Its time Govt focus on wellness industry
Amid the mood of gloom about the global economy, post-Covid and Russia-Ukraine war, it will be a good idea to reflect on whether there is something extra India can do to improve its economy differently, apart from whatever it is doing.
The Invitation Editorial by Ruchir Sharma in TOI on July 6 titled, “Name’s Bond, EM Bond” presents a more rosy picture for India (and emerging economies) relative to the developed world.
Many have been questioning how well GDP (or any other current index) reflects a nation’s or global economy. Let me reproduce a WhatsApp message I received that explains why:
“Bicycle is the slow death of the planet.“
A banker made the economists think this when he said:
“A cyclist is a disaster for the country’s economy: He doesn’t buy cars and doesn’t borrow money to buy. He doesn’t pay insurance policies. Doesn’t buy fuel, doesn’t pay to have the car serviced, and no repairs are needed. He doesn’t use paid parking. Doesn’t cause any major accidents. No need for multi-lane highways.”
“He is not getting obese. Healthy people are not necessary or useful to the economy. They are not buying the medicine. They don’t go to hospitals or doctors.”
“They add nothing to the country’s GDP.”
“On the contrary, each new McDonald’s store creates at least 30 jobs—actually 10 cardiologists, 10 dentists, 10 dietitians, and nutritionists – obviously as well as the people who work in the store itself.”
Choose wisely: “A bike or a McDonald’s? It’s something to think about.”
~ Emeric Sillo
PS: Walking is even worse. Pedestrians don’t even buy a bicycle!
Long and short: While we keep trying to increase GDP, we need not be overly obsessed with GDP. A high percentage of the global economy is flab and cancerous. There is no study on how much of global GDP is socially purposeful (shall we call these “muscle & fat”), how much is “flab”, and how much is “cancerous flesh”.
Even as India tries to generate jobs in the high-paying sectors of the modern economy, obsession with high-paying jobs for crores of our population is impractical. There aren’t too many high-paying jobs worldwide. Being a populous country, our share of unemployment and low-paying jobs is that much more.
We can focus on employment generation in ethical segments of the economy, in consonance with Indian traditions, even if most of the jobs are not well paying.
Originally the world started off with only a “muscle and fat” economy. Agricultural produce, transportation vehicles, essential buildings, need-based healthcare products, etc, belong to this category.
Along the way, as the rich started having excess money to splurge, they created a flab economy. Unhealthy beverages like Coke and Pepsi, junk food like pizza, burgers, luxury vehicles, fancy buildings, propped-up pharma products, etc, which became unnecessary necessities, belong to this category.
As greed and unhealthy global competition for money, land, gold, power, etc, became dominant, the “cancerous flesh” economy started taking roots and growing. Corruption, narcotics and drugs, high-end defence equipment, lotteries and racing for bets, etc, which seek to destroy the soul of the society, belong to this category.
It is often difficult to put at least certain items under any of these categories. Wars waged on specious charges like WMD, arms race, underworld activities, and propped-up terrorism, mostly created and/ or abetted by the major global powers, resulting in the manufacture of all kinds of weapons, and creation of blood money.
But these very weapons also become necessary for the defence of innocent countries. So, certain items are “cancerous flesh” based on who makes them, whose hands they land in, and for what purpose, and “muscle and fat” for the innocent buyer countries.
The global economy wouldn’t have grown as big (expected to be USD 100 trillion soon) but for the flab and cancerous flesh economies. When growth stutters, many of the developed economies try to grow any of these 3 kinds of GDP, and by any means, fair and foul.
The wellness industry in the form of natural wellness which includes healthy food and supplements is an ethical “muscle and fat” industry that is waiting to be tapped.
India has traditional strengths in food, esp cereals and millets (millets for short), natural herbal medicines, etc. India’s healthy millet delicacies, which are not mere food but are also nutritious, anti-oxidants, probiotics, immunity boosters, and preventive medicine in short, are being lost, not because they are not good or tasty any longer, but because we have started switching over to junk food.
These require scientific validation with scientific studies and patents. This is an area where the government can play a significant role. It’s not an easy or a short-term job. This requires efforts similar to what the west put in to develop their “flab” and “cancerous flesh” industries.
There is increasing unhealthiness worldwide, due mainly to unhealthy food being consumed, and there is also increasing realization of the problem. In the absence of credible alternatives/ solutions, nothing is being done to reverse the trend. There are lots of correctional low-cost food recipes available in the Indian system, for most of the health issues, and they are dying for want of practice.
We also need to reinvent new recipes, for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, like sandwiches and burgers, for domestic and international markets, in tune with the fast lives in the changing times. The base can be healthy millets. Fast food delivery quick processes can be taken advantage of.
People have no time for breakfast; if a healthy mix of porridge is available as a freshly made drink with milk, buttermilk, or soup, which can be consumed in 2 minutes, it will not only be healthy but also suit the convenience of the people.
Small initiatives are being made by many entrepreneurs in niche wellness food segments, in the form of packaged products, restaurants, etc, especially in India. The government needs to regulate, promote and grow this into a huge industry within India, and help take our products and services the world over.
We should try to reclaim the space Indian spices occupied the world over, starting as far as 3000 years back, with our wellness industry products and services.
The foundation of all these industries is agriculture, forestry, and agro-industry, which are our strengths.
The availability of water is a major constraint in agriculture. But luckily, most of the cereals and millets like maize, finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum, etc, that we are discussing, require much less water and can grow in infertile soils, which remain substantially uncultivated or under-cultivated. Our farmers can cultivate them and increase their production, if the produce can be marketed, domestically and abroad.
This will help increase the farmers’ income and boost our rural economy.
All these require initiatives by the governments, State and Central, with the assistance of agricultural universities and farmer-support systems already in place.
This is a field where India has an inherent advantage’ competition will have difficulty catching up. We can own most of the growing wellness industry if only the governments take joint initiatives.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 Name’s Bond, EM Bond: Like Roger Moore’s spy roles, emerging markets deserve a fresh review. They are set for another solid run – Jul 6, 2022, ToI
 Jessica Maria Dwyer – Linkedin
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Great suggestion and something India and Indians need to think and put to action.