Alpesh Patel is an author, management consultant and a mentor to start-ups with 20 years of corporate experience. As a consultant with Big4 Advisory firms, Alpesh guided corporates & government in formulating strategy, mergers & acquisitions and undertaking large transformations. He has advised Banks and companies in Insurance, Payments and Micro-finance sectors and was instrumental in setting up a Payments Bank. He has been a part of many new ventures setup in India during the last two decades. He was one of the co-applicants to RBI for setting up a payments bank in India.
Alpesh published his first book, a science fiction titled ‘Future of the Past’ in 2008. He has just finished writing his second book “Is India a Chalta hai nation?”, which is expected to be published later this year.
Alpesh pursued his Engineering and did his MBA before beginning his career as a management consultant.
In an exclusive interaction with The Policy Times, Alpesh Patel, author, management consultant and mentor to start-ups talks about potential of Indian economy, relevance of communal harmony for a peaceful India, India’s role on world issues, and his upcoming book “Is India a Chalta hai nation?”.
Q. India often makes news for being fastest growing economy. Is the pace of our progress adequate?
AP: India is definitely on the rise, but there are other aspects to India’s growth story. First, our current performance is below our potential considering that we were once world’s largest economy along with China. Second, our per capita income is still low (USD ~1800) and current rate of progress isn’t enough to elevate millions of people to prosperity in a reasonable time. Third, during the decades following 1970s, many countries (e.g. Asian miracle countries) did achieve much accelerated growth and fundamentally transformed their countries. South Korea moved from per capita GDP of USD ~290 in 1970 to USD ~27,000 in 2015. In comparison, our current rate of growth isn’t good enough to transform us.
So we have a case for going faster.
Q. Education for all and affordable healthcare are two important public services. How do you see we are progressing on these?
AP: Education and healthcare are two of the fundamental building blocks of a nation. Unfortunately, India never had truly universal education or healthcare systems and we still have a long way to go. We run world’s second largest education system and are proud of IITs and IIMs, but in terms of good quality education for all, we have much ground to cover. We score poorly on quality of schools, attendance and quality of teachers and student learning. In healthcare, we have less than one doctor per thousand people which is much lesser than 2-5 doctors per thousand people in developed countries.
Q. Do you think communal harmony is an essential priority for India’s rise in the world?
AP: Undoubtedly, it is. For millennia it has been central to India’s ideology and India can set an example for the world. Amidst all the noise about intolerance and religious tensions, we should remember that India is not only a populous country, but also an unbelievably diverse one. Having said that, we can do even better if we increase the base of modern education and improve law and order.
Q. Do you think India can be an advanced economy in next 20 years? Where do we focus?
AP: It’s certainly not an easy goal. In 1998 Dr. Kalam shared his vision for India in his book ‘India 2020’ but unfortunately after nearly two decades, we are not close to achieving most of the targets he had set for India. Indeed, we need to get more focused and more determined in our actions. We tend to be too tightly tied to our past which sometimes distracts us. Our people and media give undue time and attention to debates on caste, religion and history even as dozens of farmers commit suicide everyday. We need to learn to look forward and work towards building it.
Q. Can India ever become a superpower?
AP: Interestingly, India may not strive to become a superpower, though the world keeps imagining India to be working towards it. India has never gone out to overpower others and I doubt if India will aim to do that.
Q. What could be India’s role in the world?
AP: India’s strength has been her ideology and intellectualism which needs to be broadened further within India. When India was leading the world, her role was to spread knowledge and message of peace. If the world has been forming alliances to win wars, India should form alliances to make this planet less polluted and more peaceful. Declaring 2nd Oct (Gandhi’s birthday) as the International Day of non-violence was a good first step and India can further build on it.
Q. When is your next book coming and what is the theme of your book?
AP: My next book is about the infamous Chalta hai attitude of Indians. Many attribute our sluggish progress to the malaise of Chalta hai in our society. But not everyone agrees. After all, India invented zero, built Taj Mahal and gave Yoga to the world, they counter. So the questions remain. Are we a Chalta hai nation? Is Chalta hai a part of Indian DNA or it’s just a bad habit which can be exterminated easily? Will Chalta hai stop us from becoming a developed nation? My upcoming book provides answers to all these questions.
Q. What is the message of your book?
AP: The findings of five years of my research on Chalta hai were a great revelation. Our democracy, rich heritage, great past and high GDP growth rate are not enough to make us a developed country. It’s time we recognize the reasons and impact of our Chalta hai attitude and act on it.