After a partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that lasted more than a quarter of a century, the World Economic Forum has decided to go it alone. In the process it has dropped the ‘Indian Economic Summit’ nomenclature for its annual Indian event, and adopted the ‘World Economic Forum on India’ branding. India has been upgraded to the status of countries such as China and Russia, which merit a ‘Forum’ branding. In an e-mail interview with Rajiv Shirali, Sushant P Rao, Senior Director and Head of Asia at the Forum, explains the significance of the change.
For 27 years, the Forum’s annual Indian event has been known as the ‘India Economic Summit’. What prompted the change-over in nomenclature to the ‘World Economic Forum in India’ at this stage?
The repositioning of the meeting is part of a broader strategic realignment of the Forum’s activities in the South Asia region. We wish to give greater recognition to India’s growing role in international cooperation as a G20 economy as well as the increasing globalisation of Indian corporations, Indian culture and Indian social innovations. Therefore, in line with our events elsewhere in the world, the summit is therefore not only about the Indian economy, but also about India and the region, India and the world and all of India’s related stakeholders from government, civil society, industry and academia.
To reinforce our commitment to better reflecting in our activities this important evolution of India’s role in international affairs, we will establish next year the first-ever physical presence of the World Economic Forum in India. This follows the offices we have established in the past years outside of the headquarters in Geneva in Beijing, New York and Tokyo.
Over the years, the Summit added newer and newer elements, evolving over a period of time. How fundamentally different is the latest change and what is its significance?
I do not regard this as fundamentally different, but rather as a further reflection of our on-going commitment to adapt to new realities.
Isn’t this akin to a foreign investor entering the Indian market in partnership with a local company, and then going it alone after developing all the required expertise?
On the contrary. The opening of an office in India will significantly enhance our ability to better understand the fast-changing and at times complex dynamics in India and the region. In this regard, and true to our core principles of neutrality and impartiality, we look forward to deepening our engagement in India with representatives from government, civil society, industry and also academia.
This will significantly enhance our ability to serve as a partner to all constituents in India as the country undergoes many transformations. Furthermore, our hope is to also better reflect India’s many capabilities in our activities and initiatives globally and not just in India. CII remains an important partner for the World Economic Forum, and we are exploring new forms of partnership while continuing to collaborate on a wide range of on-going initiatives.