Focus on today for a resurgent 2015
Oct 23 2012, 20:16 | By Entrepreneur
Predictions can be misleading, especially in unpredictable times like these, as they have a tendency to go way off the mark. The future always surprises us with things we never bargained for or thought of. Peter Drucker reminded us, "The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different."
Frankly, three years is a short time-frame for trends to crystallize, for patterns to be discerned and grasped by us. As 'future' is another name that we give to the latent possibilities that can be sensed today if we are alert, what can be done to safeguard the coming years is to focus on the 'present'.
Keeping aside the oft-repeated lines about this being the century of China and India, where do we stand today? What are our chances? The best that can be said today is that India has a great opportunity to get its act together. In this general atmosphere of global gloom, there is the temptation to blame it on everything external. But it would help us if we realize that although 'connected' with the rest of the world, our problems today are largely of our own making. If we can get our governance right, if our policies can be more robust, relevant, and timely, we can become the fastest growing economy in the world.
If we want to avoid regrets about missed opportunities in 2015, for our good, we need to get out of our own way.
The big picture
At a macro level, by 2015 we can create an enabling environment through rational policies on fuel availability and pricing, power generation and overall infrastructure development, land acquisition and healthy labour laws. If we can do that, we would have already taken the necessary steps to recalibrate our growth. For a resurgent 2015, we need to act decisively to reduce the burden of subsidies and to slash our national budget deficit. It is my fervent hope that by then, we would have given a big push to infrastructure development by focusing on power projects, building roads and ports.
Business confidence, based on positive sentiments and the sure knowledge of clear policy guidelines, can help recharge the entrepreneurial spirit that has always served our country. While new and emerging jobs can take in many, we might not be able to absorb the huge numbers of aspiring job seekers. Entrepreneurship can be the win-win way out of the impasse. I think the role before our entrepreneurs is clear: reach out and harness the energy and aspirations of the vast hinterland of India. Innovative, reasonably-priced products for larger numbers, education, health, skill development-these are only some of the areas that offer potential for breakthrough solutions and innovative business models.
The energy and environment areas, where companies like Thermax provide business solutions, continue to remain both a warning and an opportunity. Let me cite just one example. The recent power grid failure was a clear warning that India cannot continue with its ramshackle infrastructure. At the same time, the watts that can be saved through better energy efficiency measures and demand side management as also by an effective mix of technologies-conventional and renewable -offer an open window of opportunity. While coal will continue to be our fuel mainstay, the country's focus on wind, solar and other renewable energy forms, hopefully, should find us on the threshold of a cleaner and greener India by 2015.
I am of the firm opinion that business cannot succeed in a society that fails and, therefore, apart from the push for infrastructure development and manufacturing, India must focus on educating its masses from the primary and secondary school levels, moving on to vocational skills and professional degrees.
Unless we establish the foundation for relevant and meaningful education, we will always continue to be followers rather than leaders in the world.
Customer, costs, people
I have three tips to share with entrepreneurs, based on lessons learnt from the downturn. The first of these centers around three words that are critical for the growth story that we collectively need to script-customer, customer, customer. Enterprise begins and flourishes by listening to the voices of our customers and their needs, both stated and unstated. This was true in 1915 and will remain so in the centuries to come.
Second, rather than focusing on the difficulties of the environment around us, it would be worthwhile to concentrate on what each of us can do differently within our own organization. The route to competitiveness, productivity and profitability often runs through one's own place of work and it is a space we can each influence and control better. Focus on ways to become lean and reduce any wasteful expense.
As the economy picks up its stalled momentum, hopefully by 2015, enterprises could face the challenges of growth. This brings me to my third and final suggestion-keep the team motivated. The best of technologies and processes can fail if the human factor is neglected. In the flux of change, something that will continue to remain constant is the understanding that people remain at the heart of any enterprise. The year 2012 offers us another chance to get our house in order. 2015 will come soon enough; we better stay prepared.
© Entrepreneur India September 2012
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