Viraj Mehta and Miniya Chatterji
Discussions on India at WEF will focus on how its leaders can accelerate growth while restoring confidence.
Since 1984, the World Economic Forum has annually convened in India at its only country-focused summit. This summit has contributed substantially over the years to the promotion of understanding and collaboration between the international and Indian business communities. The forum’s commitment to India continues. This year, Kris Gopalakrishnan, the president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and vice chairman of Infosys, is one of the seven official co-chairs of the annual meeting in Davos.
The WEF has always acknowledged India’s great importance in the global landscape. At this year’s annual meeting, which kicks off tomorrow, there are 130 Indian participants, 30 of whom have roles in the official programme. Participants this year include business and cultural leaders as well as political figures such as the minister of finance, P. Chidambaram, the minister of commerce and industry, Anand Sharma, the minister of urban development, Kamal Nath, the minister of state for power, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and the deputy chairman of the planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
The WEF has 109 Indian member companies, which represents the second largest number of member companies at the forum. Apart from working with the top leadership in the Central government, we are increasingly also working with chief ministers of Indian states at the regional level.
Further, in India, a country where a large chunk of the population is under 30, the forum has a strong emphasis on engaging the youth of the country. One example is our Young Global Leaders (YGL) community, which brings together the world’s most extraordinary leaders 40 years or younger, and who are dedicated to jointly shaping a better future. Similarly, the WEF’s Global Shapers community is a network of hubs developed and led by young people between the ages of 20 and 30 who are exceptional in their potential, achievement and drive.
Our goal at the forum is to bring together member companies, governments, young leaders and other constituents in a multi-stakeholder environment. For instance, the healthy living initiative is working with member companies to systematically tackle type two diabetes in children and parents through schools in the National Capital Region. Similarly, the forum’s partnering against corruption initiative (PACI) will soon launch a project focusing on how companies can achieve a higher degree of transparency across complex supply chains and assess the tools available and best practices. The repository of PACI best practices may focus on India as a pilot country.
YGLs in India come together to work on a range of issues, including fostering peace across India and Pakistan, working on government policy reform on a specific set of themes and distributing deworming pills in a large number of Indian schools. Each Global Shaper hub is engaged in projects such as mentoring college students, bringing transparency in governance, gender sensitisation or educating children living in slums. These initiatives, impact-driven projects and dialogues subsequently inform the themes that we focus on during the annual meeting in Davos.
With general elections on the horizon, discussions on India at Davos will focus on how its leaders can accelerate growth while restoring investor confidence. What are the prospects for further reform? What will be the impact of the new government’s stance on human capital development and inclusive policymaking?
At Davos this year, India will also be part of dialogues on the future of urban development, where mayors, industry leaders and experts will convene to highlight new ways that cities, citizens and the private sector can tackle urban problems like extreme slums, ageing infrastructure and looming climate risks. Indian participants will also be involved in sessions about how the world can increase food availability while minimising environmental impact using agricultural innovations. The WEF recognises the key position that India holds in the world, and the country will feature in various sessions on issues of global significance, ranging from achieving global gender parity to discussing what should be on the agenda for the global economy in the year ahead.
India will also be part of the BRICS dialogue, as growth rates for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa remain at only half their pre-crisis levels, prompting concern that the golden age of emerging-market growth appears to be over. We believe that India’s growth story is far from over. In spite of the current challenges of broken investor confidence, political instability and social unrest, much can be achieved through dialogue, collaborative action and showcasing small and large success stories on an international multi-stakeholder platform.
Here in Davos, the general feeling is that 2014 will be an important year for India. The nation as well as the world awaits the outcome of the largest democratic exercise — the general elections — with the hope that the future coalition government will bring with it inclusive growth and greater global influence.
Mehta is director and head of India and South Asia, WEF. Chatterji is a senior community manager of the Forum of Young Global Leaders and a Global Leadership Fellow, WEF