Davos Diary, 22 January 2018: India is everywhere in this ski town
The cold snap
It’s Monday and show time, folks. Yesterday, we experienced serious snowfall and the outcome: traffic jams that remind you of the Delhi-Gurugram route. Locals say the snowfall has broken a 40-year record. Temperatures remain stuck in the sub-zero zone. And the buzz was right, it is indeed getting worse. The promenade is jammed with cars—nothing moving for the past hour!
Last night was Team India dinner night at the Emerald Restaurant, which also serves Indian Chinese—and is consequently a big draw for desis—and is run by Lisa and her two sons. The guest list included, besides yours truly, Ramesh Abhishek, secretary, department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP), and leader of the Indian delegation; Atul Chaturvedi, additional secretary, DIPP, and one of the key players in the back room managing the show; Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry; and Deepak Bagla, CEO of Invest India.
The India way
My day kicked off at 3.30am. Need the head start to get into the groove on opening day, the highlight of which will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in the evening. The centre piece of the action will be the 2-3km stretch from Davos Dorf to Davos Platz.
Besides giant billboards with Modi peppered across Davos, Indian hospitality will be at its charming best. The big draw—since it was set up eight years ago by us—is the Indian Adda. It is a place where you can savour Indian cuisine through the day; it begins with breakfast, followed by lunch and, of course, snacks (pakoras, bhel puri, the works) and hot masala chai round the clock. The Taj group mans the catering and has flown in 35 chefs for the exercise.
Frankly, this is the best place to network: you greet, meet and, of course, eat. (“Chai pe charcha” is a concept that other countries and even some companies like Accenture, for example, have emulated.)
Adjacent to the Indian Adda is a lounge set up by the Andhra Pradesh government that serves spicy Andhra delicacies. This year, of course, you have N. Chandrababu Naidu in person. Both the Indian hospitality spots are located at the iconic Cafe Schneider. (At one time, it was a good spot to wolf down hot pizza, cake and hot chocolate; now, of course, we have taken over!)
Yesteryear’s hot spot
Next to Cafe Schneider is the Central Sporthotel. For a long time this was occupied by Indian guests at Davos and locals used to refer to it as the “Indian hotel” for one week every January; now, of course, we are scattered all over Davos.
The Piano Bar is where we used to converge every night to indulge in a desi version of karaoke: singing Bollywood numbers, mostly old ones.
The best way to get around is to morph into an aam aadmi—use the free shuttle service which commences at 6 am and runs until midnight. Driven by locals, it is one of the best places to network with your co-passengers, some of whom could be global celebrities. It has four routes—red, yellow, blue and black—and all of them converge at the Congress Centre, nucleus of the World Economic Forum (WEF). But, frankly the best (or at least the fastest) way to get round Davos is on foot. Take care though to dress in layers, besides donning a muffler, cap (don’t worry about your hair getting messed up), gloves, good rubber-soled shoes with shoe grips and a heavy woollen overcoat.
The WEF has pioneered the concept of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution—essentially a hub for global, multi-stakeholder cooperation to develop policy framework to spread the benefits of science and technology. The first such centre came up in San Francisco. Now the WEF is looking to expand it to four centres; and what do you know? India will be one of them—the formal announcement is to be made soon.
Ajay Khanna is chief, strategic and public affairs, Jubilant Bhartia group, and vice-chair, WEF regional strategy group for South Asia. Views are personal.
The promoters of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, and Jubilant Bhartia group are closely related. There are, however, no promoter cross-holdings.
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