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Make in India: Encouraging innovations, enabling sustainability
January 25, 2016, 12:57 pm

The Indian government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, launched the ‘Make in India’ initiative in 2014, with the aim of transforming the country into a global manufacturing hub. The major objective behind the initiative is to focus on job creation and skill enhancement in twenty-five sectors of the economy and to attract capital and technological investments to India.

By encouraging multinational, as well as domestic, companies to manufacture their products in India, the Make in India program targets increasing the share of manufacturing in the country’s gross domestic product from its current 16 percent to 25 percent by 2022.  

The initiative also aims at maintain high quality standards and minimize the impact on the environment. The prime minister’s call for realizing ‘Zero Defect Zero Effect’ in manufacturing signifies designing production mechanisms where products have no defects and the process through which product is made has zero adverse environmental and ecological effects.

As part of the Make in India initiative, the government has relaxed various norms and procedures with regard to setting up business units, as well as liberalized the foreign equity cap rules in a number of sectors. In addition, application for licenses has been made available online and the validity period of licenses increased to three years.

Growing attraction for India as a manufacturing destination is evident in that, between September2014 and November 2015, the Make in India campaign drew proposals from electronics manufacturers worth more than US$18 billion.

Here we look at how a few domestic manufacturers are contributing to the Make in India initiative.

Special clothing for soldiers at the world’s highest battlefield in Siachen

Army soldiers serving in the inhospitable, icy climates of Siachen Glacier —the highest and one of the most dangerous battlefield in the world — could soon be using special jackets, trousers, boots, sleeping bags and other specialized extreme winter clothing items that are made in India.

These clothes and sleeping outfits, which were previously imported, are designed to allow soldiers to operate in temperatures which go up to minus 55 degree Celsius. Since 1984, when India captured the Siachen Glacier, the army has lost 869 soldiers in Siachen due to extreme climatic conditions and environmental factors.

For the first time, Indian suppliers have given samples of five items manufactured by them for the army to trial as part of the Siachen and Super High Altitude clothing. Soldiers deployed beyond an altitude of 14,000 feet — in Siachen, Kargil, Drass, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim —are issued Siachen and Super High Altitude clothing which consists of 55 items.

As per defense ministry sources, the impetus to promote ‘Make in India’ in Siachen clothing came from a meeting last February with the Indian Technical textile Association (ITTA), the apex body representing technical textile manufacturers in the country.

Turning plastic to diesel

Tonnes of plastic buckets, mugs, toothpaste caps and other waste material are guzzled up by a giant machine which, in turn, produces the cleanest grade of diesel. Researchers at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research - Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR-IIP), achieved this significant success which will enable the Indian Railways to use this diesel as fuel for its trains.

On a recent visit to CSIR-IIP, Union Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said the plant will be available to convert one tonne of plastic into 850 liters of cleanest grade of diesel. “Indian Railways use almost 2.7 billion liters of diesel every year. The new plant, apart from producing clean energy will be the first step for the Indian Railways to attain self-sufficiency to meet its own energy requirements,” he said.

The CSIR-IIP had previously announced another breakthrough in technology by making low carbon jet fuel from inedible drought- resistant jatropha plant. This technology is being seen as a big step forward in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative which aims to transform the country into a global manufacturing hub.

Indian startups enter digital hardware manufacturing

In recent years, the Indian startup ecosystem has really taken off and come into its own — driven by factors such as massive funding, consolidation activities, evolving technology and a burgeoning domestic market.

Though India's start-up ecosystem still favors the country's $146 billion software services sector, and product manufacturing is considered a fool-hardy option, there is optimism among industry observers as  green-shoots in design-led innovation, witnessed over the past two to three years, may see rapid growth by 2018.

The central government's ‘Make in India’ initiative and a spurt in interest shown by angel investors and venture capitalists to fund tech hardware start-ups might just give the much-needed boost to the industry. However, to compete with the best in the world, India has to emerge out of the prototype phase into mass manufacturing of technology-driven hardware.

A number of experienced veterans as well as hungry start-ups led by young minds have started experimenting in the hardware space. The initiatives may still be wrapped around software and, in some cases, services, but what is interesting is that product innovations in hardware is becoming a norm rather than an exception.

A growing domestic market, the capability to take higher risks, rise of Internet of Things, software as a service, cloud technologies, open source architecture, 3D printing, improved access to capital, mentorship and industry bodies advocating their cause, have played an important role to boost product hardware companies in India.

The Government can also play a role in enabling the success of product hardware companies as this could lead to manufacturing. The governments of other Asian countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore and Malaysia, have played a proactive and positive role. If the new government with its Make in India initiative gives a push, there is no reason why entrepreneurs cannot build brands out of India in this space.

For a country accustomed to success only in services, the next few years are poised for a boom in hardware innovation with the new breed of Indian start-ups conquering not only the domestic market but also taking the fight to foreign shores.

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