The 12th Annual Wharton India Economic Forum Concludes Successfully in Philadelphia
Galaxy of Speakers Including Dr A P J Abdul Kalam put Forth their Visions for India
PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On March 22nd, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School hosted the 12th annual Wharton India Economic Forum. 700 people gathered to imagine the ambition, frustration and development in the lives of a billion Indians. The conference theme aptly captured as “India | Imagine” brought together a prolific set of Indian leaders from across the spectrum. Students, faculty, guests and speakers came together in stimulating discussion about different aspects of the Indian growth story.
“Retail and Consumer Technology: Selling to the New Indian.”
President and CEO of GE in India, Tejpreet Chopra’s keynote address marked the start of the conference. He charted an inspiring trajectory of the Indian growth story marked with the success, hurdles and failures in various industries. He also gave an overview of G.E.'s plans, and emphasized how India is key to the growth of global corporations.
The opening keynote was followed by concurrent panels discussing on “India’s Underprivileged Majority: The Real Development Story” and “Retail and Consumer Technology: Selling to the New Indian.”
The development panel was lead by inspirational leaders such as Dr. Vikram Akula, CEO and Founder of SKS Microfinance, Shanta Devarajan: Chief Economist World Bank’s South Asia Region, Ravi Kuchimanchi: Founder of Association for Indian Development (AID) and Indira Rajan: Chairperson and Managing Director of Minderva Group of Educational Institutions. The panel was moderated by Ramu Damodaran, Chief of the Civil Society Service, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information. The speakers tried to outline the issues related to development in various areas such as microfinance, education, renewable energy, agriculture, regional inequality and acute poverty. While Dr. Akula detailed the Microfinance industry, Mr. Devrajan outlined the three main gap hypotheses relating to agriculture, quality of education and north vs. coastal state development. Mr. Kuchimanchi gave an impassioned speech about the lack of accountability in public policy, pointing out that institutions are never responsive to the beneficiaries of their directed programs. He brought along with him a bamboo and straw heat insulating box made in villages as an inspiration for alternate cost-saving ideas.
The Retail and Technology Panel was lead by Sunil Dutt: Country Head, Samsung Mobile India, Rajeev Karwal: Founder and CEO, Milagrow Business and Knowledge Solutions V. Ramachandran: Director Sales & Marketing, LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd and Arvind Singhal: Chairman, Technopak. The Panel discussion centered on the uniqueness of the customer segmentation based on income in India. The speakers discussed the changing consumer tastes and the adaptive nature of the retail industry to adapt to these changes.
The following two panels were “Infrastructure: Opening the Floodgates” and the “Indian Diaspora.”
The diaspora panel brought together respected Indians from varied walks of the Indian spectrum such as Neelam Deo:Consul General of India, New York, Sanjay Puri: Chairman, U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) and Vivek Wadhwa: Fellow, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School & Executive in Residence/Adjunct Professor, Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. The panel was moderated by Shibani Joshi of the FOX Business Network. The panel was diaspora focused on the continued achievements in science, cinema, business and politics in the international arena. The panelist’s counted this progress as an important contribution to India's growth, trying to understand the future path in order to propel India forward.
The infrastructure panel counted on the contributions of Anil Baijal: Senior Advisor, IDFC, Nasser Munjee: Chairman Development Credit Bank and G.V. Sanjay Reddy: Vice Chairman, GVK Industries Ltd. in order to understand the changing needs and the requirement of investments in non-cosmopolitan regions. The panel was moderated by Vikram Limaye, Executive Director at IDFC.
The stimulating debate was paused for a lunch respite and the keynote address of Vinod Dham known widely as the "Father of the Pentium processor." In his keynote speech, Mr. Dham was reminiscent of his experience of India both on a personal and professional level. He gave the audience a glimpse of the exciting opportunities in India through the eyes of a venture capitalist and an ace technocrat. Mr Dham concluded his speech with a hope and vision for India which echoed Nehru's words "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity."
The afternoon session followed with simultaneous panels discussing the India's New Mandate: Addressing the Health Care Paradox and Investing in India: The Maturation Process, What's Next?
The health care panel was moderated by Bhaven Sampat and Assistant Professor at Columbia University. The panelist’s boasted an impressive lineup of Rajiv Gulati: Director of India-China Strategy and Corporate Strategic Planning of Eli Lilly and Company Dr. Prakash Khubchandani: Founder and Managing Director of Krimson Health and Suneeta Reddy: Director of Finance of Apollo Hospital Enterprises Ltd. Opening with the paradox that although statistically huge, the health-care industry in India is just able to serve 40% of the population, the panel discussed the best way to resolve the paradox was to integrate the currently exclusive public and private healthcare systems. They focused on the lack of equipment and need for investment in order to improve facilities for both patients and doctors. Switching gears the panel discussed the dilemma facing worldwide pharmaceutical industry as patents and policies on a huge number of drugs will go off the market in three years causing a collapse on the existent structure. The panelists used this problem to explain the emerging trend of outsourcing a lot of clinical trials and R&D to India. The panel ended on a poignant point concluding that the pharmaceutical industry worldwide was dependent on the Indian growth and R&D.
The private equity panelists were senior members from funds who have a long track record of investing in India – Mr. Ranjit Pandit (General Atlantic); Mr. Hermab Hajarnavis (Goldman Sachs Principal Investments Area); Mr. Zubin Dubash (Merrill Global Private Equity). The panel was moderated by Sri Rajan, Partner, Head, Bain & Company's Private Equity Practice. The panelists discussed as to how quickly most of the large US and European funds have set shop in India or have announced to do so over the next few months. Importantly, they expressed confidence in the long-term commitment that their respective funds have made towards India and of that being reflected in the flexibility that has been demonstrated in doing minority and relatively smaller deals in India vs. traditional buyouts. Further, the panel covered the importance of alignment of objectives with promoter families and first generation entrepreneurs for successful investments. The panel ended with members expressing conviction in the bright future of the private equity investing in India and of its tremendous contribution towards the remarkable growth of the country’s economy.
The conference ended on a high note with the most respected and inspirational speaker -- the former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Dr. Kalam spoke about a unique vision for India as a developed nation by the year 2020. He spoke about the inception of this concept by a confident government in the early 90’s when none of the current growth would have seemed plausible. He painted a picture of India as it is today with its failures and his dreams for progress to reach a national prosperity status by 2020. He spoke about an Integrated Action for Developed India in five areas he identified as: (1) Agriculture and food processing (2) Education and Healthcare (3) Information and Communication Technology (4) Reliable and Quality Electric power, Surface transport and Infrastructure for all parts of the country and (5) Self reliance in critical technologies. He outlined and explained the major mission of development of infrastructure for bringing rural prosperity are through Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) through creation of three connectivity’s namely physical, electronic, knowledge leading to economic connectivity. Dr. Kalam then brought forward the importance and qualities of leaders that set them aside such as nobility, transparency and integrity. Dr. Kalam posed a difficult challenge for all the young leaders present posing the goal of global peace on a path of righteousness with a motivational quote,
"Where there is righteousness in the heart There is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, There is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home. There is an order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, There is peace in the world."
With a standing ovation and a smile the 12th annual Wharton India Economic Forum was officially brought to a close.
The 12th annual WIEF was generously supported by Merrill Lynch, LG Electronics, Jet Airways, The India Cements Ltd, MAPE and GVK Industries Ltd. Panels are supported by Cisco Systems, Asahi India Glass Ltd., Eight Capital, Bank of India, MAPE and the Khubchandani Group. The Official PR Agency for WIEF is IPAN and the official news distribution partner is Business Wire India. WIEF is also supported by Knowledge@Wharton, Silicon India and NetIP.
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