Deborah L. Wince-Smith is the President & CEO of the Council on Competitiveness. Founded in 1986, this unique coalition of leading CEOs, university presidents and labor union leaders puts forth actionable public policy solutions to make America more competitive in the global marketplace.
Wince-Smith has been credited with recharging the national debate on competitiveness, innovation and resilience. She is frequently called upon to testify in front of the U.S. Congress and appears regularly on global television news networks.
She spearheaded the National Innovation Initiative (NII) that played a pivotal role in creating a reinvigorated U.S. competitiveness movement.
In a conversation with exchange4media, she shares her views on India’s growth strategy and progressive economic policies.
How did the idea of forming compete.org come about?
Genesis for this is 30 years ago when President Reagan formed a commission on industry for productivity. Competiveness is all about increase productivity and US was concerned at that time about the trade and technology competition with Japan. Japan was doing unethical trade practices but at the same time they had created much better benchmark in quality. This was a wake call up for us and it was the private sector initiative.
What are your views on India being envisioned as a manufacturing hub by PM Modi, what do you think the challenges are?
Yes, I totally agree with his statement and India is emerging as a manufacturing hub over the years. I think the challenges are regulatory environment and also having people and being able to differentiate to serve the Indian market.
The country needs significant capability and focus on different sectors such as pharmaceuticals needs to become more IT generated. Everybody has now recognised the competition from Brazil, as they are doing well. China is also doing well but not in the high end. The question here is if you want to leapfrog as India did earlier in telecom sector and didn’t waste time in landline infrastructure.
What I want to say is, this Indo- US relationship is absolutely transformational in the 21st century and we have to get over all the history of post- world war era.
Can you tell us something about the newly formed India Council on Competitiveness?
This council will have two-fold functions, it will be a think tank where there will be important studies and analysis on what the country needs in order to advance its productivity and prosperity .
Second, it is going to be an action group per se and not a lobbying group. This Council and members are focused on what is good for overall for this country not just good for any particular sector. So I think it’s tremendously important and incredible and I hope that major leaders of industries and members because whatever is done at the end of the day, the CEOs and active members who are coming on board will decide polices and recommendations.
PM Modi recently said USA and India are natural allies, which areas do you think USA and India partnership can benefit most from?
We are natural allies in terms of our culture to begin with. We are the world’s largest democracies. Democracies are messy and we have crazy political campaigns, but at the end of the day we elect a leader and country rallies around that so that’s a tremendous commonality. We don’t have a military war like other countries. I am very excited about the growing defence collaboration; it’s the right thing to do. There is great potential on the technological side of that and beyond IT there is tremendous potential in the healthcare area.
What are the key expectations from MOU with India Competitiveness Council?
We are going to be collaborating and partners in areas were both have the potential and assets to contribute. It will be a totally balanced partnership of equals. We need to understand what the next generation competiveness matrix is. We will figure out and understand the key growth drivers.
Emerging economy are developing significant innovation capabilities. What lessons might the US apply from other nations?
We have taken out best practices from Brazil, how we can focus on innovation, fabulous demonstration, cost structure, implementation. What we are learning from the Indian market is how to listen to the consumer better.
What potential do you see in India given the background of a large no. of big and small scale manufacturing industries?
I think these large markets don’t have any issues. India now has global enterprises and multinationals. They are evolving and they are good at research and development. I am not worried about the big global enterprises I am worried about medium sizes enterprises. They are the ones who face challenges and competition. They can’t make things in a 19th century environment. They need to enhance and be able to compete.
What can fast growth countries do to drive innovation and entrepreneurship ?
They need to invest in people, they need to invest in education from the earlier stage to most advance form, make easy to start a business, make easy to access capital. They need to cut the unwanted ropes to reach success.
What is the role that private entities can play in driving public policies and affecting mass change?
The scale of infrastructure cannot be done by the government alone. CEOs talk about infrastructure space and power. It takes years to take permit, put up a facility.
There should be investment in people and technology to come and work here.
What steps should the government take?
They need to think about creating networks, manufacturing research institutes that will tell the needs and challenges of different manufacturing hubs. Government should come up with extension programs, train farmers, do that for smaller medium enterprises, through business associations and create a supplier base.