The genesis of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in 1895 was the aspiration by a few firms to leverage their collective strength for enhancing opportunities, thereby benefitting not only Industry, but the nation as a whole. Since the beginning, CII’s work agenda for the year is driven by a theme which encapsulates its priorities while carrying forward its regular activities.
While competitiveness and productivity were always a high focus, this gained intensity after India’s landmark reforms era commenced in 1991. With the end of the licensing regime, protected Indian firms had to deal with imports and investments from competitive global firms. Thus, building the competitiveness of Indian industry became the top priority for CII and was reflected in its annual themes and work plans.
CII took up competitiveness as its theme for the first time in 1993-94, when its initiatives were driven under the rubric of Building a Strong and Internationally Competitive Economy. Taking off from this, CII pioneered the competitiveness movement in India by launching the country’s first focussed Centre of Excellence, CII Institute of Quality, in its centenary year 1995. Competitiveness then became CII’s theme for six consecutive years starting 2001.
In 2007, CII focussed on India’s vast pool of human capital and adopted Building People – Building India as its Theme for 2007-08. 2007 was also the year that India celebrated 60 years of its Independence and CII undertook numerous activities to celebrate this milestone. That year, the industry organization was inspired to develop a vision for India at 75 years of Independence in 2022.
Thus, it adopted India@75 as its theme for a few years, working on extensive stakeholder consultations to evolve a vision of an India of economic strength, technological vitality and moral leadership.
Other themes over the last ten years which have guided CII activities include Business for Livelihood and Build India. Invest in Development – A Shared Responsibility. These themes underscore CII’s core philosophy to shape India’s holistic development as a developmental institution.
As a developmental institution, CII’s vision for enhancing competitiveness encompasses not just production but takes into consideration other factors such as capital, technology, labour, and natural resources for optimal use to ensure sustainable growth and development. And in a dynamic world of swift and impactful geopolitical and economic changes, the strides in enhancing competitiveness must be equally swift and responsive to changing circumstances.
So how does CII work in competitiveness?
CII works at the national, sectoral and firm-level, tailoring its services to meet the needs at each level. Competitiveness at the national level cuts across sectors and connective factors such as education, healthcare, ease of doing business, governance, innovation, sustainability and so on. Quality policy advocacy work and business development activities such as events and exhibitions go hand-in-hand with focussed competitiveness enhancement work.
Going deeper, CII covers almost all sectors of Industry and works through dedicated sectoral Councils and Committees across areas such as manufacturing, agriculture, services, exports and infrastructure to identify issues and devise solutions. Work done at the sectoral level adds to the work at the national level, increasing the effectiveness of work at both levels.
Firm-level competitiveness is customised and delivered primarily through CII’s unique offering: the Centres of Excellence. These Centres of Excellence offer specialised services to enterprises in consultancy and advisory, training and assessments.
CII’s Centres of Excellence cover many different aspects of enterprise level activity: quality, manufacturing excellence, sustainable development, logistics, water management, green business, leadership, MSMEs, food and agriculture. To help Industry adopt technology and leverage its advantages, CII recently launched the CII-Tata Communication Centre for Digital Transformation.
There are many building blocks in a nation’s progress and prosperity – its people, firms/enterprises, natural resources and adoption of technology to name a few, and several academics are of the view that national competitiveness is a summation of competitiveness in various areas and at various levels.
CII’s work reflects that view as each year it channelizes its efforts around a new Theme designed to help build the India of tomorrow.