Views of Suresh Prabhu

“Growth is only possible by opening up the economy”

The Indian electrical equipment industry must explore global markets, believes Suresh Prabhu, minister of commerce and industry, and former power minister.  At the inaugural of ELECRAMA 2018, the five-day flagship event organised by the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers’ Association in Greater Noida, in March, Prabhu talked about the outlook, challenges and opportunities for the electrical industry…

ELECRAMA is one of the most prestigious events of not just the power industry but for any industry in India. Over a period of time, it has also become a global event. Now, since the event has become global, it is time for the industry to go global. We must ensure that all manufacturers that are manufacturing quality products and catering to the domestic market elevate their skills and capacity in order to become global players and export their products globally.

If you see today, globally, people are raising their voices in favour of protectionism in order to protect the domestic economy, not realising that growth will happen only by opening up the economy. Economies are slowing down globally and if we do not bring a new dynamism in the market, we cannot grow. The Asian economies are currently experiencing a slowdown and thus, the Indian market is poised to take advantage of this opportunity. This requires investments in new ideas and new technologies that are globally acceptable. The global market has a lot of opportunities to offer. However, in order to penetrate into that market, we need a product. New products can create a new market and enable the industry to grow.

As we have seen, in the past 12 years, a huge change has taken place in the electricity sector. I remember that when I was the power minister, people used to call me a powerful minister, but I used to say that I am a powerless minister because we did not have adequate power at that time. And therefore, we introduced the Electricity Act, 2003, which resulted in significant capacity addition in less than 10 years. From less than 100,000 MW back then, we have now reached a capacity of almost 350,000 MW. This was made possible by the power of policy.

Another very important legislation that I had the fortune of moving in Parliament was the Energy Conservation Act. This law brought about a major change in the general mindset and made us realise why it is important to save electricity rather than just generate it.

Currently, we are seeing a huge change in the energy profile of India. The emergence of renewables is a major change in the industry. This, in turn, can provide a boost to the sector since with an increase in renewable energy, we would eventually need to develop storage options. The industry is also developing new and efficient technology. These measures will create a huge opportunity for the power sector in the country and the electrical industry.

I believe that it is time to shift the thrust to sub-transmission and distribution systems rather than only generation. The sub-transmission and distribution segment has not seen the kind of change that it will witness over the next 10-15 years. This segment holds huge potential for the growth of the electrical equipment industry.

I request the industry to gear up for this tremendous opportunity. It must think global in order to elevate India to the level where it becomes one of the best players catering to the international market. This happened in the auto components industry and I believe that this will now happen in the electrical industry as well. It is just a matter of a “change in thinking”.

As the commerce and industry minister, I feel elated by the fact that so many ideas and technologies are being born in the electrical equipment industry. It is not only providing “light” but also enlightenment to others. I can assure that if the industry comes up with a good plan, we can go ahead as a team and promote the industry at a global level. For the first time in the country, we are planning to promote our exports first-hand by visiting different countries and offices. For this purpose, we are also conducting market research. We need to work together and make this happen.

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