President A P J Abdul Kalam on Tuesday exhorted India Inc to improve its competitiveness so that its position is bettered at the competitive index from the present 50th to within the top ten globally.
In his speech during the centenary celebrations of the Indian Merchants' Chamber at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, Kalam said that developed countries were able to reach their status only by aggressively marketing their products worldwide after manufacturing them at competitive costs.
"India must also do the same," Kalam said, enumerating the three dimensions of competitiveness as "cost, which should be competitive, quality, and marketing the product just when the market needs it."
"For India to become competitive, we need to ensure that technology inputs are provided to the rural areas," he said, adding that "urban amenities should be provided in the rural areas as well."
He said that the government was committed to creating 7,000 PURA (providing urban amenities to rural areas) clusters in the country with each cluster comprising of 20 villages that can provide employment opportunities for 3,000 people in each cluster.
The government had ensured availability of adequate funding for rural development through the Bharat Nirman Programme for which a sum of Rs 174,000 crore (Rs 1,740 billion) had been earmarked over four years, Kalam said.
The government was also committed to ensuring a 8-to-10 per cent growth in GDP over the next decade, but for this agricultural growth should be raised to at least four per cent, he said, while calling for technology-transfer to the farming sector as also investments in agro-based industries.
Stating that growth in agriculture sector was lagging compared to the manufacturing and service sectors, Kalam called for "greater loan allocation plus technological and managerial inputs to the agricultural sector."
Pointing out that SSIs had enormous expertise in running businesses in rural areas, Kalam called upon IMC to encourage agro-industries as also venture capitalists for generating technology which was much-needed in rural areas.
"SSIs need export promotion zones and value-addition facilities," he observed, adding that Indian businesses must consider giving their outsourcing activities to cottage industries and homes in rural areas.
Highlighting the potential of the textile industry, he said India can produce 35 per cent of the world's cotton instead of the present 12 per cent, if modern and innovative techniques were adopted. Garment exports was another segment that held immense potential, he said.
According to him, India should also target production of 40 per cent of generics since "we have the expertise in pharma."
He called upon IMC, Nasscom and the Maharashtra government to work together to promote IT and ITES companies in the state and create a knowledge manpower pool whose requirement would be around 9 million by 2010.
Making an impassioned call for "creative leadership" from the captains of industry, Kalam said that while economic development is powered by competitiveness and competitiveness by knowledge, technology and innovation were necessary for driving the latter.
This required investment of resources, which in turn is driven by revenues and return on investments, while volume and repeat sales influenced the latter. To ensure customer loyalty, quality was imperative and to ensure quality, employee productivity and innovation were necessary ingredients, he said.
Employee loyalty, in turn, could be ensured only by providing them with a congenial working atmosphere for which management stewardship was essential. "This is where creative leadership plays an important role," the President said.
"For success, we need creative leaders which means exercising the vision to change the traditional role of the business leader from that of commander to coach and from manager to mentor," Kalam said.