India has to embrace tech to be export superpower

Exports have been a key driver for boosting the economy and generating employment. It is an important area of work for governments the world over and in India.

There is a lot of momentum around exports, with India breaching the $400 billion mark in annual merchandise exports for FY22. If India wants to become an export superpower, it has to embrace technology, experts say.

Like other countries, India is also emerging from a challenging year because of the pandemic. Like the rest of the world, India is also swamped with uncertainty about what’s going to be the impact of Russia and Ukraine in the years ahead.

At the recent Amazon Smbhav summit, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who was the deputy chairman of the erstwhile Planning Commission, said, “Exports were doing well when we moved into an open economy. Then it began to stagnate and decline. Things started looking up this year but we have a long way to go. A part of the problem is that India also imports crude oil and exports products. That can lead to exaggerated estimates of what’s happening on the export front, particularly when prices go up. Overall, exports have done well, even if you keep out oil.”

People are aware that Amazon can provide a platform for Indian exporters and MSMEs, he said.

Abhijit Kamra, Director, Global Trade, Amazon India says this is where technology can play a bigger part. Earlier, most businesses, small or big, had to depend on trade fairs, find partners, or build local logistics in each of the countries you wanted to go to. Today, Amazon and other ecommerce platforms have made the world smaller for them.

“There is a fair marketplace for everyone. No matter what the size of your company, it provides you with the ability to reach customers directly. For example, a toy seller from India can now build a brand in Europe, the US or Japan by leveraging the infrastructure of these ecommerce giants,” says Eric Broussard, Vice-President, International Marketplaces and Retail at Amazon.

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Agreeing to this, Ahluwalia added, “With a touch of a button a person can search for a product on any ecommerce website and can choose an Indian brand, thus promoting brand India. Everything boils down to how we exploit this opportunity.”

The customer response for made-in-India brands has been good so far and Amazon sees a brighter future ahead, said Broussard. “India is manufacturing across a large number of categories — from jewellery to home products to toys — and all these have a lot of potential. As we now enable these manufacturers to go directly to consumers, customers react. All the products are coming directly from brand owners and they are in control, whether it is listing, pricing, or advertising.”

He gave the example of Vahdam India’s drinkware being a part of the Oscars goodie bag in 2022.

For a small business or entrepreneur, it is important to focus on understanding customer needs. Amazon enables them to do that by giving regular feedback from customers. Everything comes down to evolving the product, pricing and understanding the market. A great product gets rave reviews and is noticed on Amazon. Everyone should think globally and not just a certain country. “You should focus on building a global brand and Amazon will enable you to do so at very low cost. That’s going to enable your business to grow faster,” added Broussard.

So, how soon can India become one of the leading exporters in the world and what are the three things it must do to help accelerate the growth?

Providing a note of caution, Ahluwalia said there was a long way to go before India could be called one of the leading exporters in the world as the country’s share of world trade is low. “Instead of focusing on becoming leaders in exporters, it is important to get back to a more dynamic export performance than we’ve had for a set of years. For that, we need to have good products and be competitive and for that we have to remain open. The only way Indian exporters will actually know what is good quality is when Indian consumers also have a chance to see good quality products. This is a large country, so a lot of the manufacturers are exploiting the domestic market and then using that strength to export. There are sectors like jewellery where we have 100% export efforts. For us to become a leading exporter, we have to become a much bigger country in terms of GDP,” he added.

(The one-stop destination for MSME, ET RISE provides news, views and analysis around GST, Exports, Funding, Policy and small business management.)

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Harry Byrne

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