Localisation strategy for jobs would help address protectionism: Nilekani

“I think there's no doubt about that. It cannot be one size fits all from your corporate headquarters,” said Nilekani at an event organised by Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI). “You have to localize.”
At a time when protectionism or the policy of protecting domestic industries against the foreign competition is now becoming more prevalent across the world, Nandan Nilekani, founding architect of Aadhaar and co-founder of Infosys acknowledged that there is a reaction against globalisation. He said the strategy for the companies is to be an active player in every market that they operate and have an articulation of partnership with that country and which reflects its priorities.

“I think there's no doubt about that. It cannot be one size fits all from your corporate headquarters,” said Nilekani at an event organised by Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI). “You have to localize.”

He gave the example of the technology company Infosys which made a very strategic decision a few years back to accelerate the localization of its employees. Last year, the Bengaluru-based firm revealed plans to hire 12,000 American workers over the next two years, bringing its hiring commitment in the US to 25,000 over five years.

“That has dramatically changed perceptions and the support,” said Nilekani. “We have centres in (different) US cities and in each city, the local state government and the governor, are the biggest supporters of Infosys.

He said if companies can show the intent to do things locally in terms of creating jobs and boost the economy, then they would be welcomed anywhere in the world. Globalization is seen as something which affects jobs or affects people's lives, but businesses need to demonstrate that it is actually benefiting the societies and the people.

When asked to comment on measures such as 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' which aims to make the country self-reliant nation through pursuing various policies, Nilekani said all countries are talking about increasing self-reliance. “I don't think it means protectionism. It means having a strong base as well as accessing global technology,” said Nilekani. “India today continues to be a major consumer of global technology and global products like chips and equipment are coming com outside and I think that is welcome.”

When asked about the finding a balance for the policies that are coming up to regulate the internet, social media as well as the big tech companies, Nilekani said that governance works in a way where it takes time to respond or react. “But the way internet works is that you can spread a rumour in two seconds,” he said.

So the speed of the internet is completely disproportionate to the speed at which the system can respond. Also, it is a very sophisticated technical issue due to which the regulator often may not be able to understand the real scenario. This has already been witnessed in the global financial crisis. Earlier people thought that acquisitions should be based on the size but now they are realising that acquisition of a small strategic company can also have a big impact on the market.

“There are learning, but now all over the world regulators are coming to grips with this including US, Europe, India and China,” said Nilekani.

For instance, Jack Ma's planned IPO of Ant Group was called off last year. China suspended Ant Group’s $37 billion stock market listing, derailing the world’s biggest initial public offering with just days to go.

Also, the smartphone-based internet started in 2007 when iPhone was launched and then social media platform Facebook and Android became very popular. The number of smartphone users worldwide has surpassed three billion and it is estimated to further grow by several hundred million in the next few years, according to data platform Statista. India alone is now expected to have 850 million smartphone users by 2025. Many regulatory issues are expected to emerge in the future.

“Now for the first time, we have a consumer economy,” said Nilekani. "I don’t think anybody anticipated what is going to happen."


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