How to Achieve Vocal For Local
Amidst the global pandemic and after two consecutive lockdowns and one subsequent graded ease-down, when India’s prime minister exhorted India to go vocal for local, it received collective appreciation and acceptance.
There have been several efforts in the past to strengthen local economies through procurement and consumption, but due to lack of institutional support, these initiatives could not see the light of the day.
Moreover, some of the approaches were either restrictive or not aligned with the contemporary globalised world. One of the biggest advantages of ‘vocal for local’ is that it will provide micro, small and medium enterprises a unique identity that has otherwise been the privilege of those who have deep marketing budgets.
It will help harness India’s diversity in which nondescript towns have products that are unique and have commercial viability.
Narendra Modi's ability to galvanise support and transform a mission into a movement can be testified through numerous examples including Swachh Bharat and Give It Up.
In addition to his inspiring conviction, it must be noted that every mission is supported by an efficient machinery that prevents the movement from becoming chaotic.
Institutionalise Vocal For Local: One District One Program
Uttar Pradesh’s One District One Programme (ODOP) is a success story that has manifested the PM’s ‘vocal for local’ mission. Riddled with unemployment and weak social indicators like health, education and safety, Uttar Pradesh was witnessing unprecedented migration.
This was not only hurting the local economy, but also eroding established family structures and the innate identity of the state. Started with the objective of reviving local economies, retaining potential migrants and restoring local skills, the ODOP programme has carved a niche for itself.
Established as a Department of MSME and Export Production in Uttar Pradesh, the ODOP programme has helped the state achieve the ambitious trident. Industries that were otherwise operating in silos now have credit support, access to markets and a business case which makes them financially viable.
This has increased business certainty, made the industry an attractive option for enterprising youth in the district and thereby retained out-migration. Rs 25,000 crore was allocated to ODOP in 2018. The programme aims to create employment to the tune of 25 lakh.
ODOP has also added incremental value to products in several ways. Many of these products are GI-tagged which helps differentiation from competing products and attach a component of goodwill to the final price. GI helps access export markets and also contributes in brand equity of the place.
- Extrapolating ODOP on a pan-India level, respective states should be mandated with identifying a unique, commercially viable product or service that the district is capable of delivering. In Phase 1, NITI Aayog can incorporate this as a part of its Aspirational Districts programME, identify ambassadors who can endorse the product and involve Members of Parliament from these districts to use and aggressively communicate about these products on various forums.
- One the key deliverables of district magistrates should be setting up clusters with infrastructure facilities for manufacturing of these products. Most experts have concluded that lack of access to timely credit is the sole reason for all woes of MSMEs, few have realised that limited avenues to sell wares have hampered business cases much more. India has a rich repository of textiles. By using services of designers of global fame, Ministry of Textiles can provide weavers the opportunity to understand the requirements of contemporary consumers, identify catchment markets and help them tailor their products to suit the tastes of select consumers.
- Packaging plays a critical role in increasing sale of products. Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, along with Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, should invest in marketing and promotion of these products.
- Host these products on a portal similar to Goverment e-Marketplace, call it Local eM and overcome the geographical barriers and bridge the seller-buyer gap. For example, the bamboo toothbrushes in Tripura, organic jaggery produced in Ayodhya or Moonj products in Amethi, Prayagraj and Sultanpur are regularly consumed by many through third-party portals. If all products are available on a user-friendly tech-platform, there is a vibrant global consumer group that would be eager to buy local.
Think Global – Make Local
India’s Information Technology sector contributed to post-liberalisation boom in a significant way. When Infosys was listed on NASDAQ in 1999 and the sector found place in former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s top five priorities, it was poised to transform the landscape of India’s economic mix.
After consecutively missing the three industrial revolutions, it appeared that India had learnt its lessons. However, the impact was limited and soon India was dispensable, because subsequent dispensations did not invest enough policy space or market development. India was limited by its imagination and lethargy in leveraging dynamic geo-political changes. Reluctance to innovate and create disruptions further limited India’s ability to create unique solutions or products.
This example is pertinent, because the Vocal for Local mission should not be limited to reviving dying traditions or creating micro enterprises. There is great merit in reclaiming our past glory, but it is the approach of dead-wood communism to romanticise the past as an excuse to avoid progress.
Our services need be local but competitive and aligned with the modern world order. India needs to grab emerging sectors like wearables, robotics, telemedicine, contactless hospitality, and organic ingredients. We need to automate our warehouses, pursue avenues of 3D printing, incentivise companies like Mahindra and Mahindra to export clean energy products.
India has often restricted ‘local’ to products like pickles, papad, and handicrafts. These are indigenous products that will always be an integral part of our identity. At the same time, we need to be the global supplier of the first and last resort. Our supply chains shouldn’t be exclusive, they have to carry maximum possible products and services on them.
In 2014, when Modi launched his flagship programme Make In India, he made sure it was not constrained by the nationality of investors or place of consumption of the products. The postscript “Make for the World” was consistently present to retain the quintessential texture of inclusivity while maintaining India’s exclusivity at the same time. This approach needs to continue in for the Vocal For Local programme to go global.