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The best symbols of Atmanirbhar Bharat   

Defining self-reliance in an intricately interlinked world can be a tricky business since there is virtually nothing we use that is completely and wholly made locally.

February 21, 2021 / 09:32 AM IST
Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker, perhaps best exemplifies the spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
(File Photo)

Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker, perhaps best exemplifies the spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat. (File Photo)

As the country and its leadership push ahead with the self-reliant India drive, it is interesting to pick the products, services or brands that best capture this ambition.

Admittedly, defining self-reliance in an intricately interlinked world can be a tricky business, since there is virtually nothing we use that is completely and wholly made locally.

Yet some names evoke our feelings of positive nationalism most strongly.

There is, for instance, Maruti Suzuki with its stranglehold over the passenger car segment in one of the world's fastest growing auto markets or IndiGo with a similar dominance over Indian skies.

The Maruti 800 in particular was a generational shift for how we perceived cars after the rickety and breakdown-prone era of the old Ambassadors and Fiats.

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The problem is Maruti is now Suzuki Motor Corp controlled, with the Japanese company having a 56 percent stake in the joint venture. Surely, Atmanirbhar Bharat can't be represented by a non-Indian firm.

IndiGo has a different problem. Its hard-won leadership has a caveat attached to it. Foreign airlines are not allowed a majority stake in Indian skies. So, laudable as IndiGo's 15-year run to the top is, it has still not been tested against the best airlines in the world. How would it fare against the likes of Singapore Airlines or United Airlines? Quite favourably perhaps, but in their absence IndiGo's success loses just a bit of the sheen.

On a slightly different note, how about the Indian Premier League (IPL) as a symbol of a self-reliant India? Consider the facts. In 12 years of its launch, the IPL is ranked among the top 10 sporting leagues of the world. It draws players from every major cricket-playing country and also gives talented youngsters from obscure Indian districts and towns a chance to make their fortunes.

A colonial era gift, cricket is now rooted in the Indian environment and the country is the nerve centre of the game. But it is the IPL that monetised every aspect of it, adapting best business practices from across the world while innovating locally. For young Indians, it isn't any more just a sport. It is a coveted career.

Then there is Thums Up, that unheralded beverage launched some 40 years ago by Ramesh Chauhan. Its acquisition in 1993 by cola giant Coca-Cola on its re-entry into India, suggested the end of the Indian drink. But defying all the odds, and beating back the challenge of globally dominant colas Pepsi and Coke, Thums Up is today one of the highest-selling drinks in the country. Sure, being a part of an MNC’s stable disqualifies it for the title rights to Atmanirbhar India's poster child. But the delicious irony of Indians quenching their thirst with a wholly made-in-India drink by a global MNC is most satisfying.

But in our quest, why only look at contemporary names. How about the Maharaja of the skies, Air India of the past. Old-timers who flew in the Tata-controlled airline in its glory years, swear by its punctuality, aesthetics and service quality. At its prime it was rated among the best in the world. The tragedy is that in its present form, Air India is a very poor ambassador for the country.

Okay, since we need a winner and can’t find one from this talented lot, I have two final contenders. The first are the Fab Four of India’s IT industry. TCS, Infosys, HCL and Wipro have over the years carved out a special place in the global market for IT outsourcing.

They have given the country bragging rights in the world's most competitive business, in the process creating a whole new generation of Indian IT millionaires. With TCS’s valuation now topping that of Accenture and IBM, the giants of global technology, it is a ringing endorsement of the future of the sector.

Finally, we come to what I believe is the runaway winner—the Serum Institute of India. Today, this privately held Pune-based company is showing the importance of what it has been doing in the shadows for the last 50 years.

While we recognise its role in making the life-saving vaccine against COVID-19, the company has done that quietly with other vaccines for years without getting its due. Which is why it deserves to be crowned as the company that best exemplifies an Atmanirbhar Bharat.
Sundeep Khanna is a senior journalist. Views are personal.
first published: Feb 21, 2021 09:32 am

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