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India in global markets – from spice route to e-commerce exports

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NEW DELHI : Trade is the building block of society and the lifeblood of civilizations. Trade played a profound role in influencing history and shaping societies which goes far beyond just economic benefits. The Silk Route passing through India is the best example of this. Not only did it supply tea and spices to the British and silk to Italy but it also ensured Aryabhata’s zero reached the Romans. At the centre of global trade was India, a country blessed with resources and vast coastline to facilitate sea transportation. At one point of history, India accounted for one-third of global GDP.

In recent years, India’s “techade”, fuelled by e-commerce and the Digital India initiative, has been spearheading a new chapter in our country’s trade legacy, reminiscent of the glorious days of the Silk Route. The ‘Digital India’ initiative has paved the way for a tech-savvy nation, enabling businesses to leverage online platforms for growth. Online payment systems streamlined transactions, both domestically and internationally. eKYC simplified the process of customer and business verification, allowing financial institutions to provide easier access to credit. The GST regime has unified and simplified taxation, reducing the complexities of multi-tiered tax structures, and the online tax filing system has brought transparency and efficiency. Additionally, schemes like the ‘Niryat Bandhu Scheme’ were introduced to mentor new and potential exporters on various aspects of foreign trade.

The Digital India initiative has led to a remarkable surge in exports from India, facilitated by e-commerce, as both traditional businesses and modern entrepreneurs are harnessing technology to broaden their global reach. From skilled artisans crafting chess sets in Amritsar to master metalworkers of Aligarh, from purveyors of Ayurvedic products to tea merchants and STEM toy manufacturers, a diverse array of Indian businesses is not only serving customers worldwide but also bolstering the “Made in India” brand through e-commerce platforms. It is particularly encouraging that these success stories are not isolated incidents.

Over 1.25 lakh exporters spanning 200 cities across India have digitally marketed and exported more than 26 crore Made-in-India products to customers around the globe with Amazon. A significant number of these exporters, predominantly from MSME sectors, were not established exporters initially. E-commerce has served as the catalyst propelling them into the global marketplace, providing them with unprecedented opportunities for growth and expansion.

The new Foreign Trade Policy 2023 and government initiatives to boost exports have really given a big push to Indian MSMEs. The policy framework, characterized by its focus on enhancing competitiveness, reducing trade barriers, and promoting ease of doing business, has provided a conducive environment for MSMEs to thrive in the global B2C export market. The government has been rolling out many schemes, offering financial perks and simplifying the entire exporting documentation process and ecosystem. The many initiatives seem to be working as intended as Indian MSMEs are shipping out more goods than ever before, bringing in foreign currency and boosting our economy. Additionally, the incorporation of a dedicated chapter on e-commerce exports in the FTP 2023 has propelled a surge in technology led cross-border trade. This has streamlined regulations, simplified export procedures, and thereby reducing barriers for e-commerce exporters and encouraging MSME participation in global markets. The proposal to set-up ecommerce export hubs is a step in the right direction. With continued government support and conducive policies, Indian MSMEs are set to make an even bigger impact on the world stage.

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