So at last the clouds roll back, the mist disappears and the sun shines brightly on the final day of the Word Economic Forum. And I am left with the challenge of distilling a few key themes from the whirlwind of knowledge and experience, opinion and prejudice which has swirled around Delhi, blown in from the four corners of the world.
The single word which emerges most frequently in discussions about the future of India is education. It is talent which has driven the transformation of India’s economy, and it is only talent which will enable this country to fulfil the high hopes we all share for its future prosperity.
Fortunately, talent is a natural resource which India has in rich supply. The urgent challenge is how to raise the quality of all education towards the standard of the best, and how to extend the reach of education to the millions of people still waiting to participate in India’s economic miracle. Nothing could be more important. Technology will have a central role to play.
A message that I have heard loud and clear is that global companies, like my own, which have come here to invest also have a responsibility to help. BT provides employment for 26,000 people here. I hope and believe this will grow. Increasingly we are invited to become part of Indian society. That means sharing India’s aspirations and helping to overcome its difficulties.
The changing image of India as seen from abroad is both striking and dramatic. Fifteen years ago if I had mentioned India to friends in America or Europe they would probably have conjured up images of poverty and elephants. Now India is associated with talent and hi-tech. That is a massive achievement, but it is still a reflection of what is happening here in India. Not a picture of the impact India is having on the rest of the world. So let my final observation also be a challenge.
India has yet to define its brand. Germany is known the world over for its engineering excellence. A BMW is not only a fantastic car, it is a powerful ambassador for Germany. The US is renowned for its financial services and consumer insight. What will be the global brands which define India in the future?
I have heard it argued that a new phase of globalization is gathering pace as emerging economies begin to invest their new found wealth abroad. I believe that’s true. But to fulfil its great potential India must establish its own brand around the world. That means forming new alliances both in business and in politics. It means having the confidence to redefine again what the world thinks of India.
India has come a very long way in a very short time, but the best still lies ahead!
Ben Verwaayen is CEO of BT Group Plc. This is the concluding piece of an exclusive column he has been writing for Mint on the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit, which started on Sunday in New Delhi. Readers can send their comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. To read all his columns go to www.livemint.com/verwaayen.htm