Ashish Tandon of Egis India makes an impelling case as to why India needs to invest in infrastructure for robust mass transportation

India is rapidly progressing to become a leading global economy. This ambition is fuelled by the world’s interest in India as a potential manufacturing, medical and educational tourism hub. As more and more companies come to India inspired by the Make in India campaign of the Government, it can become very difficult for India to sustain its growth momentum without
infrastructure development. The way I see it, robust mass transportation or lack of it, can either make or break India’s success story, here are my reasons…

Mass Rapid Urbanization

India is moving away from being an agrarian country towards a country driven by the services sector. The contribution of agriculture to the nation’s GDP is slowly and steadily coming down. Two major industries that have contributed to this shift are IT and ITES sectors. And it is no secret that the raw materials for these industries are the young educated minds of the cities. And these youngsters want to live in urban settings. Companies are therefore setting up shops in urban areas to tap the talent available locally. These industries offering swanky offices and fast lifestyles are luring many from the villages to the luster of the cities. These industries are also generating a lot of ancillary industries which are creating employment for the youth. So in a nutshell, pockets of developments are taking place around the locations where these industries are thriving. However, the people employed in these posh offices are usually staying to more affordable locations and they need to commute daily to work and for entertainment.

In European countries, the roads are so well built that vehicles can move at speeds of up to 160 kms per hour and it reduces the time spent on roads. The developed countries have metro rail systems that offer end to end connectivity. Unless India can offer comfortable and less time consuming transportation options to its young population, the productivity will get adversely impacted leading to a huge loss for the national output.

The edible items for the urban consumption are still produced in the villages. So as the urban population grows, the amount of food needed to feed this population also grows. Without proper transportation, perishable commodities become difficult to get and therefore a huge amount of national resources is to be expended in creating infrastructure that can store perishable food items. Without good roads and other means of transportation, the urban population will either suffer from malnutrition or add to the inflation of the economy. The smaller industries which are supported by the IT and ITES sectors need a lot of raw materials which come from different parts of the country. The cost of the end product will get affected provided the costs of transportation of raw materials are economical. And good transportation network can ensure that. As more and more Indians and Indian enterprises go global, India gains renewed interest amongst the world citizens. The Nonresident Indian population , in their quest for staying connected with the roots, start looking for many products from India. This needs that the goods and services are supplied to the world from India and everything ultimately boils down to good transportation for economical mass transportation of these products.

India – A Haven for Global Tourists

India has always intrigued and attracted global tourists, be it the famous Beatles or Steve Jobs. India usually has been getting on an average around 8 million tourists every year from overseas.
In terms of percentage, India gets less than one percent of global tourists. However, as the government promotes Incredible India and Make in India, and as the world sees Indian success
stories, the numbers are about to rise. Many of the tourists want to experience Indian interiors and not just the swanky cities. They want to travel to the hill stations, the forests, the seas, the backwaters and therefore unless we develop comfortable and sustainable mass transportation solutions, it may deter the future tourists in India.

As more and more Indians settle abroad and the affluent class grow in India, many Indians are now venturing global destinations from even smaller towns. To meet the aspirations of this
class, India needs to develop connectivity between the towns and the metros so that the experience of the travelers is positive. Medical tourism is another area that will benefit from a robust transportation system. The cost of setting up large hospitals in premium locations is unviable as it increases the cost of the medication offered. If the transportation system is made robust, then hi tech large medical facilities could be developed in the interiors of the country where the cost of land is not so expensive. This will also help in generating employment in these far away areas and contribute to the development of these areas on the whole.

Film tourism and wedding tourism are yet to take off in India. In the near future, one might have Hollywood and other film industries coming to India for the beautiful locations and the
amazing palaces India has to offer. Transportation, amongst other things will play a key role in promotion of these tourism avenues.

Make in India

India is gearing up to be the global manufacturing hub. The government is actively promoting India as a manufacturing destination to the world. As it slowly becomes a reality and companies
start relocating their manufacturing units here, the transportation of raw materials to the factories and the transportation of finished goods from the factories will need a robust transportation system, a system that offers economical, quick and effortless transportation. India is gifted with plenty of water bodies. These water bodies could be used for transportation of goods and people. As per statistics, the cost of moving a Kg of weight is much lower as compared to the cost of moving the same weight over any other mode of transportation. Besides, since India is an importer of petroleum products, the economy will feel immediate positive effects of an alternative cheaper means of transportation like the waterways. Money saved is money earned and planning alternative sources of transportation which are cheaper and more sustainable can help in saving national resources and these could be utilized in other sectors needing the funds.

Conclusion

As I look at India today, I am constantly reminded of the proverbial ‘Achilles’ heels’. This country with immense potential, great energy and hungry for growth is pulled back by its lack of state of the art infrastructure, especially in the transportation sector. India will continue to grow in the next decade provided transport mechanism is made of global standards.

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