July 21, 2020
Senior Vice President, International Strategy and Global Initiatives and South Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
, Procter & Gamble India
The 45th annual India Ideas Summit, a two-day virtual gathering of U.S.-India business leaders, was focused on "Building a Better Future Through Policies and Partnerships," an especially relevant topic given the global challenges presented by COVID-19.
Day One of the Summit brought some of India's highest-ranking government leaders together to discuss the role of public policy in fixing global supply chain disruptions, promoting worldwide distribution of a potential coronavirus vaccine and clearing the way for India and U.S.-based businesses to collaborate and thrive, both right now and in the post-pandemic world.
The Realignment of the Global Supply Chain Requires Continued Cooperation Between the U.S. and India
For decades, government and business leaders in the United States and India have worked together for both countries' mutual benefit. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these two nations worked together even more closely to address the medical needs of each country. For instance, India supplied much-needed pharmaceuticals like hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to the U.S., while the U.S. provided ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients in India.
"It's been a mutual relationship coming out of trust," said Piyush Goyal, Honorable Minister of Commerce and Industry for the Government of India. "I think as trusted partners, both countries have a long future ahead of us to work together, to create more resilient supply chains [and] to plug in the gaps better."
To continue this mutually beneficial relationship and realign the global supply chain, says Goyal, both countries must cooperate in the effort to create sustainable, rules-based, transparent economic activity between nations.
"We need to work towards a much more sustainable … robust [and] enduring partnership in the form of a free trade agreement to which India is willing to work with an open mind, with a willingness to open our hearts and our markets with funding opportunity for Indian businesses in the U.S.," Goyal added.
Overreliance on a Single Source Country is Hurting the Global Supply Chain
As an Indian-American politician and physician, Congressman Ami Bera of California has a unique perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the United States, as well as the opportunities presented by potential cooperation with India's robust pharmaceutical sector. Bera believes India will play a significant role over the next six to 12 months as America works to combat the virus, if the U.S. is open to more partnerships.
"What the pandemic really has exposed is an over-reliance on a single source — in this case, China, through many of the raw ingredients for the PPE and the APIs for our pharmaceutical sector," Bera told keynote moderator Madhusudan Gopalan, CEO of Procter & Gamble India. "As we think about how we defeat this virus, it really is about getting a vaccine that's safe and effective … not [just for] vaccinating one country, but vaccinating the entire planet."
The Indian Government Is Positioning Its Country to Benefit From a Global Supply Chain Realignment
According to Minister Goyal, the Indian government is working to make it easier for businesses grow stronger and more robust during these massive changes to the global supply chain. Businesses, he says, want more operational freedoms — they want ease of doing business, an improved competitive edge, lower logistics costs, and an environment where it's easier and less intimidating to work with the government and get approvals.
"All of these [are] typical needs of business, which we in government are trying to address," said Goyal.
Technology Advances Will Power Both Pandemic and Economic Recovery
In the COVID-19 era, the ability to take many aspects of daily life into the virtual realm has been key to reducing the spread of the virus, while still protecting many people's livelihoods.
Nirmala Sitharaman, Honorable Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs for the Government of India, highlighted the role of technological innovation and R&D in supporting the recovery of both public health and the Indian economy. Widespread fiber optics and internet access has enabled the proliferation of digitized, identity-based bank accounts, telemedicine services and other innovations, even in the far corners of India. This, she says, is an indication of where government and business must focus to promote recovery moving forward.
"All of us will have to now spend a lot more on artificial intelligence [and] big data, because these are the things which are making a lot of difference," said Sitharaman.