Susheel Koul: India’s next leap and the World Economic Forum

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Susheel-KoulThis week, I’ll be visiting the Swiss ski town of Davos for the first time. I had the pleasure of participating in the World Economic Forum on Southeast Asia over the last couple of years and I have high hopes for the renowned annual meeting in Davos.

It’s set to be a particularly interesting one from an Asian point of view, not least because China’s President Xi Jinping will be attending, making him the first Chinese president to do so. I was also interested to learn that more than 100 Indian CEOs and top leaders are also going to be there alongside a similar size of contingent from China and Japan.

The appearance of these leaders is encouraging, especially in light of this year’s theme of ‘Responsive and Responsible Leadership’.

Increasing interest in India’s economy

Conversations among Indian business leaders are likely to be overshadowed by Prime Minister Modi’s recent demonetization move, whereby 500 and 1,000 Rupee banknotes were removed from circulation on 8 November. The long-term ramifications of that remain to be seen, but there are more positive economic stories to discuss too. For example, adoption of digital payments platforms by both the public and private sectors has been on the rise which bodes well, albeit tempered by some security concerns.

India is looking particularly interesting to investors with a 7 percent growth forecast for 2017, according to the latest projection from World Bank. At the recent Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017, India’s biggest investor summit, Prime Minister Modi reiterated his government’s commitments to reform, adding that India is on its way to becoming the world’s most digitized economy and his top priority is creating a conducive environment for business and attracting investments.

Digital opportunities abound even as small businesses are affected by demonetization. Early this month, Google India introduced its new tool MyBusiness, which allows small and medium-sized enterprises to set up a website from their mobile devices.
On the real estate front, our firm has also been embracing the digitzation of products, services and experiences in India through in-house efforts such as 1Source and via creative partnerships with companies like Snapdeal and Ecolibrium. This is primarily in response to changing consumer behavior and client needs as well as our position as a responsible leader in our industry.

This move towards digitalization and growth all sounds very promising, but businesses and political leaders will need to work together to ensure growth is balanced with social wellbeing. The founder and executive chairman of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, outlined this compact between business and society very clearly in one of his most recent blogs.

And while India is poised for major growth and development, China’s breakneck pace of growth is likely to slow somewhat in 2017. How their leaders respond will bear significant opportunities and implications for businesses at large.