Industry,Trade and Technology (ITT)

The research carried out on these subjects shed light on the contemporary concerns in the literature pertaining to each of subjects mentioned above. Most of the research projects continued to have a national perspective and, in some cases, comparisons between India and other countries is attempted. A few other cases addressed specific problems that confront Kerala.

The relationship between economic liberalisation and increase in the degree of domestic competition among firms is an important area of concern. In fact, one of the main objectives of the new industrial policy of 1991 has been the lowering of entry barriers, thus promoting intra-firm competition. Fifteen years later, the question whether this expectation has been realised or is being realised is an important area of policy analysis. A research study at the Centre has sought to quantitatively examine this question by explicitly taking into account the multi-dimensional nature of competition. Theoretically, mobility of firms determines or influences effective competition among firms. By employing a modified turnover index, the impact of mobility on size structure is tracked for 14 industries over the period 1988-89 through 2000-01. The analysis showed that nearly 50 per cent of the industries are characterised by mobility of a medium nature, while 43 percent of the industries have had only low mobility. In fact, only one of the industries (or 7 per cent of the total) has experienced high mobility. In short, the analysis confirmed the results of some earlier studies made in this area namely that liberalisation, after all, may not have increased domestic competition among firms. This is an important finding in its own right.

Another important structural aspect of the manufacturing industry has been the increasing tendency for firms to takeover, or merge with, other firms not only in the domestic space but also across the border. Cross-border mergers and acquisitions are an important structural feature that has the potential to decrease competition among firms. Mergers have been characteristic of certain medium and high-tech industries such as automobiles, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and even financial services. Over the past few years, the Indian pharmaceutical companies have been involved in not less than 18 cross-border mergers and acquisitions valued at about $1 billion. They are acquiring foreign assets due to their need to improve global competitiveness, move up the value chain, create and enter new markets and thus consolidate their market shares. These are the findings of a study on the cross-border mergers and acquisitions in the drugs and pharmaceutical industry of India, completed during the year under review. The findings of this study thus complement and confirm the findings of earlier studies and elucidate why mobility of firms remained, by and large low to medium in the Indian manufacturing sector. The two studies thus drive home the point that public policy ought to take a re-look at the height of the barriers to entry in the manufacturing sector for finding credible solutions to this problem.

International trade is taking place increasingly as part of global value chains. A value chain describes the full range of activities required to bring a product from conception to end use and beyond. It includes activities such as design, production, marketing and distribution of the product and support to the final consumer. The activities that comprise a value chain may be contained within a single firm or distributed among different firms. Value chain activities may be contained within a single geographical location or spread over a wide area. The research on global value chains may be divided into two broad categories: governance and upgrading and sector case studies. One of the studies completed at CDS is a sector case study of the implications of global value chain for employment and livelihoods in the cashew nut industry in Kerala. The study, in fact, falls under both the categories. It is concerned with governance issues in the global value chain, but of a specific industry. The study found that the power imbalance between the intensely competing southern producers and the relatively few northern buyers gives large retailers and the supermarkets an upper hand in its supply chain. They are increasingly able to direct cashew networks, dictating business terms, and the ways in which cashew is produced, as well as to capture most of the revenue generated along the value chain.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was set up on January 1, 1995, based on one of the agreements negotiated under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Uruguay Round (1986 to1994). The WTO constitutes a permanent multilateral forum for trade negotiations and dispute settlement. It is home to a series of trade agreements covering agriculture, services, intellectual property rights and a host of other issues never before included in international trade rules. A Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) was created to give this multilateral trade system an enforcement mechanism. The WTO has completely altered the international governance rules in a number of areas in such a way that its effect is felt even in the rural areas of Kerala. But our understanding of the myriad governance rules is shrouded in a whole series of technical jargon. To demystify the WTO, and thereby promote informed discussions on its actual and potential impact, the Centre has prepared a media kit on the WTO and the various governance rules promoted by it.

Innovation or the introduction of new processes and products on a commercial scale are measured through a series of indicators such as Research and Development (R&D) expenditure and patents granted. The use of such conventional indicators is increasingly eschewed as inadequate measures of innovations by firms both in developed and developing countries. Of late, the tendency is to talk in terms of innovation activities and expenditure, rather than to speak on mere R&D expenditure, covered through innovation surveys. Innovation surveys have now diffused widely across developing countries. However, these surveys suffer from two main problems: (1) poor response rates; (2) serious measurement errors especially in those parts of the surveys dealing with innovation activities and expenditure. Under this research theme, the researchers at the Centre are assisting the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India in conducting an innovation survey for India by drawing from the experiences of other developing countries such as Brazil and South Africa.

An important dimension of development in India has been the growth of new technology-based industries, namely; the Information Technology and Biotech Industries. Together, these industries now account for about 5 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Salient features of these two industries are analysed in depth in a research endeavour completed at the Centre. The industries are found to be concentrated only in a narrow geographic region and employ only a small number of highly skilled personnel. There exists also a feeling that the growth of these industries is causing considerable brain drain from the country, although, no definitive evidence is presented to support this view. The most important and distinguishing characteristic of these two industries is that their production takes place largely in the private sector while the enabling environment for their operation has been provided at government instance. The two industries thus present an ideal model worthy of emulation by other industries.

The TRIPS compliance of India’s patent regime is assumed to reduce innovative activities in several industries, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. Reverse engineering, and through it, incremental innovation, so characteristic of innovation in Indian industries, becomes difficult. Employing a sectoral system of innovation framework, this proposition has been tested in CDS for the present state of innovations in India’s pharmaceutical industry. The innovation system of the industry rests on three pillars: a highly proactive government policy regime especially with respect to intellectual property rights, strong government research institutions and private sector enterprises which have invested in innovation. The study shows that the TRIPS compliance of the intellectual property right regime, making it mandatory for pharmaceutical products to be patented, has not reduced the innovation capability of the industry, although it has kept away from working on R&D projects that might lead to the new drug discovery (NDD) for neglected diseases of the developing world. Although the innovation system has the capability to develop new chemical entities (NCEs), the two main components of the innovation system, namely the enterprises and the government research institutes do not appear to be having the requisite capabilities to bring a new drug to the market. Although, the state has been very proactive to this industry, this is an area where public policy support is still wanting and is badly required.

Innovation policy consists of a set of instruments and institutions that would together encourage local development of technology, and at the same time, favour the use of imported technology. These instruments and institutions are broadly divided into financial and non-financial. Innovation policy instruments would become effective only if the country in question has an adequate supply of scientists and engineers. Research done under this theme at the Centre looked at the experience of India in a comparative and historical perspective.

Several studies have been completed on the broad theme of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The exports of India’s software industry are now rather well known. On the contrary, the IT hardware manufacturing industry appears to have lagged behind. One of the studies completed had done a disaggregated analysis of the observed production and export performance of the electronics industry in the country. In terms of performance with respect to exports and production, five broad groups are discernible. Among the five is a group, which is characterised by high growth in production and exports. The precise reasons why this group was able to show such exemplary performance are being explored.

The growth of the ICT industry has been characterised by the phenomenon of digital divide. At the international level, the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) of the WTO is supposed to promote the production and diffusion of ICTs. A study just completed at CDS has analysed whether the ITA could become an effective instrument for bridging the digital divide.

Telecommunications is an important component of the ICT industry. It has two parts or divisions. The first deals with the manufacturing of telecom equipment and the second with distribution of telecom services. Major technological changes have occurred in this industry affecting both the components. Two major changes are noteworthy. First, across the world, including India, mobile telephones have overtaken fixed-line telephones. Second, the Internet has penetrated into traditional telecommunication space to such an extent that the world now speaks of an info-communication industry. India, along with a limited number of developing countries, had sought to build local innovation capability in the design and manufacturing of fixed-line telephone technology. The changes to this innovation capability occurring consequent to the huge technological changes taking place in the industry worldwide, are tracked in this piece of research by employing a sectoral system of innovation perspective. Again the analysis is made in a comparative perspective by juxtaposing the Indian experience with the experience of Brazil, China and South Korea.

China and India have two of the largest telecommunications equipment markets in the world. These countries have pursued, however, widely diverging strategies for developing their domestic innovation capability. India followed a very rigid policy of indigenous development of domestic technology by establishing a stand-alone public laboratory that developed state-of-the-art switching technologies. These technologies were then transferred to manufacturing enterprises in both public and private sectors. The enterprises themselves did not have any in-house R&D capability. Consequently, the country, despite having good quality human resource, was unable to keep pace with changes in the technology frontier. The equipment industry in India has now become essentially dominated by affiliates of MNCs. China, on the contrary, first depended on MNCs for her technology needs in this area. But, subsequently, it encouraged the emergence of three national champions, two of which were public laboratories. The country has built up considerable hardware capability in both fixed-line and mobile communications technology, and has also emerged as a major player in world markets.

The info-communications industry, represented by telecom and internet-based companies, has been displaying much dynamism and growth world over and India is no exception to this general euphoria. A sort of significant break in the trend or revolution has, however, occurred in the industry. This trend break has occurred in three aspects of the industry, namely; (i) provision of physical infrastructure; (ii) production of info-communications goods and services; and, to a limited extent; (iii) the use of info-communications goods and services. Against this backdrop a study conducted at the Centre attempts to map out the extent of revolution that has taken place in all these three aspects of the industry as far as India is concerned and then to examine the extent to which the state of Kerala has benefited from the revolution. Kerala has the highest tele-density among all the States of India and stands on a par with metropolitan areas. The urban-rural divide is lower here than in other States. Kerala is one of the most wired states in the country. The state also boasts of excellent global connectivity on account of the submarine cable landings at Kochi. An innovative state government project named ‘Akshaya’ sought to address the e-literacy of the most ordinary of citizens. While Kerala enjoys better and more equitable info-communications access than the rest of the country, the study pointed out that unrealised potential remains and that steps need to be taken to expand the use of Internet within the state.

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