The first ever e-FDP programme at ITS Ghaziabad was held in the backdrop of the menacing pandemic on the 16th of May, 2020. The programme had received an overwhelming response from different parts of the country, and even beyond, with 300 participants registering for the two-day session. However, 200 registration admitted for the same.


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Sunday, May 17, 2020
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The Inaugural Session started in the morning of the 16th as the Director (Management) Dr. Vidya Sekhri welcomed all to the enlightening learning exercise. She referred to these difficult times as an opportunity not only for the education sector, but also for the other parts of the economy to rise to the occasion. She succinctly encapsulated the situation as the abnormal becoming the new normal. Lauding the government for its ground breaking revival package, she said that leaders from various sectors needed to deliberate threadbare on the issues involved. That was the avowed purpose of the online FDP programme.

Next the Honourable Vice Chancellor Shri Arpit Chaddha ji addressed the gathering. He described the faculty as the unsung warriors as they had to respond quickly to the unraveling situation arising from the unexpected lockdown at short notice. He pointed to the major life changing situations arising out of the Corona crisis and added that we need to prepared for wholesale changes in the way we conduct our lives. He hoped that the FDP over two days would provide a fertile ground for a fruitful exchange of ideas.

In the session, there were two speakers. The session was coordinated by Prof Yacchnna Malhotra.

Speaker-1: Then it was the turn of the first resource person of the day Prof. Parimal H. Vyas, Vice Chancellor, The M S University of Baroda, Vadodara to start the FDP programme. Prof. Vyas quickly got down to the task of analysing the prevailing economic situation, both within the country and outside. He spoke about the decreasing growth rate of the real GDP and massive demand shock. However, he also insisted that we need to be pragmatic in that the pandemic could provide an opportunity for India to make its presence felt in the global economy. In this context he referred to the yeoman’s service rendered by Indian companies through the export of much needed medicines, PPEs and ventilators at this critical juncture to the countries that need them badly. He spoke of the need to bolster manufacturing, which would raise demend, in turn attracting FDI. Other solutions suggested included sector specific regulations, infrastructure development, restoration of supply chains, maintenance of liquidity and government support for vulnerable sectors. Finally he summed it all up by saying that we may be good at management, but not necessarily at solutions.

At the conclusion of the speech, the Director (Management) thanked Prof. Vyas on behalf of the participants for his comprehensive yet insightful discourse.  

Speaker-2: The other speaker for the session-1 was Shri Gopal Krishna Agarwal, National Spokesperson for Economic Affairs, Bharatiya Janata Party. He started by saying that economy is in a challenging position right now. He referred to the lockdown in India as a strategy for creating an atmosphere where health infrastructure can be adequately multiplied for dealing with the crisis. He mentioned the increased production of medicines, PPEs and ventilators, which was so much greater than that at the outset that India is now in a position to export the same.

Describing the emergence of India gradually as a global economic power, Mr Agarwal referred to the five pillars of the Indian economy, as elucidated by the Prime Minister. Firstly we need to be strong in manufacturing. Certain sectors need to be a more specifically identified. Thirdly technology needs to be harnessed more effectively – something that has been brilliantly demonstrated during the present crisis. The fourth element is demography, another component that needs to be grasped fully in the Indian extent. The fifth pillar is demand; without effective demand creation, there can be no gainful investment. Then Mr Agarwal proceeded to the factors of production, again something that the PM threw light upon. These were law, labour, liquidity, and compliance.

The Director Management thanked Mr Agarwal for the informative session, saying that it was the responsibility of the faculty to select the young talent judiciously. Supply having been taken care of, it was the demand that was the issue. She thanked Mr Agarwal, inviting him to come to the institute. Dr Vinay K. Srivastava, Convener of the e-FDP, also thanked Mr Agarwal for making time despite his busy schedule.  

Session 2, Day I
After a thought-provoking Inaugural Session, the e-FDP on the fallout of the Covid-19 crisis resumed with three interesting speakers lined up for the second session of the first day. The session was coordinated by Prof Shikha Arora

Speaker-3: The first speaker in this session was Prof. N. D. Mathur from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Manipal University, Jaipur. Prof. Mathur began by referring to the oft repeated conundrum about Economics – that it is not an ideal science, but more of a decision science. After going through the major proponents of Economics as a subject, he focused on the situation in India in the post-liberalisation era. Speaking of the prevailing conditions, he began with the migrant labour crisis. He opined that it was unlikely that the lakhs who had been forced to leave the cities would return even if the problem is resolved. The net result would be that rural income is likely to come down.

On a larger scale the unemployment situation could get exacerbated. Support needs to provided either through government schemes like NREGA or via interest free loans. The agriculture sector has always been a victim of neglect. While the service sector has contributed as much as 80% of the GDP, it does not provide employment support. This is where agriculture plays the role of savior. While agricultural prices have hardly gone up by 15 to 17%, salary has gone up more than 10 times. Raising of support prices and other associated measures are the need of the hour.

Prof. Mathur also suggested the need for growth in manufacturing, technological shift, changes in wages, structural changes in the economy, modifications in work culture, rise of the gig economy, changes in the realty sector, liquidity infusion, etc. Painting a brighter picture amidst the gloom, he referred to the opportunities arising out of all the problems, viz., the happiness of spending time with family members, reduction in pollution levels, increase in empathy, reduction in consumption of luxury items, changes in eating habits leading to better health, greater dignity for household work, decrease in crime, etc.

Speaker-4: The next session involved Prof. Seema Gupta, Associate Professor in Digital Marketing at IIM Bangalore. She started by quoting Charles Darwin, saying that who survive are not necessarily the strongest or most intelligent, but the most adaptable. Speaking of the economic impact of the crisis, she referred to how its effect could be likened to that of a wrecking ball. She applauded the government on visionary steps like the decision to stop FDI from the neighbouring countries. Even with a reduced GDP of 1.9% p.a., India could end up with the highest GDP among the G20 nations.

Creating a portrait of life after the crisis, Prof. Gupta said the widening demand supply gap could lead to the collapse of several companies. Further, considering the time taken to get a vaccine commercially available, and the state of the healthcare system in India, the problem itself may take a long time to be resolved. Coming to consumption patterns, there would be less tendency for consumers to have out-of-home experiences, which could result in the growth of e-commerce and home delivery segments. Work wise job content was likely to change, and job seekers would have to become more versatile and adaptive in terms of skills. A siginificant percentage of the workforce may have to work permanently from home. Students would have to actively create and nurture networks for job seeking purposes, while becoming specialised in a bouquet of job skills.

Speaker-5: The last speaker of the day was Mr Rahul Kumar, Managing Director, Lactalis India and ex-MD, Amul. Coming from the dairy sector, Mr Kumar preferred to confine his lecture to the food sector and agriculture at large. He started by saying that while the Corona crisis undoubtedly represented a major challenge, one of the bright spots was that food was abundantly available, thanks to a bumper harvest. However, while food was available, it needed to be managed and distributed properly.

Food was one of the rare sectors where losses had been minimum amidst all the economic gloom. Poultry, fish and meat were the only segments that recorded significant losses due to the changing food habits. Coming to milk and milk products, Mr Kumar provided a variety of statistics to demonstrate the burgeoning growth since the days of Operation Flood. In a largely vegetarian society, milk functions as a de facto source of protein. While dairy products were easily available, they are not affordable for all. Finally, Mr Kumar rounded off the interaction with a snapshot the activities of his current company Lactalis.

All three speakers received a vote of thanks from Director Management Dr Vidya Sekhri and Convener of the e-FDP Dr Vinay K. Srivastava. It marked out an intellectually profitable first day of the learning programme.

Session 3, Day II
The second and final day of the e-FDP on the fallout of the Covid-19 had only one session from the outset. Two speakers had been earmarked for this session. The session was coordinated by Prof Surendra Tiwari.

Speaker-6: The first speaker of the day was Mr Ashish Patel, Managing Direcctor, Morgan Franklin Consulting, Virginia-USA, linking up all the way from the USA. He chose to speak on the topic “Impact of the Pandemic on Education – Recalibrating for the New Normal”. Mr Patel started with a historical reference, going back to the Spanish Flu of 1920. Then there was the Swine Flu of more recent times. Due to globalisation and increased movement of people across the world pandemics have the potential of becoming a global phenomenon.

Mr Patel continued with the economic effects of the Pandemic, talking about job losses and/or reduction in income and the need for students to focus on areas other than the widely chosen marketing. Work from home and lifestyle changes are another part of this reality. The question is how many people have the skill sets to adapt to the changed circumstances.

From the digital perspective, Mr Patel spoke about escalation in the use of e-commerce, the rise of distance economy, the spread of the geographical supply chain, the increasing learning curve and legacy education. Cautioning that technology can only be an enabler, he said that businesses needed to restrategise. The same applies to the education sector. He gave the example of several schools and colleges in India which made the successful transition from traditional to online education in the matter of weeks.

Mr Patel went on to touch on topics like female participation bolstering the digital economy; initiatives of the Government of India like Digital India, Startup India and Skill India riding on digitilasiation; and value added systems based on attributes like innovation, lateral thinking, digital transformation, change management, cyber security and disruption. He concluded by saying that innovation would be the key for India, and that as a country the crisis could turn out to be a key opportunity. It was a highly informative session which was widely appreciated by all present.

Speaker-7: The next and final speaker was Prof. Arun Kumar from MONIRBA University, Allahabad. His topic was “Post Covid-19: Governance for Independence”. He initiated the session by saying that lockdown translated for the general population in terms of aspects like shutdown of activity, cash flow shortage, paycuts, retrenchment, loss of demand and economic standstill. He demonstrated how the different sectors of the economy had been severely affected as a result of the crisis.

Coming to the question of independence, Prof. Kumar interpreted it in terms of political, economic, social and cultural independence. He stressed on the fact that he was focusing more on economic independence, rather than the political one, though both were interdependent, as the former had become very relevant after the Prime Minister emphasising on Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Prof. Kumar broke down the current issues into pressing problems; crises; planning and prevention; production capability; recognising new opportunities; relationship building; renewal and recreation. He took time to explain each element. Lastly he discussed areas like the organic components of business; various stages of business (survival, maturity and sustainability); and the five variables of business (entrepreneur, finance community, educational institutes, research and development institutes and government).
Once again it was a very comprehensive discussion of the topic at hand which was enlightening for one and all.

Both speakers were thanked by Director Management Dr Vidya Sekhri. Finally, Dr Vinay K. Srivastava delivered the Vote of Thanks before the Director Madam brought the programme to a close with her parting remarks and observations.

The two-day e-FDP turned out to be very successful as all participants and faculty members marveled at the variety of learnings obtained across three sessions with highly knowledgeable resource persons. It was hoped there would be more such sessions in future enabling all to build on the knowledge gained.