India Economic Summit

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India Economic Summit
New Delhi, 2-4 December 2007

Quotable Quotes

Anand Mahindra"India has always been outside the epicenter of events and yet we get drawn in by the sheer gravitational pull of our geography, resources and potential.”

Anand Mahindra, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra, India; Co-Chair, India Economic Summit

Mukesh Ambani“Within India the challenge is how to create 100 million new jobs in next 15 years.”

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries, India

Madeleine Albright“Given the interdependence of the world, international institutions do not work. We need to look at different institutional structures that allow businesses and NGOs a voice at the table of international organizations.”

Madeleine Albright, President, The Albright Group

Focus on skills, governance, education, infrastructure and environment

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: At the closing session of the World Economic Forum’s 23rd India Economic Summit, business, political and civil society leaders from over 40 countries called on India to focus on skills development, improving governance, the upgrading of education, forging public-private partnerships in infrastructure, and addressing environmental degradation and water scarcity to sustain the high growth the country requires to alleviate poverty and create the jobs necessary to maintain social stability.

In a survey, the record 800 participants at the meeting, which was held under the theme “Building Centres of Excellence”, selected these issues as the key priorities that would have the greatest impact on India.

“We need skills development as a major initiative,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer of Bharti Enterprises, who is also President of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Forum’s Partner in the three-day Summit.

“Young people in India want to learn and become skilled,” added Ambika Soni, Minister of Tourism and Culture of India. She supported the establishment of training institutions in such fields as tourism, hotel management and nursing.

“Anybody who puts up a nursing college will do very well – and you will have the satisfaction of training young people to stand on their feet.”

After identifying the priorities for India, Summit Co-Chair Orit Gadiesh, Chairman, Bain & Company, USA, and a Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, warned it is crucial for the business sector, the state and national governments and civil society to act.

“What I would love to see next year is that action has followed the talk.” Her fellow Co-Chair, Ben J. Verwaayen, Chief Executive Officer, BT, United Kingdom, agreed: “We should not just care, but commit.”

Minister Soni encouraged investors to focus on tourism development in India. The Indian government, she reported, has launched a number of initiatives designed to boost the sector, including the upgrading of airports and railways and the integration of 15 selected destinations across the country for both domestic and inbound tourists. Rural tourism is also a priority, she noted.

“People have to come forward. There is a Midas touch here. For those who come and earnestly put their minds to it, everything turns to gold.”

Earlier Minister Soni presented the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 award to Harish Hande, Managing Director of SELCO Solar Light, which provides poor families with access to rural solar electrification.

Conversion of policies into deliverable a concern: Praful Patel

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: An excellent policy framework alone would not enable creation of Centres of Excellence. “The main concern is conversion of the policy in to deliverables, which is where India is lacking”, said Praful Patel, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, India.

The Minister was addressing a session on “Big Bets on Future Centres of Excellence”, at the India Economic Summit, 2007 organised jointly by Confederation of Indian Industry and the World Economic Forum, here today. “Even though our intentions are honorable we have not been able to get full benefit of the liberalization process”, he added.

Defining inadequate infrastructure as an impediment to building Cetnres of Excellence in India, the Minister added that it was unplanned and delayed implementation of projects that was central to India’s infrastructure problems.

Giving the political parties the credit in agreeing on policies he added, “while we do find unanimity across all sections of the political Diaspora giving infrastructure development the right direction the problems are related to unplanned and delayed execution of projects.” This situation, he said, was being tackled at the highest level by a Committee headed by none other than the Prime Minister himself.

On the question of whether FDI in private carriers would spur growth Patel said that it would be prudent to give the Indian carriers the opportunity to achieve a certain level of operation and then throw the industry open. The Minister further added that government policies were not caste in stone and would evolve with the changing environment.

R.Seshasayee, Managing Director, Ashok Leyland, India, while speaking at the session, identified unshackling the industry from government policy as the mantra for creation of Centres of Excellence. “Liberalization promotes growth and excellence. Growth has occurred in every industry segment which is market facing and is not tied to government policy.”

Seshasayee emphasized that entrepreneurship and an urge to become global leaders lay at the core of developing Centres of Excellence. “There is something that an entrepreneur can achieve without having any competitive advantage. It happens when you have entrepreneurship at the core and the urge to become a global leader”

Balvinder S. Kalsi, President & Chief Executive Officer, DuPont India, India said, “we have been users of technology, going forward we will contribute to the creation of the solution.” He highlighted the need to find new technologies to tackle the emerging global challenges.

These challenges include the need for increased food production and the drive for renewable energy and material. Mr Kalsi also said that given the availability of talent and the regulatory environment in India, the country had a fair chance of becoming a Centre of Excellence in these areas.

Neeraj Bharadwaj, Managing Director and Country Head, Apax Partners India Advisers, India, identified consumer products, FMCG, personal products, and organized retail as the high growth areas for India. The other sectors that had growth potential for India were healthcare and advertising, he added.

He further added that the fact that reform was taking place in India provided a comfort level to international investors.

Prasad Koneru, MD, Rakindo Developers, India said that Centres of Excellence were something that came out of competitiveness. For instance in India with liberalization the competitiveness of the automotive sector increased, thus converting it into a Centre of Excellence, he said.

Koneru also pointed out that India was lagging behind in infrastructure. “We are still talking about designing highways, while the world is running on freeways”, he said.

Shareen Bhan, Associate Editor, Political and Current Affairs, CNBC – TV 18 while moderating the session urged the panelists to identify the impediments to creating Centres of Excellence in India.

Can India produce the next Google?

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: At today’s plenary session on tech sector growth during the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit taking place in New Delhi, Edward J. Zander, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Motorola, USA, and a Co-Chair of the India Economic Summit, said India has already proved itself as a leader in the IT support and services sectors.

He stated it has “all the ingredients” for continued success: good levels of education, well-established centres of excellence, and a good relationship between the private and public sectors.

“And India is looking more and more like Silicon Valley in terms of venture capital,” he added. But Zander warned that India could be overtaken by emerging IT countries if it fails to maintain its edge and develop its own IT products. “The real question is whether the next Oracle or the next Google is going to originate here. Is the next Yahoo going to be here?” he asked.

Session participants agreed that India would continue to thrive in the IT sector. But concerns were raised about a number of issues: slow growth in hardware production, the lack of an integrated taxation system, the growing strength of the rupee, rising wages and the lack of adequate infrastructure.

The president and chief executive officer of one of the world’s leading personal computing companies warned that it is much easier to do business in China than in India, where each state has different business rules and regulations. India would be more efficient if it operated as a single country instead of many different states, William J. Amelio of Lenovo Group USA, said.

Ashwani Kumar, Minister of State, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India, conceded that India continues to have some problems with red tape. But he robustly defended his country’s democratic system, saying it is not reasonable to compare India with China.

Democracy in India, he said, is a fundamental principle and will guarantee its continued economic development during the 21st century. He stressed, however, that India needs to scale up manufacturing in the electronic and IT hardware sectors.

Deepak Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, Moser Baer India, echoed Kumar’s concerns about India’s performance in the hardware sector, but added that “solutions are available … India is an amazing country.”

Quotes

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw"Healthcare, like education, is a very important part of our soft infrastructure. We need to build scale in all healthcare initiatives we are talking about."

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon India

Malvinder Singh"The amount of M&As in terms of number and value is significantly increasing year on year."

Malvinder M. Singh, CEO and Managing Director, Ranbaxy Laboratories, India; Young Global Leader

Shamsher Mehta"Along with national security, the three pillars of security – human, economic and physical – need to be raised to bring the Indian economy to a position where the challenges can be met."

Shamsher S. Mehta, Director-General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

Janmejaya Sinha"There are more mobile phone than bank account owners in India – and if you look at that opportunity, we have the technology, and so we must serve this group which is waiting."

Janmejaya K. Sinha, Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group, India

Educational System must be decontrolled: Shiv Nadar

NEW DELHI: Educational system in India must be decontrolled, said Shiv Nadar, founder, HCL; chairman and chief strategy officer, HCL, in a session on Soft Infrastructure: What are the Skill Sets for Success in India, at the India Economic Summit, jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry and World Economic Forum here today.

Institutions imparting technical education must be allowed to frame their own fee structure as well as curriculum. During nineties, it was the growth of global software industry that was able to absorb people having good knowledge of application of computer.

Today, the requirement is that people should know multiple languages in addition to English and computer application.

J. Frank Brown, Dean, INSEAD, France, said that India has tremendous talents in other countries and getting them back is a major issue that needs attention. India needs some short of overriding strategy to solve the problem of talent shortage.

He further said that there is no need of higher education for everybody and the emphasis should be given on providing vocational education immediately after higher secondary education. The private sector must step in to fill this gap in the Indian educational system.

Peter Sands, Group Chief Executive, Standard Chartered, United Kingdom said that Indian educational system is too narrow to provide required skilled people. Soft skills of people in India are not at par with their academic capabilities.

He emphasized on the need of proper training on developing communication skills, presentation skill and team building. He agreed with other panelists that higher education should be open to private investment and emphasis needs to shift towards vocational education.

He further said that India should learn lesson from the UK’s failed educational system.

Taylor, Chief Operating Officer, BT Asia Pacific said skill is in short supply globally and India has the potential to bridge the gap between demand and supply of skills, provided India starts training people not only in soft skills, but also in the skill sets that are required in agriculture, construction and manufacturing industries.

Regulatory reforms are vital to building a supply chain in India: Adi Godrej

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: Classifying regulatory reforms as the most important constituent to building a supply chain in India, Adi B Godrej, Chairman, The Godrej Group, Godrej Industries, India accentuated the need for setting aside redundant legislation, organizing logistics out of the farm and addressing the problem of low yields in India.

Acknowledging that the supply chain to rural India is reasonable well organized, he said that it was the development of a supply chain from rural India that was a challenge.

He was addressing the session on “No time to wait: Building a Supply Chain in India” on the concluding day of the India Economic Summit 2007, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the World Economic Forum, here on Tuesday.

He also observed that though currently the indirect tax regime was a handicap to the logistics chain in India, modern legislation would ensure the integrated benefits of cost reduction, increased consumption and avoidance of tax evasion. He also said that he perceived a huge opportunity in the development of a cold chain logistics system in India.

Attributing the difficulties of supply chain to lack of infrastructure, presence of multiple intermediaries and basic problems like that of electricity and power, Atul Singh, President & Chief Executive Officer, Coca-Cola India, India said that it was important to target inclusive growth of the economy with the participation of the agricultural sector.

He also stressed on the need for the Government to devise a framework for co-existence of all stakeholders in the supply chain.

Raising concern over the element of massive wastage Jim Scott, Regional Operating Officer for Asia & Member, Management Board, Metro Cash and Carry India, India observed that it was very important to invest in downstream supply chain to the farm level.

He emphasized the need for competition, modern distributors and foreign investment for building a contemporary distribution system in India.

Considering lack of infrastructure and inadequate farmer-education as the primary constraints, Paul H Graham, Chief Executive Officer, DHL Exel Supply Chain Asia Pacific, Singapore recommended Public Private Partnership as the feasible solution to the development of logistics chain in India. He also underscored the need for developing the rail network as an efficient, low cost, environment-friendly option.

Vineet Agarwal, Executive Director, Transport Corporation of India, India believed that infrastructure, bureaucracy, regulatory regime and lack of cold chain were limiting the development of the supply chain in India.

The session was moderated by Carol Massar, TV Anchor, Bloomberg News, USA.

Cost and quality will encourage investment in India: Ashwani Kumar

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: Indian companies need to focus on cost and quality to tap foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. This was stated by Ashwani Kumar, Minister of State, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry at the India Economic Summit 2007, organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), here on Tuesday.

He was of the view that technology driven companies need to enhance their presence in the Indian market and companies have to embrace technology as an important component for growth.

Speaking on a session on ‘Technology Sector Growth: Victim of its Own Success?’, Kumar said that while the IT and Telecom sector have grown and will continue to show positive trend, the potential of the electronics and hardware sector are yet to be realised.

The government has made concerted efforts to maintain growth and face the future challenges.

Poor infrastructure and rigidity of labor law has bound India to incremental growth in manufacturing sector in past, Kumar said.

Though democracy has its cost and compulsion, he said that liberated policies of the government will ensure sustainable growth in all sectors. Government is keen to provide more autonomy to the states to have transparent policies, he said.

Indian government has given priority to health and education sector and expects FDI to meet the infrastructural requirements of the country, said Mr. Kumar.

William J. Amelio, President and Chief Executive Officer, Lenovo Group, USA said that opportunity risks in India provide higher rewards in return. Escalating rate of wages is a challenge for the technology industry of India, he said.

On the creation of global marketing hub by Lenovo in Bangalore, Amelio acknowledged that India has tremendous potential to provide marketing, branding and generic advertising support to the global need.

The cultural diversity of a country should be transformed to an opportunity to understand different customers and explore new ideas and innovations, he said.

Deepak Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, Moser Baer, India said that global hardware market is worth $1.7 trillion and India accounts for only 0.7% of the world market.

He appreciated the Government’s effort to understand the challenges and suggested that a uniform tax structure to escalate the growth of hardware industry in India.

Rising cost and non-availability of manpower are the other key challenges for the technology industry, said Mr. Puri. Training of quality manpower, uniform taxes and creating right manufacturing environment will be elements success of technology industry in India, he said.

Salil S. Parekh, Executive Chairman, Capgemini India said that the inherent concerns of Indian technology industry are rise of Indian currency and slowdown of global economy. Wage inflation is another area of concern which is expected to be 10 – 11% in 2008, he said.

Small scale formation of product based companies is happening in India, said Parekh. Most multinational companies, who have come to India for low cost manpower, have stayed back because of high quality output, he added.

Edward J. Zander, Chairman and Managing Director, Motorola, USA and Co-Chair of the India Economic Summit said that India has all the ingredients of success and Indian government has a positive outlook towards technology sector and education. He said that individuals in India have opportunity to register IPR and patents.

Study of competition, better infrastructure and investment in education can provide India an edge over the global technology market, suggested Zander.

Moderating the session, Simon Hobbs, Anchor, CNBC Europe, United Kingdom said that 71 million people will be available for the job in near future but the major concern to the technology sector is the quality of employable manpower.

Middle class will drive the future market of India: Ajay Shankar

NEW DELHI, Dec 3: The growing middle class segment will drive the demand for the products and brands in the growing Indian economy, said Ajay Shankar, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry at the India Economic Summit 2007, organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), here on Monday.

Speaking at a session on ‘Responding to a New Consumer Class’, Shankar said that acceleration of India’s growth is primarily driven by domestic demand and it will continue to do so. Marketers need to go out and look for new customers as the customer profile is changing very fast in India and the country’s middle class segment is widening fast, he said.

Ajay Kaul, Chief Executive Officer, Domino’s Pizza, said that research is important to understand the changing trend of customer. But Indian companies still do not give enough priority to market research.

The cost of failure is low in today’s India but marketers should consider future increase in the cost due to the rise in consumer awareness, he said. Customisation will be the key to customer satisfaction in the future, added Kaul.

Steve Sanger, Chairman, General Mills, USA said that requirement of customisation comes from high involvement of customers and competition will create consumer awareness.

The break up of extended families to nuclear families has raised the influence of children in selection of brand, he said. The increase of middle class has put pressure on the manufacturer to deliver the goods at right pace, added Sanger.

Further speaking on the delivery of products, James Scott, Regional Operating Officer, Asia and Member of the Management Board, Metro Cash & Carry International, Hong Kong SAR said that India will face the challenge of building the supply chain to cater to deeper markets in next 20 years.

Marketers should find a route to the market with fresh products, he said. India needs transparency in legislation; investment in distribution, downstream and cold chain to establish a proper distribution model for the product, said Scott.

An open market is essential to create innovation, choice and new products, said Scott. There is a big gap at the entry level for the consumer durables, he said.

Foreign investment alone cannot drive the products at the retail segment but requires local retailers to access the market and product information, added Scott.

Nikhil Meswani, Executive Director, Reliance Industries said that focus on education, healthcare and communication will grow substantially for the marketers.

Companies should realize that 70% of Indians live in villages and every minute about 31 people migrate to urban areas, he said. He mentioned that this would lead to a change in the trend of buying pattern and the affluence factor of consumer.

The growth of Indian economy has made the middle class rise faster than the expectations of the companies, added Meswani.

Moderating the session, Jehangir S. Pocha, Editor and Journalist, Businessworld mentioned that companies as well as consumers are reinventing themselves in a fast changing India. Indian market is changing from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market, concluded Pocha.

Need to change archaic laws and mindsets at governance level: Sheila Dikshit

NEW DELHI, Dec 3: There is an urgent need to change mindsets at the governance levels, said Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, India.

While speaking at the session “More Oil, More Power, More Water, More Innovation” at the India Economic Summit, 2007 organised jointly by Confederation of Indian Industry and World Economic Forum, here on Monday, she said “the kind of governance we follow is not suited to the 21st century. The mindsets in governance need to change; some of our laws are as archaic as the 19th century.”

Defining Delhi’s migrant population as a continuous challenge, the Chief Minister said “to deal with this problem we are innovating all the time but if we are not able to meet the growing demand of a booming economy over the next 5-10 years, we will be on the down slide”.

Shooting down the possibility of charging for water given India’s socio economic structure, she added, we have to find ways to conserve water, become more responsible in its use and rejuvenate old methods of water conservation.

Anil Razdan, Secretary, Ministry for Power urged the developed countries to consider providing to the developing nations, cleaner technologies at affordable costs. He said, “in the absence of the availability of cleaner alternatives we are forced to implement coal based power generation projects.

If developed countries were to supply the clean coal technologies through international funding, it would work for the best for everyone.”

Outlining the initiatives that the Ministry of Power had undertaken to urge consumers to conserve energy and use cleaner sources of energy he said, “we are motivating industry to replace energy inefficient goods with energy efficient goods through incentives such as tax concessions.”

On the issue of nuclear energy, Razdan said that India had been prudent in planning for the share of nuclear energy during the next five-year plan. If nuclear energy became available as a source it would add to the resources, but its non-availability would not be a big negative, he added.

“The earlier we can harness international sources of energy the better it will be– even if we are planning 10,000 mw of power to come from nuclear sources it would account for 6% of the total requirement and would be certainly welcome”.

Razdan also emphasized the need for changing mindsets, especially in the context of project implementation and demand side management.

Ajay Dua, Advisor, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project (DMIC), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India said that the industry had been cross-subsidizing power to the other consumers and the addition of envisaged capacities would accentuate the competitiveness of the Indian industry.

“There is no doubt in the minds of the Indian industry that water and electricity are economic goods. The industry is looking forward to increased available of grid power and pay for it at economical rates so that they can concentrate on running the industry”, he added.

Innovations are required in not only pricing mechanisms but also for example in extracting energy from the sources where it is available said Dua.

Speaking for the Indian Industry he said, “Industry has a clear mindset that it needs inputs whatever the costs. It cannot afford any delays because that adversely impacts their bottom line.

Frits van Dijk, Executive Vice President and Zone Director, Asia Oceania and Middle East, Nestle Switzerland urged the stakeholders to conserve water, because there was no way one could produce more water.

“How can we get more water is not the problem there is no more water – it is constant how can we conserve water usage and how can we get more efficient is the issue”, he said. India has a true opportunity to come up with innovative programme where industry, local government, state government and central government and NGOs can work together and find solutions to the problem. Business as usual is no option, he added.

Stressing that water had to be an economic good, he said that we need to take care of the wastage that is taking place due to free supply of water and electricity.

Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Development Alternatives, Social Entrepreneur spoke about the mindsets, which were really “mine sets” and were related to exploitation of resources and weaker sections of the global society.

Changing mindsets according to Khosla was a complex problem and can’t be solved by simply taking the easy way out of will it or won’t it work.

“Water and energy are problems that cant be solved separately; we need to look at how to solve problems sometimes in an indirect way – to get to the root causes of why it is under threat”, he added.

He stressed that the problem of mindsets lay in the fact that policy makers including in civil society were good at articulating wise thoughts but had internalized mindsets. “These are not the same as mindsets implemented which is where we are behind”, he said.

Nik Gowing, Main Presenter, BBC World, UK, while summarizing the takeaways from the discussions said, “While water is an economic commodity, India is not in a position to start charging for it.” Power, he said, was not god gifted and the state had to earn revenues from power supply. He further concluded the discussion saying, that implementation of mindset change was a long way away.

A cocky India enjoys global economic limelight

Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Bharati MittalNEW DELHI, Dec 3: Record stock highs and economic growth. Takeovers of European firms. Even cricket world trophies. This year, perhaps more than ever, India has bulged with self-confidence -- some say dangerous cockiness -- that underscores how executives, politicians and the middle-classes feel the global economic juggernaut is unstoppable.

At a World Economic Forum meeting which began this week, that confidence was evident as business leaders talked about "breakthrough" business models and India's "entrepreneurial spirit".

"Why are we being wooed by the world?" industrialist Mukesh Ambani, one of India's richest men who recently bought his wife a luxury Airbus jet for her birthday, asked the conference.

"Peace and stability and the growth model are what attracts the world to India."

While the United States is immersed in a credit crisis and Europe worries about immigration or outsourced jobs, India has the world's most upbeat consumers, according to a global consumer sentiment index by the Nielsen Company this year.

The survey also showed that about 16 per cent of Indians said they had no worries -- the highest rate in the survey.

"Indians self-confident? That's the understatement of the year," said Sarang Panchal, a managing director at Nielsen.

The self-confidence is related to India's increasingly wealthy upper and middle classes enjoying economic growth rates of around 9 per cent in a trillion dollar economy.

"People are very bullish. They are taking risks they have never taken before," said Panchal.

The playful arrogance was evident when Commerce Minister Kamal Nath hosted European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson last week. They sparred after Mandelson said India was an "emerging economy".

"If India is an emerging economy, the EU is a submerging economy," Nath said.

Empowerment can enhance the livelihood of millions: Aiyar

By Deepak Arora

Mani Shankar AiyarNEW DELHI, Dec 3: Minister of Panchayati Raj and Youth Affairs and Sports Mani Shankar Aiyar has said that participatory development and inclusive governance is the way to inclusive growth.

Speaking at the India Economic Summit on "Rural and Urban Development: India's Dual Imperatives", Aiyar said that non-agricultural job opportunities should be created and massive investment in the rural sector is required by corporate India.

"Greater urbanisation of rural India is required to stem the rising migration from villages to metropolitan cities," he added.

The Minister said millions of Indians living with an earning of under Rs 20 per day should be empowered to a better living, through the 250,000 locally elected self-governing units.

The three-day India Economic Summit 2007 has been organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Talking on Special Economic Zones (SEZ), Aiyar said that SEZs should be developed with the consent of local people and be built in less inhabited locations.

The development of rural areas should be consciously pushed and companies should be given adequate incentives to set up industry in non-urbanised areas, he said.

States such as Kerala, Karnataka, Sikkim, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat have efficiently developed governance at the Panchayati Level and have been able to respond to the economic development initiatives of the Central government, he said.

India has one of the most impressive e-government projects and rural India can enter 21 st century through the information technology route, added the Minister.

Anand MahindraAnand G. Mahindra, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra and Co-chair of the India Economic Summit, said that government should focus on ramping up the non-agricultural sources of livelihood. Quality and better standards of living will ensure controlled migration of rural population to urban areas, he said.

Mahindra said Neighborhood development initiatives and removal of bureaucratic roadblocks would ensure rural economic and infrastructural development. Mobile connectivity and rural road projects have the potential to change rural India.

Mohamed A. Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties, United Arab Emirates, said that people in the cities should look at outsourcing jobs to rural areas. Centers of attraction are required outside the cities as the upcoming young generation looks at quality of life, he said.

Alabbar said the quality of infrastructure can be embedded in the new cities in a better way. Government should look at the development of villages and the world can learn a lot from India as 'India lives in the villages', he added.

Ben J. Verwaayen, Chief Executive Officer, BT, United Kingdom, Co-Chair of the India Economic Summit, said that urbanisation need not be the only way to develop: with the availability of new technologies, remote access to education and other facilities has become possible. Rural areas can be connected to the centres of 'world knowledge'.

Nik Gowing, main presenter, BBC World, United Kingdom, moderated the session.

World Economic Forum's India summit starts

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 1: The World Economic Forum’s 23rd India Economic Summit kicks off here Sunday to bring together some 700 business, political and civil society leaders from 37 countries.

The high-profile India summit of the Davos-based WEF is designed to generate insight and guide action to improve the alignment of India’s development, industry and global agendas in the context of this year's theme, Building Centres of Excellence.

Some of the prominent speakers at the summit include External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

The participants at the summit would include more than 350 chief executives and board-level corporate heads from overseas and 200 each from the Indian arms of foreign companies and domestic entities.

The event - co-hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) - will cover four thematic pillars, namely competitiveness, inclusive growth, infrastructure, and risk management, to examine how to address key challenges to future growth.

The co-chairs of the event include Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, Anand Mahindra of Mahindra and Mahindra, Edward J. Zander of Motorola, and Hector de J. Ruiz of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

“Sustaining a double-digit GDP growth will require intense efforts on several fronts by a multitude of stakeholders. India will need to especially focus on enhancing skills, ensuring inclusive growth and linking India to the globe,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer, Bharti Enterprises, and President, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), India.

“India will be able to achieve its goal of inclusive growth if it succeeds in creating new centres of excellence not only in emerging industries, but also rural communities,” added W. Lee Howell, Senior Director, Head of Asia and Global Agenda, World Economic Forum.

A report released on the eve of the summit on Saturday stated that India need to address a number of basic challenges to sustain the 8 to 10 per cent growth. It said India can use diversity, democracy to secure its demographic dividend.

While it is well known that existing infrastructure in India is stretched to its upper limits and that increased investment is required, there is also an urgent need for the government, private sector and civil society to collaborate on governance reforms to eliminate corruption and ensure equity in the provision of basic services (such as education, water and sanitation).

Much can be gained by removing constraints inherent in inefficient government bureaucracies, complex tax regulations and labour market rigidities. Decision-makers cannot assume that tomorrow’s growth story will read like todays. The economic fundamentals are in place, but political dynamics and the scope of structural reforms are more likely to shape the next chapter, according to the findings in India@Risk 2007, a report published by the Global Risk Network of the World Economic Forum.

The report features the latest insights into trends, potential consequences and mitigation relevant to six key risks facing India: Economic Impact of Demographics; Economic Shocks and Oil Peaks; Loss of Freshwater ; Geopolitical Risks: Globalization vs Protectionism; Climate Change: The Environment and Challenges to India’s Growth; and Societal Risks: Infectious Diseases.

 

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