There are many firsts at the World Economic Forum this year. It has been snowing like never before in the last two decades, turning Davos into a white canvas for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to paint his vision for “The New India”.
There are many firsts at the World Economic Forum this year. It has been snowing like never before in the last two decades, turning Davos into a white canvas for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to paint his vision for “The New India”. This is his maiden visit and the very first for an Indian PM delivering a plenary session, quite literally the curtain-raiser to the WEF 2018. IMF thumbs up to ‘The New India’ India’s time has come and Modi’s timing is perfect, coming on the back of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections that pegs India as the fastest growing economy in 2018, clocking robust growth at 7.4% and looking up to 7.8% in 2019. The IMF has also predicted that India is set to overtake Germany as the world’s fourth-largest economy in 2022. I consider India as an aspirational country, a nation where diversity has been embedded for centuries. Therefore, India is a perfect manifestation of the WEF theme this year—Creating a shared future in a fractured world. Free flowing ideas should spread from one place to another across the globe, to leverage global technology and solve local problems. Naturally, India can be the trailblazer amongst economies in the next few years. Whether it is the energy sector, where we want to be the largest solar energy provider in the world, or switching to e-vehicles by 2030, these bold targets need collaborative efforts across centres of excellence around the world.
‘India Means Business’–PM Modi’s promise
Emphasis on the structural reforms like GST, combined with the steep climb on the ease of doing business index, is getting the world’s attention. Modi’s message is clear: “India means business”. India has the opportunity to redefine the global economic landscape by becoming a digital superpower, with a clear focus on the financial inclusion for a sustainable and long-term growth. Also, the socio-political stability in the world at large is a key priority. Modi has a clear question for the global investors—India has arrived, but have you arrived in India? What will it take for India to lead the digital revolution? The question on my mind and also on many other leaders attending WEF is: what will it take for India to attain this goal?
The views here at Davos point at the need for India to shift from being a technology facilitator to a provider of innovative connected experiences, bridging the gap between physical and digital world, reskilling of the young talent pool to become global digital citizens, and lead the charge on technologies defining the future like artificial intelligence , augmented and virtual reality. Commitment to fast-paced reforms and infrastructure, including rolling out of the 5G network, is quintessential to empower the digital India charter. It will take every effort from the government and each one of us to drive the change India needs. It’s a race against time as cyclical global growth recovery may not cushion us for long. For now, I see it as glass half full—we need to make most of this time and opportunity.
Indian contingent’s task cut out
The Indian contingent at the summit this year, which is the largest-ever, has its task cut out. Clearly, this is the busiest WEF I have seen in my last 10 years of being here. In entourage, key ministers, like Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal along with three Union ministers, have their business agendas packed with companies and countries. Invest India is buzzing with activities, with bilateral and multilateral partnerships’ announcements.
The Indian delegation is scheduled to organise discussions on financial inclusion, promoting digital payments, clean energy, modernisation of the Indian Railways and skill development. I was in the India Lounge, and the vibrant atmosphere of discourse here speaks volumes in terms of tracking our progress so far in India, as well as the grounds we are going to cover in the next couple of years. My conversations and meetings have an underlying India theme this year. As you can imagine, from Indian cuisine to Yoga, it is a grand occasion, nothing short of a great Indian wedding. Only this one has PM Modi taking India’s proposal to the world.
Promises to keep
What is important though is: India must deliver on its promises, as the world leaders at the WEF will remember Modi’s emphatic speech and hold him to his promise each time they evaluate business in or with India. It is an interesting year at Davos, with PM Modi’s opening speech, and I also look forward to US President Donald Trump’s speech, as he makes his closing remark. Modi will soon be back in India to celebrate our 68th Republic Day, but hopefully he will go back from Davos’ cold snowy peaks with warm business in hand.