Editorial: Entering the post-pandemic era with optimism
At the close of the financial year, India Inc seems to be at the verge of recovery. The bleak 24 month-pandemic phase appears to be ending, and the green shoots of recovery are being seen in a number of sectors that are showing clear signs of growth. Over 40 unicorns in 2021 have taken India to a global ranking of No 4.
The nation is expected to have as many as 100 new unicorns in the year 2022 itself, thanks to accelerated funding activity. Indian start-ups raised around $8.4 bn in the first quarter of 2022 while e-commerce companies and several e-commerce service providers have recorded profits. Following close are traditional sectors like financial services, manufacturing, real estate and construction which have seen a revival.
Also heartening is an International Monetary Fund report which states that ‘India has almost eliminated extreme poverty and brought down consumption inequality to its lowest levels in 40 years through state-provided food handouts’. Authored by economists Surjit Bhalla, Arvind Virmani and Karan Bhasin, the IMF report attributes this development to the expansion of India’s food subsidy programme. The authors surmise that these programmes went a long way in alleviating the food crisis that could have been more severe due to the pandemic.
And even as the rich in India grow richer, there is hope for the tax-payers as the latest edition of the Michael Page Salary Report 2022 projects that the average salary hike could well be in double digits this year. It is a well-known fact that India’s richest Indians doubled their wealth during the COVID-19 crisis – even against criticism that the top 1% of the population held more than one-fifth of the total national income in 2021. As we move into the new financial year, it is with the hope that the very same one per cent which is holding the reins of the economy can jog the sluggish spend with significant increments, as it is the salaried class that plays a significant role in ensuring increased productivity on all fronts in 2022-23.
However, those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid are still dependent on the largesse of the Centre which has ensured that they are somewhat insulated from hunger through various schemes including the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY), which distributes an additional 5 kg of foodgrain per head to beneficiaries. And while this has been a life-saver for over 800 million of the poorest of poor during the pandemic, gainful employment and job opportunities continue to evade them.
India’s growth has often been termed lopsided, and this is not an unfair critique as we have often fallen short of showing improvements across all sectors particularly education, healthcare and employment. However, despite the challenges, the pandemic taught us innovation and resilience. As we move into the business end of 2022, it must be with more foresight and planning to include lakhs of unskilled labour who have been the invisible backbone of the e-commerce boom - those employed in the countless allied services including delivery, packing and transportation. When we inch ahead as a global economy, we must remember to take all those who helped us get through the lockdown along, and leave none behind.