India’s Mission 10-20-30 (Part 1)

The recent story, “At Stake: 11 crore jobs, 30% of GDP,” in the Indian Express (May 2) leads with:

From a Delhi-based machine-part manufacturing enterprise which can’t pay its 24 workers to a paint-maker in Pune fresh out of insolvency but facing a funds crunch, a start-up which got a Rs 90-lakh order to make masks but is waiting for banks to give credit, to a Ludhiana export unit whose bills haven’t been cleared — no other sector has been pushed so far to the edge by the pandemic and the Covid lockdown as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

These make up the heart of the larger industrial ecosystem, acting largely as ancillary units for the big enterprises, and employ, across 5 crore units, an estimated 11 crore persons.

At stake are not only these jobs but the future of what makes up 45 per cent of the country’s total manufacturing output, 40 per cent of exports — and almost 30 per cent of the national GDP.

How are MSMEs defined? From the story: “Even as the government is working on a new definition of MSMEs, the present classification for the manufacturing sector designates a micro enterprise as one with investment in plant and machinery not exceeding Rs 25 lakh, small enterprises with investment between Rs 25 lakh-Rs 5 crore and medium enterprises with investment between Rs 5-10 crore. For service sector classification, micro enterprises have investment in plant and machinery not exceeding Rs 10 lakh, between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 2 crore for small enterprises and Rs 2-5 crore for medium enterprises.”

I wrote earlier about the need to Unlock India and India’s Two Futures. 40+ days into the lockdown, Indians are hurting. In our effort to shield 130 crore lives from the virus, we are creating yet another epidemic which will kill many more – from lost jobs, destroyed livelihoods and concomitant starvation. The consequences of Covid will run deep through India (and the world). But India, because of its large poor population, will face even greater hardships. There is a need for bold measures now – before it is too late.

We need to change our frame of reference – we are not looking at an impact of a few months with everything returning to normal after that. There is no return to the world of early 2020. Because what the virus has unleashed is the Third World War.

Tomorrow: India’s Mission 10-20-30 (Part 2)

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.