Consumption, innovation, scaling in a digital world, building what’s next, and the role of technology in business.
Business leaders, policymakers and tech experts gathered at the fifth edition of the Fortune India Next 500 summit and discussed how focussing on these trends is important for midsize companies—often called the backbone of a nation’s economy—to get to the next level.
The summit, an annual event which celebrates the contribution of midsized companies to the economy, was held at FICCI, Federation House, New Delhi, on Friday.
In his inaugural address, Fortune India editor Sourav Majumdar set the tone for the discussions that followed by talking about the role of midsize companies in generating employment and how they have often been at the forefront of innovation.
Radhika Sridharan, partner at Bain & Company, spoke about consumption, a key driver of economic growth, and markets that are yet to be unlocked in rural India. “The upper middle income group which we expect will punch above their weight. More than 50% of consumption will be driven by that bucket. This is interesting because these are the families that can now aspire to be better and premiumise and change the shape and nature of what they buy,” she said.
On innovation and growth that can achieved through it, Achal Bakeri, chairman and MD, Symphony Limited, shared his own experience. “But we did not actually invent the air coolers, we reinvented the air coolers. That’s how I would like to say it. Our first air cooler looked like an air conditioner and something like this caught the popular imagination in the late 80s,” he said. He further spoke about the tight spots that that company was in after its initial success and it held on and weathered them.
Vipul Sabharwal, MD, Luminous Power Technologies, recounted the story of his company’s 30-year journey. He talked about his vision to innovate passionately and make life comfortable and efficient and how important was customer feedback for the company to innovate and invest in new products and research.
The next speaker, Milkbasket co-founder and CEO Anant Goel, lightened the mood at the gathering by wishing everyone good morning though it was nigh on 5.30 in the evening. He said it was from force of habit. Daily operations of the milk-and-grocery-delivery service begin at 4 a.m. and ends at 7 a.m. He spoke about scaling digitally the four-year-old company, which he called a toddler, and the everyday learnings he, once an advisor on strategy to firms across the world, has got when he started his own company. “I have so much to learn from businesses which are 20, 30 years old. In the corporate world, ideas are hits and in the startup world ideas are worth a penny. Your idea is the most public thing you can have,” he said.
Hitesh Oberoi, CEO, Info Edge, who spoke about achieving scale in a digital world, said, “We decided against going international and focussed on India. One big strategy that we followed over the last few years was diversification.”
Krishnan Chatterjee, chief customer officer and head of marketing, SAP Indian Subcontinent, talked about disruption in the industry by giving examples of MG Hector and ICICI bank. Both these companies have used technology to fuel growth.
“It’s wonderful to have so many business leaders in the room. Traditional business models address an experience gap. Intelligently connecting people, things and businesses is our design philosophy,” he said.
Nitin Bawankule, country director, Google Cloud India, talked about the speed at which technology is changing and the power of data consumption in India. “The power of computing helps you do a lot many things which you wouldn't have thought 10 years back. The power of cloud is impacting businesses and I think this is the time to act on it,” he said.
Gaurav Gupta, partner at Deloitte India, talked about how digital is the most abused word today. “For someone it’s an email and for someone else, it can be a flying car. But there is a lot happening in between,” said Gupta.
The next session of the summit kicked off with an address by Samit Ghosh, MD and CEO, Ujjivan Bank. “We have 4 million customers today, and we want to move to 40 million in the next seven years,” Ghosh said.
Sandip Somany, president of FICCI India, said that something that cannot be ignored if we have to become a $5 trillion economy is the role of exports.
Anurag Singh Thakur, minister of state for finance and corporate affairs, who was chief guest at the summit elaborated the government’s plan for achieving the $5 trillion economy target. “The Prime Minister clearly articulated the government’s vision to make this economy a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. International experiences, especially from high-growth east Asian economies suggests that such growth needs to be investment driven and can only be sustained by a virtuous cycle of savings, investment and exports. In this context, recent efforts have been taken to clean up banks,” said Thakur.
After his address, the minister took suggestions from company leaders and industry experts on areas where the government could focus to help India Inc. The suggestions ranged from making the process of income tax simpler to cutting down GST rates on certain essential products such as life-saving drugs.
The event concluded with Majumdar and Thakur felicitating the wealth creators among the Fortune India Next 500 companies.