IIMB is pleased to have Mr. Mohandas Pai, the Chairman of Manipal Global Education, former CFO and HR Head at Infosys. Mr.Pai, a Padma Shri Awardee is also the co-founder of Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest midday meal program. Having served as the Chairman of the Board of SEBI, he is now a Board Member of the National Stock Exchange in India. He also has emerged as one of India’s most prolific angel investors. We hear from him, the pressing issues that our country must pay importance to and the changes that would be instrumental in bringing about progress .
Q. Having been a part of the academic, business and political sphere of our country, which according to you is the best means to serve the society and why?
Mr. Pai: I think the best way to serve the society right now is to work to improve governance in this country. It is broken due to various reasons. If you look at the state of our cities, our infrastructure is not good, our streets are not clean, pavements are broken, there are not enough roads and so on. If you look at the justice system, justice takes 8-10 years to be delivered and no society can be governed by the rule of law when justice takes so long. The democracy and governance can only be set right if the citizens of the country voice their expectations. Thus, the biggest challenge will be to make the governance better, make public authorities work better, to ensure the right delivery of services to citizens of this country.
Q. Having mentioned about the need for change in governance, do you think there must be any financial reforms in order to bring in more investment from outside?
Mr. Pai: We have to establish the rule of law in this country. If the justice system works and can give judgements in 3 years, it is a very good system. Also, if you look at the bankruptcy laws it takes 15-30 years for a company to be taken into bankruptcy. Hopefully with the new laws, things will improve. So, we should improve the ease of doing business to make investment easier. As far as government policy is concerned, the total tax to GDP ratio is 18%, which is good. America’s is 25% with a per capita income of 55000$. We must also remember that agriculture, which is 15% of our GDP, does not pay much taxes. So 18% is good, which may go up to 20% after GST comes. So for India with a per capita income of 1600$ it seems to be promising. But what we need to demand from the government is how they are going to use the taxpayers’ money to ensure that there is no leakage due to transmission loss in the system and that value is created. Also, we must make sure that wherever the government runs economic activity, it is held accountable. Why should the government put in 30,000 crores in Air India and lose the money? We do not require it in this time and age. We need money to be spent on education, primary health, infrastructure and public services. It is thus imperative as citizens to force the government to act and hold them accountable.
Q. What according to you will be the first significant step of the government in empowering people?
Mr. Pai: The first significant step is making sure the justice system works. If we are able to invest in the judicial system so that cases take lesser than 3 years, it will be a far better society. Any government, any democracy in the world has five great activities. 1. Protection of the external boundaries of the country. We have improved, but we still can see terrorists walking in and killing our people. 2. Maintaining internal law and order. We have cases of mob violence, people’s lives are in danger in many parts of the country. 3. Delivery of justice. Like I already told, we have a broken down justice system. We have only 13-14 judges for the huge population. We need 50. America has 100. We need more public prosecutors. We need more intelligence. We need more IT. So investment must go three-fold to ensure that people get justice. 4. Management of currency, fairly good, but we have too much of fake currency coming in from our neighboring country. 5. Management of foreign affairs. These are the five major things. The government is not supposed to run the steel, coal, telecom or the airline industry. The core functions need to be done right first. The biggest impact on all our lives will be when the rule of law is maintained, as it is the primary responsibility of the state. This ensures that justice is given to people within 2 or 3 years, so that commercial contracts, people disputes, violence cases are solved. Thus, this is the number one priority for India.
Q. Talking about governance roles, what role do you think current startups can play in order to help improve governance?
Mr. Pai: I think startups can only bring transparency and help give information to people. Startups cannot solve all of this country’s problems. Startups are by young people who do not have an idea how the country is run, no idea how the society is run. You can’t burden them with improving governance, it is too much of expectation. How they could contribute is, they could become honest tax payers, question authority, demand for better governance and register for voting and vote. They need to voice their concerns on social media, as it is easily accessible.
Q. What is the importance of empowering people through purchasing power rather than freebies?
Mr. Pai: Poverty can be easily defined as the lack of purchasing power. The government wants to give ration, free education and so on. This means that somebody is required in between, who has to transmit from the government to the layman. And when that someone becomes corrupt, the transmission loss is huge. Like Western countries, where the government gives money, people then decide how to spend it. Yes, it may be misused, but that will only be 10-15%. You have to trust people, they make the right economic choice for themselves and their children. Once you deposit some money in their account for a defined number of years, they will put it to the use which they deem best. There will be misuse but misuse will be lesser than other ways and no transmission loss will be there because money goes to him directly. With the help of technology we can monitor such cash flow and it will work beautifully, way better than going through the corrupt transmission system and intermediaries who siphon off all the money.
Mr. Pai later in the day engaged in an interactive session with students on “Disrupting Business Globally” in which he elaborated on future disruptions in the fields of Information Technology, Automobile, Manufacturing and Life Sciences owing to rapid advancement in technology.
Malvigha V, Jr. Co-ordinator, Student Media Cell
Gaerik Chhabra, Jr. Co-ordinator, Networth