3 key themes for our meeting in India

Akanksha Khatri
Head, Nature and Biodiversity, World Economic Forum
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Five months after coming to power in India’s general election, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to enjoy an unparalleled majority, in both parliament and among the people.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was elected on the promise of economic growth, jobs for all and equitable access to civic amenities. At the same time, investor confidence is picking up with expectations of swifter economic policy reforms and political stability. The Indian lion seems to be awakening after a long slumber of political gridlock.

The nation now has the opportunity to deepen public-private cooperation and create a movement to realize the great Indian dream. At the 28th India Economic Summit this week, high-level representatives from business, civil-society and government from more than 45 countries will be working out ways to partner with one another on the challenges and opportunities facing India.

The programme for the summit is designed around 24 interactive sessions covering priority national issues. Relying on some of our most innovative formats, the meetings aim to generate insights, spark inspiration and drive impact for our participants. Here are three key themes on the agenda this week:


India is said to be facing an infrastructure deficit of $1 trillion across roads, ports, highways and digital access. For a nation aiming to continue on the path of more than 6% GDP growth, there is an urgent need to support entrepreneurs, be it in the form of providing access to secured energy supply, better roads for transporting goods, or world-class digital access. With businesses ready to set up shop in the country and invest long-term capital in much-needed infrastructure projects, the government needs to simplify laws, attract capital and improve tax transparency.

In a series of sessions addressing the above topics, participants at the India Economic Summit aim to fill the gaps in public-private partnerships and identify new and effective models of infrastructure financing.

We begin our programme by addressing the key issue of how to make India’s youth more employable – on Wednesday 5 November at 09:15 IST.

At 13:30 on the same day, there is a session on India’s broader economic outlook, while at 15:15 we ask which initiatives will bridge India’s $1 trillion infrastructure deficit. At 17:00 we look at how India can boost competitiveness and trade, while on Thursday at 11:00 it’s how India can achieve inclusive growth while safeguarding individual freedoms.

All of these sessions will be webcast live. Watch them here.


More than half of the Indian population – 594 million people – defecates in the open. The basic habit of handwashing with soap reduces diarrhoeal diseases by more than 40% and respiratory infections by 30%, according to a Unicef report. For a nation that views human capital as one of its major strengths, India cannot ignore the health of its population.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a people’s movement, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which translates as “the clean India campaign”. It is important that this truly be a people’s movement, so every Indian can take responsibility for keeping their premises clean and helping those who do not have access to basic sanitation.

Participants in the Investing in a Cleaner India session will address this issue on Wednesday at 15:15. Also on the subject of changing cultural mindsets, there is a session on gender equality on Thursday at 13:15.

Again, all of these sessions will be broadcast live on our website. You can also follow us on social media (TwitterFacebookGoogle+LinkedIn) and even embed the webcast and the social media conversation widget on your own blog or website.


India is home to over 400 million young people, including many first-generation entrepreneurs. It is therefore in a unique position to benefit from the recent launch of a Digital India campaign.

As venture capital funds fight to invest in India’s homegrown online retailers, such as Snapdeal, Flipkart and Jabong, approximately one billion of the nation’s population are in digital darkness. Most of these people live in rural areas where the potential for mobile banking, e-governance and telecom value-added services is the highest. There is a need to bridge this gap with urgent action to reap the associated benefits of digital India. With greater connectivity in rural and semi-urban areas, we will also see jobs creation and therefore lesser migration to urban centres of economic activity.

Deliberating on this issue, participants at the summit will identify ways to mainstream innovation. The session on delivering a digital India will be live-streamed at 17:00 on Wednesday, and you can also follow (and participate in) the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #digitalindia.

Authors: Akanksha Khatri is senior manager, India and South Asia, at the World Economic Forum. Richa Sahay is programme manager, Programme Development, at the World Economic Forum.

Image: Labourers fit iron rods at the construction site of a metro train station in the southern Indian city of Chennai August 22, 2013. REUTERS/Babu

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