Self reliance is not an isolationist thought, it’s the opposite. It’s a thought I want to expand on, given the state of play in current affairs, as self reliance is crucial to collaborating. Manufacturers throughout the world have had to withstand multiple new variables impacting the supply of raw materials since the beginning of 2020. For the UK it started with Brexit. Then came the global pandemic. Now we have a war in the west. Other major events have and continue to affect the global supply; the US-China trade war and the energy crisis for example.
Action is plentiful when it comes to the wide scale exploration of solutions to mitigate surging demand for critical metals in the energy transition. There is a great deal to be positive about despite the challenges we face.
‘Brexit – Covid – Russia invasion of Ukraine’
But limiting it now to these three major and distinctly different events, it’s clear to me that one resounding message stands out – ‘Self Reliance’. Yes, the UK needs to compete and collaborate on a global scale. The only way we can do this is by bringing value to the table and showing that we are self reliant as a nation.
Without self reliance we are not going to be where we ought to be within the global supply – I prefer ‘value’ – chain. Value chain resilience in the institution is being tested like never before. And it is paramount that Britain recognises where it stands today in global changing dynamics and that we start focusing on self reliance. We are learning a lot from these three events including that;
- Not everyone is a friend forever.
- Not everyone is a foe forever.
- We require a reassessment of where we stand globally so we can strategise our global alliances accordingly.
Connecting with emerging economic powers
There are countries in different parts of the world that are emerging as powers of industry. I was born and grew up in India, which is surfacing as a leader in aerospace, electronics and chip manufacturing. Rightfully so, the UK is looking to a free trade agreement with India right now. Now, the one thing we must remember is a free trade agreement works both ways. And we must focus on positives.
It’s not the case that there will just be ‘cheap things’ coming in from India. The only difference that may make is it would replace things that are made in China, which we’ve been buying from the past 25 years.
The opportunity is tenfold. One being that we can export British-made goods to the 1.3 billion (and growing) India market. In order to benefit from a potential agreement of this kind, we must demonstrate our self reliance on so many different levels. At Equitus we are helping build bridges between these great manufacturing powers with numerous initiatives.
Manufacturing as a process involves aspects that can be controlled quite easily. Unfortunately the value chain or supply chain isn’t one. Take the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016 for example. And how the uncertainty over the movement of goods intensified up to us officially leaving the EU in January 2020 – with the issue then escalating even more.
This spread right the way through our value chain; from restrictions and red tape to shortages of skilled staff within our transport infrastructure. Add the almost pause to global trade that COVID-19 presented and what you can actually control becomes minimal. And this is, again, a case of looking to positives – and doing so with a laser like focus.
What we can do – with a western war ongoing and an energy crisis also in our minds – is put solid foundations in place. Yes these affect us on a human level, we feel empathy towards the suffering of our fellow human beings. In business and in our industry we can also talk rationally and devoid of emotion.
The focus with this aspect can only be self reliance. If we don’t depend on imports from war torn areas then what’s happening will not affect us as businesses. The problem though is that we are not yet self reliant as a nation and will therefore see ongoing supply chain problems.
In India, according to close contacts, the price of steel has already gone up by around 8%, which means the cost of making things there will go up as well. So, we have to balance all these issues with our own interests and find the best possible combination of moves which will enable us to survive, grow and prosper while focussing on being sustainable in the process.
‘The Why, How and What’
This brings me to the importance of self reliance and what I believe it means. By becoming self reliant, we increase our capacities, capabilities, and resources available within our borders. By becoming self reliant, we become leaders in one or more fields with a global impact. By becoming self reliant, we bring something to the table when it comes to collaborating.
Everybody sees collaboration as essential for collective progress, but it will be only possible when every collaborating entity brings something to the table, instead of just taking things from it.
Therefore, by becoming self reliant, we first become the go-to people in certain areas, and following that, we bring our knowledge, resources, capabilities, capacities etc to the table.
However, if we are not self reliant, we become vulnerable to global volatilities (price, stocks, logistics, political conflicts, sustainability), purely based on our dependency on other parts of the world to give us things we need to move our industry forward.
What do you think about self reliance within the supply chain and in general? Is it something we have to focus on? I’d be interested to engage in conversations on this topic and hear your views. As after all, collaboration is self reliance and vice versa.
About the author
Raam Shankar, Founder and CEO, Equitus Design Engineering and Innovations