industry verticals mentioned above to make in India. The recent announcement on the creation of a land bank to promote investments in the 3376 industrial parks and SEZs spanning across 5 lakh hectares is a step forward in the right direction in this regard. A single-window approach to clearance and approval of land acquisition drives based on the adoption of a scientific and weighted average indexing of economic, technical and environmental feasibility can expedite land acquisition while ensuring that questions on livelihoods of people and the sustainability of the planet are duly addressed. To make economic growth truly inclusive, the scope of land acquisition may be extended to include public healthcare, affordable housing, safe drinking water, irrigation,  and warehousing. 

Leverage Technology Integration in Manufacturing to Create a Transparent National Supply Chain Network

The lack of visibility into data and limited information sharing has great repercussions for OEMs, CMs, suppliers, and end customers in the manufacturing supply chain because it operates on a foundation built by land, natural resources, and fixed assets all of which have a high gestation period, entail high fixed costs and involve making decisions for the long run. One of the major takeaways for Indian enterprises from the COVID19 pandemic has been the massive trust erosion in supplier relationships and collaborations with major OEMs based out of the epicenter of the supply shock invoking force majeure to seek effective insulation from the loss offsets mandated for dishonoring supplier contracts. Technology integration can significantly improve technical and economic efficiency, reduce project overrun costs, and provide visibility into outlay on direct procurement and enable compliance with contractual obligations and transactional behavior. A focused approach to improving transparency into the mapping of multi-tiered supplier networks is essential to the vision for a National Supply Chain Network. Advance information on possible digression from supplier contracts, supply chain automation to explore repetitive patterns in supplier behavior through tracking of key performance indicators of cost, quality, and on-time delivery can enable Indian enterprises to work with a better sense of anticipation and likelihood into the next steps in the supply chain journey and thus adjust their positions in the market to hedge against supply chain disruptions. 

Make in India and the National Supply Chain Network Critical to Job Creation and Growth

Amidst the emerging realities of the COVID19 pandemic and the negative economic shocks, a dialog on making India self-reliant needs to focus on integrating policy narratives and corporate initiatives to boost employment generation and get a greater share of the gross value addition to manufactured goods done locally in India. The manufacturing sector that currently contributes 16-17% of the GDP, 12% of employment generation in India, and  57% of India’s exports, assumes critical importance in this regard. The MSME sector, on the other hand, has been the enabler of the last resort in these challenging times of COVID19 to diverse communities of people in the country. Stand-alone shops, grocery stores, food marts and markets, and ancillary units have demonstrated their capabilities to provide hyperlocal services, deep market penetration, low-cost innovation, and last-mile delivery of goods and services. With a strategic integration of the National Supply Chain Network with the mission to make in India, the share of manufacturing in India’s real GDP may rise to 25%, create new business opportunities for the MSME sector and create the 100 million jobs targeted under the aegis of the “Make in India” campaign. Data suggests an indirect multiplier effect between manufacturing and services in India with one manufacturing job creating three jobs in the service sector. For a labor surplus economy like India, the ability to generate employment and affect a rebound in real GDP growth rates to pre-COVID19 levels should suffice to conclude a dialog on the importance of the National Supply Chain Network and the “Make in India” label.