The year 2014 promises to be a defining year for India in more ways than one. The big, obvious event will be the sixteenth general elections in the world's largest democracy to be held before the summer heat boils the mercury. Either way you look at it, the elections promise to pack a punch. If it gives a decisive mandate one way or the other (or yet another), the economic agenda before the new government will be clear: move quickly to fix the investment climate in the world's third-largest economy by buying power.
Global brokerages say it will take a year and a half or more for the economy to turn itself around after a new government is sworn in, but a few strategically chosen announcements can work wonders to reverse the negative sentiment all around and increase the velocity of money by both the corporate and the individual. If the verdict is fractured - and it's too early to rule out that possibility - the rest of the world will likely take a dim view of India. We will be lucky to cross the five per cent GDP growth figure in the financial year 2013/14, but without a firm hand at the wheel in the Centre, it is very probable that India may return to its years of the infamous Hindu rate of growth. At least one ratings agency, Standard & Poor's, has said it will wait for the outcome of the elections to pronounce its verdict on India.
To be sure, such views have sound basis and are not contrarian. But India has several inherent strengths that can power the economy in the years ahead if harnessed well. When we started work on our anniversary issue - our first edition was published on January 7, 1992, and we complete 22 years of publishing this month - a few months ago, we decided we would focus on how these strengths can be leveraged to your benefit. The idea is to look at what companies and executives can do to emerge stronger in a decelerating economy. To guide our readers on the path to be taken, we decided to reach out to some of the finest global business thinkers around today - experts who give focussed and detailed advice on various aspects of the economy.
We bring nine such thinkers for you in this issue, starting with marketing guru Al Ries. Ries's message is simple: narrow your focus on your best-performing products to build strong brands. Vijay Govindarajan's prescription for health-care companies holds for several other industries: radical frugality, para-skilling, and the hub-and-spokes model. Best-selling author Tim Harford of The Undercover Economist fame makes his first appearance in Indian media, writing on the theme on societal inequality. His advice to Indian policymakers is paraphrased in a Deng Xiaoping quote: let some people get rich first. In the interest of your curiosity and the joy of reading what the fine minds have to say, I will stop with my sneak-peeks into what Satyajit Das, Adil Zainulbhai and Barnik Maitra, Thomas DeLong, Tarun Khanna, Subir Chowdhury, and Ranjay Gulati have written. I hope your ideas "bloom" after reading them.
The end of a year is time to reflect on where we messed up as much as it to see what we got right. Keeping to the 'Bloom' theme of this issue - we like to think of it as a trilogy following the "Change" and "Hope" themes of the last two years - we have packed 15 stories of revival across the spectrum. Stories that warm hearts and showcase of the coming of strength in various spheres. From badminton to mythology, public transport to Japanese brands to Kashmir tourism and many more. Also, don't miss the coverage of the inaugural BT MindRush, a high-energy business leadership event that Business Today put together in December.
Happy New Year, dear readers. Let me remind you that 2014 is the Chinese year of the horse. It's time for India to gallop, not trot.