6 things to know about the India Economic Summit Programme

Thursday, 6 October 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • PM Wickremesinghe leads top Lankan delegation at WEF India Summit starting today


By Sriram Gutta and Indira Kithsiri

Leaders from government, business, and civil society are gathered in New Delhi for the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit on 6 and 7 October. What’s on the agenda? Mastering the fourth industrial revolution, driving sustainable and equitable growth and improving the ease of doing business. Here are six things you need to know about the India Economic Summit.

1) The theme – Fostering an inclusive India through digital transformation

Both income and wealth inequality in India has been steadily increasing since 1990. Millions of Indians still do not have access to energy, clean water and other basic services. It is high time that India is ensures that the benefits of previous and future industrial revolutions trickle down to its citizens – empowering not just a few elite but all of segments of society. At the same time, the world is bracing itself to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) - a technological revolution that is changing the scale, scope and complexity of the opportunities and challenges that we face.

More recently, India has been innovating with technology as a way to improve the country’s economic prosperity, civic participation and digital governance – engaging with its citizens, updating them on policies, resolving issues and connecting with them through live conversations.

This is an important inflection point for India, where it can ensure that its economic growth is more broad-based and socially inclusive, and also lead from the front on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to benefit its people and communities.

At the India Economic Summit, the participants will experience the critical global challenges through immersive virtual reality films. Participants will discuss the impact of digital on both people and companies addressing the following questions:

  •     How can a digitally connected India enable social and economic transformation for its citizens?
  •     The digital revolution is transforming companies and entire industries. How can Indian companies stay ahead of this disruption?
  •     How can digital technologies be fairly distributed to drive transformative impact?

Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure of Sri Lanka Harin Fernando will speak at the session entitled Connected South Asia onhow digital technologies can be fairly distributed to drive transformative impact for the 1.7 billion South Asians. The Minister said, “At a day and age where the world is looking for more connectivity and limitless options in digital space, it is timely for WEF to put South Asian countries together to engage on a dialog, which is of mutual interest, share thoughts and experiences, happy to be apart and to learn from the neighboring countries and their successes, great initiative by the World Economic Forum.”

2) Start-up nation

Over the last several years, the entrepreneurship movement has taken off in India, with the country now among the fastest growing start-up nations and the youngest start-up nation in the world with over a third of the founders under 35 years of age. Many Indian companies such as Flipkart, PayTM, Hike, and Snapdeal have created global success stories and created thousands of jobs. More recently, however, the funding has slowed down and valuations are coming down. The ecosystem has thrived thus far with a flurry of incubators and accelerators, angel investors, venture capital firms and global investors. The government too has played an important role through the Start-up India initiative, launching a special fund as well as offering tax breaks and easing regulations. 

At the same time, the recent ‘EY G20 Digital Entrepreneurship Barometer’ ranks India 19 among the G20 countries. There are also concerns that Indian start-ups have just replicated globally successful models. Many have questioned the innovation among Indian start-ups and that most tech start-ups have built me-too products.

At the India Economic Summit, we will debate whether the start-up movement in India is a goldmine or is it in a bubble.

3) Upskilling India 

By 2025, over 250 million young people will enter the Indian workforce (see the graph below). As the confluence of new technologies reshapes the nature of jobs, India has to stay ahead of disruption while also ensuring that its vast workforce has skills that complement the new technologies and is engaged in productive employment.

Some ways to do so include, i) prioritising digital literacy creating an agile and entrepreneurial workforce, ii) leveraging technical skills in manufacturing, and iii) prioritising digital literacy

During the Summit, we will explore what new skills will be needed to thrive in an increasingly global, digital and innovation-driven economy.

4) Balancing India’s energy and environment nexus 

India is at an interesting nexus point between its energy production and environment protocol. One the one hand, the demand for coal is increasing, despite a reduction seen in global coal investment and on the other hand, India has committed to combating climate change by ratifying the Paris agreement last week. India is trying to mobilise investments and has launched the world’s largest renewable energy programme to fulfil its promise of 24x7 power in every home and sufficient power for farmers by 2022. Along with this, state-owned Coal India that produces a majority of India’s coal is increasing its capital expenditure.

The focus at the India Economic Summit will be on the new strategies, policies and partnerships that are transforming the future of energy in India.

5) Make in India and for India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a strong push on manufacturing activity through his ambitious ‘Make in India’ initiative. He hopes that labour-intensive manufacturing in India will create jobs for millions. However, globally and in India labour-intensive manufacturing is falling and the role of technology is increasing which threatens the need of labour in advanced manufacturing. As manufacturing converges with software, India has the unique opportunity to leverage its software services.

On 7 October in New Delhi, we will discuss how “Make in India” will fuel inclusive and innovation-led growth in India.

6) Building blocks for 

infrastructure investment

If India has to continue its growth course, it needs to bridge the financing gap needed to spur development in its basic infrastructure. India needs over $1.5 trillion in investment in the next 10 years to bridge the financing gap and facilitate the design of a pipeline of viable infrastructure deals with standardised procurement procedures to crowd-in institutional & private investors. 

The Government has announced a major line-up of infrastructure projects for the next five years. This includes an estimated investment of $1 trillion in overall infrastructure with investment in power, transport, water and communications (ICT). This also reflects in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016 where India has improved in the infrastructure pillar. Yet still, the lack of financing options for long-term infrastructure projects acts as a major deterrent for potential private investors in India. 

A delegation from Sri Lanka led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will participate in the summit to strengthen engagement, foster deeper dialogue and explore relevant opportunities for Sri Lanka. During this two-day summit from 6-7 October, the delegation is expected to hold bilateral discussions with several Government officials and top CEOs. This is the first time a Sri Lankan Prime Minister participates in the India Economic Summit.

The high-level delegation includes Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India Chitranganie Wagiswara and Head/Five Year Planning Unit Arjuna Mahendran accompanied by selected senior officials. Several top businessmen along with two Global Shapers from the Colombo Hub will also be present for this special occasion.

Minister Malik Samarawickrama, a Steering Board member of the Future of Production Initiative of the World Economic Forum, will speak at the session entitled Regional Economic Integration in South Asia and discuss how trade facilitation reforms can reduce trade costs and drive economic growth in the region. Talking about the India Economic Summit, the Minister remarked: “Privileged to participate at the India Economic Summit organised by the World Economic Forum. Appreciate the efforts taken by WEF to include emerging economies such as Sri Lanka in their programs, which helps us to fast track our development plans an integrate to the global economy.”

The India Economic Summit on 6-7 October will engage the global multistakeholder community of the World Economic Forum, bringing together high-level leaders from business, government, civil society and academia to explore how to collectively shape policies for inclusive growth and harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution. More information on following the Summit is at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/how-to-follow-and-embed-our-india-2016-meeting.

(Sriram Gutta is Community Manager, India and South Asia and Global Leadership Fellow, World Economic Forum. Indira Kithsiri is Community Specialist, Regional Strategies – India and South Asia, World Economic Forum.)