Acumen Global Gateway Summit Sessions: Keynote Address with Shri Bharat Lal

The Indian economy is undergoing an exponential period of growth and on course to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025. In this thought-provoking insight into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ the Indian economy is growing at the speed that it is, Mr Shri Bharat Lal highlights the government’s policies and plans for future growth and the effects that they are having not only on the overall Indian economy but more specifically, the Indian higher education landscape. 

The Keynote address shines a light on the great work that has already been done to improve higher education infrastructure within India and the opportunities that are now available to the younger generation.

Three Key Takeaways

  • India is currently sat in 46th position out of 132 in the ‘Global Innovation Index’ with a big push now underway to get the country into the top 20 by 2047.
  • The Indian government is placing a strong focus around the significance of empowering women through increased access to higher education. The government recognises that women’s education is a key driver for socio-economic progress and emphasises its commitment to providing equal opportunities for women to pursue higher education. Efforts to remove barriers, such as gender biases and financial constraints, were discussed to encourage more women to participate and excel in various fields of study.
  • The infrastructure, quality and access to higher education has drastically improved through the initiatives and focus of the Indian government. The collaboration opportunities that GIFT City now presents to international higher education institutions will see India establish itself as a destination of choice for those looking to expand and diversify into a new marketplace, subsequently having a positive impact on the Indian economy overall. 

Below is the transcript

Shri Bharat Lal

We all are here because of one common factor. And that is education, education and education. There can’t be any other factor. 

There can’t be any real reason, people like us join civil services, contributing and changing people’s lives. And the founding is, this foundation we got from that education actually. And let me compliment Sannam S4, for the pioneering work we are doing. Actually, I’m not going to give you a lot of data about the number of institutions and colleges, because you already know all these things.

I think one of the focuses specifically, the national education policy is trying to address the quality of education. I think you are going to play a huge role. And I congratulate you, I compliment you for this we’re friends. Let me also share, just allow me to give you some context, what is happening. What is the context of the whole education policy? How are we moving forward? And how governance in the education sector is going to bring the change? And what kind of change are you expecting?

In fact, we say that the present era, this era, is all about building partnership. See any one institution all alone? Can’t do it? No. And there is a reason for that synergy, that kind of incompatibility, those kinds of  forces you bring in or when you build a partnership. So first and foremost is that the government of India, and Indian institutions are looking for partnership, and want to work together. Not only forging, partnership, building partnership, but working together. And obviously, the aim is changing lives. And when we talk about changing lives, let’s understand that.

Well, everybody has read, yesterday seen the TV and social media, and today, a newspaper said that India has become, I think, the most populous country of the world, but 17.6% of the population, 1.43 billion people, are below the age of 25 years. That’s 50% of the population. It means that 700 million plus people, almost 10% of humanity. I think this is the forum where we are talking about what immediately affects this 10% of humanity here. I think we must understand the task ahead of us, and what the government of India is trying to do. 

What the Prime Minister has given repeatedly he has said since taking over the role in 2014, the aim of the government is changing people’s lives. And you will try to see the big picture. Since day one the idea is two or three major things that create a world class infrastructure, create those kinds of public service delivery. These kinds of services enable young people, enable everyone to universally access all these services, and create an atmosphere basically where each and every individual is able to realise his or her full potential. 

So when we talk about universalisation, of clean drinking water, toilets, public health, or education or electricity, or cooking, as the objective is saying, that creates that living level playing field, where each and every individual is able to realise his or her potential. And this is the work which the government is doing basically is working with speed and scale. We can’t keep waiting for eternity, that we have to work with his speed and his scale. And that’s what we are trying to do . At this stage, let’s see, when all these things are happening, how the Indian economy is changing, and how people’s aspirations are basically building up and which government is basically to fulfil that aspiration. 

Let me give one piece of data. It took 60 years for India, since its independence, to become a $1 trillion economy. In 2007, we became a $1 trillion economy. But the next 1 trillion was added in only seven years. In 2014, India became a $2 trillion economy. And that next trillion was added only in five years in 2019, 30 trillion was added. India, which in 2019, became a $3 trillion economy. Of course after that, because of COVID, our expectation and aspiration was that by 2025, we should be a $5 trillion economy. But yes, there have been setbacks. But they see the resilience that again, we have, I think, today one of the fastest growing economies, fifth largest economy, and I think in the next four years, we are trying to become the third largest economy. 

The point I’m trying to make is that, India and Indians, have waited long enough they will not keep on waiting. It means there is speed, there is scale, and that’s the importance of education. If you ask any woman, imagine at the time of independence in India the literacy rate was something around 9.8%. From there we have crossed to 70%. The same in India, in the last 75 years we have produced scientists or technologists or bureaucrats or political leaders. The importance of education in Indian society is, I think, the most important for any woman, literate or illiterate. 

I think the first requirement is that the first dream she has for her children is their education. I think this is our restraint that our society, education is a kind of innate belief that we have to educate our children. And it’s your duty and our duty, to provide that opportunity where they should get quality education and government through all these steps in this business providing this opportunity. So whether it comes to the new education policy, or reforms in the sector, or let’s say any other other estate, the focus is only and only is improving people’s lives, providing them opportunity and letting them make their future better.

My friend says, my friend, Mr. Adrian, said that this year, India having the G20 presidency, it also basically puts this huge responsibility on our shoulders. What India is trying to do is that our philosophy is one word, and that one word, is one family. So, we are not only bothered about ourselves, we are also bothered about this interconnected world. That is the reason that G20 in India to this year, is being discussed, being taken that every part of of the world, in fact my organisation NCGG, 

involved basically building capacity of developing countries, where India is having developmental cooperation, we are trying to build the capacity of their Civil Servants so that they can deliver public services, they can improve governance, they can  bring that kind of change, let me tell you that, in this 25 years, what the honourable Prime Minister has been saying that India has its vision for 2047. What kind of aim we are having and in achieving that kind of fame, what kind of role education can play, let’s take SDGs sustainable development goals, out of 165 countries we are around 120 or something like that.

So, the idea is how to quickly reach to be within the top 50. That is our aim. Take human development indices. I think presently we are around 131 ranking out of 189 countries, again the goal is how to reach the first 50. And again we keep in mind the number of people and the number of youth. Take the Global Innovation Index. Today we are at the number 46 position out of 132. The goal is to reach within the first 20. What kind of enabling environment. Similarly, what we are trying to do is that per capita income today is roughly close to $2600. How to ensure that our income goes around about 12,600 or 12,500 USD.I think there are very tangible goals, that kind of strategy is there so that we are able to bring that kind of change and we are able to provide that kind of opportunity to our youth in this nation building. 

There are basically four or five things which are the focus of the government. Because the government at the moment number one is investment on people basically all kinds of policies, programmes, schemes and projects is basically a citizen centric and people centric investment whether it’s a healthcare or infrastructure or our education or R&D, you will find that the focus is basically more on surgeon centric is not like that, that you are building world class infrastructure for heck of doing it. 

The second is of course, top class infrastructure so that people’s lives become better. Thirdly, the most important aspect is nutrition and health care. We must invest in our children, our youth, our young girls and women in their nutrition and health care. Firstly, age, education is skilling the investment which is going into this sector, basically by creating world class universities and other refunds and lastly, one of the most important things about investment is in R&D. 

In fact, yesterday, you must have heard that this quantum project has actually been approved. So, the idea is that cutting edge research must happen in this country. And what we are trying to do is in this whole strategy, please see, why and how we are doing and trying to achieve, when I say that we have to improve the per capita income, we have to improve quality of life, we have to make a third largest economy, how will we are going to do it and here is the new clue for you people to work on it. 

One most important part in India we have seen is that women participation in the workforce is still on the lower side, hardly 1/4 women are formally in the workforce. It means if we address this challenge, to ensure that women are participating in the workforce, I think family income and national income and national economy can improve, can leapfrog actually. How do we do it? If we provide her with the best possible facilities starting from drinking water to electricity to cooking gas to a loan to all those kinds of facilities should be provided. 

Next is skilling and education because if we invest especially in skilling and education, because you have seen and many of our I mean girls and women I’m seeing here if you go to any campus, in fact a few years back I used to go with Honourable President of India to central universities and I see that in a STEM a very large number of girls are joining.

So, if we are able to provide that enabling environment, it means these women and these girls can join the workforce and the family income, the whole economy, the whole ecosystem can improve. What we are trying to do, as you all know, is to meet these requirements, since 2014 the number of ideas and aims and these institutions are growing, central universities are growing. That is the approach that does provide that kind of opportunity. 

For us to do it well, one more more part, if my information is correct, which is understandably roughly globally, I think something I was said, roughly 7 million students are going into, international education and the other thing, the Prime Minister is asking how can we make India an attractive destination during the next 15 to 20 years?

Roughly 1 million students, international students, are going to come to India, it means we have to create those kinds of education institutions, those kinds of ecosystems, those kinds of efficiencies, so, that India is able to provide quality education not only students to his own children, but basically the rest of the world. That is the aim and that is the goal we are working for. 

As you all know, Indian institutions have been allowed to go outside and open their campuses. Similarly, UGC has already had to draft guidelines, specifically draft rules, that foreign institutions, you know, higher learning institutions, can come to India and they can open their campuses. And I’m pretty sure that Sudan will play a huge role in this endeavour.

Well, friends, as you have seen in the last few years, especially in the last couple of years, there has been interest from the top that our institutions can join your global ranking system, so that they start improving their quality of education, quality of research and quality of output. And here I can share that, this is reviewed at the highest possible level in the government and our institutions are basically encouraged that they should join this system. So, they become more transparent, they are able to learn from each other and they are also encouraged to forge partnerships with other institutions from around the world. 

I think you have seen that in the last couple of years, that kind of change is coming. In the first 500 of any other ranking you are seeing that the number of Indian institutions are going up there. Similarly, the kind of encouragement is being given to education, unicorns are startups. It is a very, very stated policy that such endeavours, such kind of initiatives should be encouraged. And that is happening, I think there are roughly seven unicorns out there, there in India and the last few years.

Friends, this is the time, this is the occasion when India is providing opportunity to our youth. And one more important aspect is the kind of India stack that is being built. Because we all have learned that in the whole world, especially if you see the western hemisphere western word, I think wherever this super infrastructure has been created, digital infrastructure created, those societies have been able to bring higher education, there have been research and development, and a much better quality of life. 

Today, if you just try to see in the last few years, the kind of India stack is being built in India. So that our youth is able to avail those opportunities, whether it’s terms of quality education, or started their own business or availing those opportunities, there is a focus on this aspect, because you are working in this sector, so you have seen that in last few years, that kind of initiative have been taken. Whether it’s the Center of Excellence, or our national education policy are so important, all these digits, these are cities. 

In fact, I was going through a brochure, and I can see that there is a session from Mr. De Patia. from GIFT City. This kind of opportunity is being provided in GIFT City for higher education. So I think that kind of effort is going on. And that kind of international collaboration and cooperation is basically happening, you have seen a number of success stories, I’m not going to narrate, all those success stories for you, because you already know, the only message I’m trying to give is that there is a focus on higher education, there is a focus on creating that enabling environment, where basically foreign universities can come to India, they can partner, they can open their campus, and there is a focus on how to bring international students to India. 

And we improve the quality of education in our country. To do all these things, there is a focus, the digital infrastructure, investment in R&D investment in higher education, that is made and that we are working towards this all endeavour, the philosophy is that build partnership, build partnership with various countries, various institutions, work together and change lives. 

And the staff here friends, I wish you all very best and I’m sure that next couple of days deliberation will bring a lot of, you know, new insight, and it will also show a way forward. So far as the government of India is concerned, I think we are in full support of this kind of endeavour. 

Wishing you all very best. Thank you all very much. Thank you

About the Acumen Global Gateway Summit: India

The Acumen Global Gateway Summit, held at the renowned JW Marriott hotel in New Delhi, marked a milestone in the Acumen@15 celebrationsThis exclusive invite-only event brought together the Acumen Global Team, distinguished guests, government officials, and experts. Client partners convened to discuss international higher education, exchange innovative ideas, and shape a vision for expanding access to higher education. The summit fostered collaboration, inspiration, and knowledge dissemination among higher education professionals. With its unique setting and thoughtful discussions, the event offered an exceptional platform for networking and setting the course for a future of inclusive and transformative higher education.

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