Year of India
The Indians are back. Again.
Seasoned Davos participants are getting a sense of déjà vu at the 41st World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week as India once again tries to grab the attention of participants.
Back in 2006, under a not-too-modestly dubbed, over-the-top “India Everywhere” campaign that cost an estimated $4 million, Indian politicians, bankers, CEOs, dancers, artists and chefs — some 300 strong — made it impossible to miss what was seen as a coming-out party for India, replete with iPods for every delegate, posters that began in the Zurich airport, and capped by a Bollywood-themed Davos finale, an extravagant Grand Soiree that lasted longer than two Hindi movies back-to-back.
With China now having its own Forum meeting, dubbed Summer Davos, and much less of an overt presence, India is once again poised to try to be the big Asian giant in Davos 2011, dwarfing smaller efforts by others including a Japan Night; a Korea night; and an Indonesian “Co-Co Night” featuring President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono under a Remarkable Indonesia banner.
This time, the theme is “India !nclusive,” and the Indian delegation, slated to led by Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, is once again making sure that you can’t miss India’s presence in and around the Forum. Tech giant Wipro is bringing DJ Megha Kawale and Angels, a hot dance troupe from London; conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra Vice Chairman Anand Mahindra is promising home-cooked food at his KaffeeKlatsch; and the Confederation of Indian Industry is hosting an India adda, or hangout, luring tired and cold Forum participants with the promise of “spicy Indian street food” and “masala tea.” All a prelude to yet another Davos finale, another India-led Grand Soiree on Saturday night.
It isn’t all food and fun, though. The Indian presence in the official Forum program is rather visible, starting with Chanda Kochhar, CEO of ICICI Bank, and one of six co-chairs of Davos 2011. And an early count shows at least 21 official Forum panels that have discussion leaders or moderators from India, including Nandan Nilekani, who, as chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India Ltd., is heading up a vast and ambitious effort to provide an identity card to every Indian citizen. Nilekani, the former CEO of Indian tech giant Infosys, is no stranger to India’s high-pitch marketing here, having played a key role in the 2006 India Everywhere campaign at Davos.
While 2011 will mark a marketing and branding comeback of sorts by India, it comes after a couple of relatively low-key years at Davos as the country, along with many Asian peers, struggled with the impact of a global downturn and, in India’s case, some key concerns on corporate governance following a major accounting scandal involving Satyam Computers, which has since been acquired by Mahindra & Mahindra.
But despite the attempt to keep the focus on India’s “inclusive growth,” the Indian contingent here is likely to face tough questions, at least in private conversations if not at the more polite Forum sessions, and a healthy skepticism from the ongoing fallout of a major corruption scandal over the auction of wireless spectrum that has involved top echelons of government, industry and journalists; and a growing chorus over what many, especially in the private sector, see as a “governance deficit” starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Expect the “India is cool” pitch to get hot and spicy, and not just from all the Indian food being dished out.
Posted by: pssda | January 26, 2011 9:32 PM | Report abuse