Perspectives from ISB

This is the period in the history of India when the country is going to take a quantum leap”

Shri Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister

India’s ambitious vision to emerge as a developed nation by 2047 demands a multifaceted strategy that considers the unique contributions of every segment of society. One such critical constituency, often overlooked, is the pool of veterans – individuals with a wealth of experience and skills cultivated through military service. Drawing inspiration from global examples, particularly the pivotal role veterans played in the post-World War II economic resurgence of the United States, this policy brief explores the imperative of strategically integrating veteran leadership into India’s economic landscape.

Understanding the inherent skills that veterans bring to the table is essential for optimising their contribution. Veterans possess a diverse skill set, ranging from strategic planning and crisis management to leadership, adaptability, and discipline. Their ability to thrive in high-pressure environments and navigate complex challenges positions them as invaluable assets in the pursuit of India’s economic development.

Lessons from History – Role of Veterans in U.S. Economic Renaissance Post WW II

The post-World War II era in the United States stands as an epoch of unparalleled economic resurgence, marked by an extraordinary boom that reshaped the nation’s destiny. Central to this transformative period were the veterans, who emerged witnesses to history and architects of prosperity. Having served their nation in times of conflict, these individuals seamlessly transitioned from the battlefield to the boardroom, embodying a spirit of resilience, innovation, and determination that fuelled the nation’s economic engine.

In the aftermath of a global conflict, the returning veterans brought home unique experiences, skills, and a profound understanding of discipline, teamwork, and adaptability. This confluence of attributes became the driving force behind the economic rejuvenation that unfolded across the American landscape. From the bustling urban centres to the quiet corners of rural America, veterans played a multifaceted role that reverberated across various sectors, leaving an indelible mark on the nation’s economic transformation. Their contributions across various sectors serve as compelling examples for India’s consideration, some of which are highlighted below.

Innovation and Technology Advancements

The GI Bill, a beacon of support for veterans, opened the doors to education and became the catalyst for innovation. Veterans like Frederick W. Smith, a U.S. Marine Corps officer, harnessed their acquired knowledge to spearhead ground-breaking technological advancements. The result was the founding of FedEx, a paradigm-shifting enterprise that revolutionised the logistics and transportation industry. This example illustrates how veterans, equipped with a thirst for knowledge and a commitment to innovation, became pioneers in driving technological progress.

Small Business and Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial spirit cultivated during military service found fertile ground among veterans, leading to the establishment of impactful ventures. Bob Parsons, a Vietnam War veteran, founded GoDaddy, a major domain registrar and web hosting company. The GI Bill and support from the Small Business Administration enabled veterans to launch their businesses, stimulating local economies and fostering innovation. Parsons’ entrepreneurial journey exemplifies how veterans, equipped with determination and business acumen, can create successful enterprises, generate employment, and drive economic growth.

Infrastructure Development and Construction

As the nation expanded, so did the need for robust infrastructure. Drawing on their expertise in organisation and project management, veterans played a pivotal role in the post-war construction boom. Marion E. Wade, a U.S. Marine, founded ServiceMaster, a company that contributed to the construction sector and the broader service industry. The skills honed during military service translated into effective leadership, ensuring that large-scale construction projects met the nation’s growing demands and laid the foundation for sustained economic growth.

Leadership in Corporate America

Veterans, with their disciplined approach and honed leadership skills, seamlessly transitioned to leadership positions in corporate America. Sam Walton, who served in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, founded Walmart, now one of the world’s largest retailers. His ability to navigate complex challenges and make strategic decisions shaped the corporate landscape. Walton’s journey exemplifies how veterans’ leadership in key positions enhances industries’ overall efficiency and competitiveness, fostering economic growth.

Education and Research Contributions

The GI Bill’s impact on veterans’ access to higher education had a profound effect on research and academia. Many veterans, including H. Ross Perot, a former U.S. Navy officer, founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS), demonstrating the application of military expertise in the technology and information services sector. Beyond private ventures, veterans pursued careers in research and academia, contributing significantly to scientific advancements and technological breakthroughs. Their expertise was pivotal in propelling the U.S. to the forefront of global research and development, as illustrated by the diverse contributions of veterans across various scientific disciplines.

Drawing inspiration from these examples, India can strategically leverage the skills and experiences of its veterans across sectors critical for economic growth. Whether it’s fostering innovation, encouraging entrepreneurship, or contributing to infrastructure development, the lessons from post-World War II America showcase the transformative potential of veteran leadership in shaping a nation’s economic destiny.

Maximising Veteran Talent in Critical Sectors for National Development

Envisioning India’s trajectory to 2047, veterans can play a multifaceted role in various sectors critical to development. Their expertise is particularly relevant in infrastructure development, where project management and logistical skills are paramount. Additionally, their proficiency in cybersecurity, innovation, logistics, and public administration positions them as catalysts for progress. India can surmount challenges and fast-track its development agenda by strategically deploying veteran talent.

Policy Recommendations for Optimising Veteran Contributions

To promote seamless transition of veterans into civilian roles, policies may be designed around implementing robust educational incentives to encourage institutions to tailor programmes designed for veterans transitioning into civilian roles. Developing specialised courses that bridge the gap between military training and the dynamic requirements of the business world will also a long way in this regard. Another key area can be the corporate integration incentives such as the introduction of financial/tax incentives for companies that actively hire veterans, streamlining the transition processes through government-backed programmes alongwith encouraging the establishment of mentorship initiatives for effective assimilation into corporate culture.

Entrepreneurship support by means of fostering a culture of innovation and self-reliance among veterans by offering substantial incentives and support for veteran-led start-ups, creation of incubation programmes that provide resources and mentorship for veteran entrepreneurs, contributing to economic diversification and job creation. Similarly establishment of a comprehensive legislative framework encompassing affirmative action policies that mandate the inclusion of veterans in both public and private sectors will go a long way toward assimilating veterans in civil roles. Introduction of tax incentives for companies that reserve a specific percentage of their workforce for veterans and encouraging collaboration between public and private sectors through partnerships for skill development, job placement, and entrepreneurship initiatives to maximise resources, ensure effective implementation of policies, and guarantee a holistic approach to veteran empowerment.

The Last Word

As policymakers, business leaders, and educators converge to chart the course for India’s economic future, the integration of veteran leadership emerges not merely as a linchpin but as a cornerstone. The integration of veterans is not just an imperative, it is the strategic lever that will propel India into a new era of economic transformation by 2047. By recognising the immense potential of veterans and implementing a well-crafted policy template, India can bolster its vision of becoming a developed nation by 2047.

Author’s Bio: Puneet Balasubramanian, an alumnus of ISB’s Advanced Management Programme in Public Policy (AMPPP) Co’ 2020, is a seasoned professional with a distinguished career of over two decades as a former Navy Captain. As the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Kartavya, a Startup dedicated to bridging the transition gap for veterans and enabling corporates to tap into this highly skilled talent pool, Puneet is at the forefront of empowering veterans in their journey towards continued success. He can be reached at

DISCLAIMER : The views expressed in this blog/article are author’s personal.

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