India has been on the Nasdaq for two days and, judging from the expert opinion of Indians in New York, its stock is soaring.
On Saturday, the India show, labelled IncredibleIndia@60, and abbreviated to India@60 showed up here. The 60 is a reference to the country’s 60th year of independence, and the show, according to one of its chief architects Nandan Nilekani, the co-chairman of Infosys Technologies Ltd, showcases four themes: democracy, demography, diversity, and development.
The attempt to sell India to businessmen and locals in New York, the centre of gravity of global business, comes in the wake of a similar effort at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, dubbed “India Everywhere.” Much like at Davos, the objective of the campaign here too is to sell India to the world.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram speaks at the New York Library reception during India @ 60 celebrations on Sunday
At the inaugural dinner at the New York Public Library on Sunday night, India’s finance minister P.Chidambaramsaid that while India has always had several features, such as democracy and demography, going for it, “what has changed now is the economy.” Chidambaram was, of course, talking about an economy that grew at 9.4% last year and grew at 9.3% in the quarter ended June.
The India@60 show, funded by 33 companies and eight ministries, will spend a hefty $10 million (Rs 39.5 crore) over four days. It is easy to see where the money has gone: ads hung on street lamps, a billboard on the Nasdaq Stock Market’s Times Square building, a small Taj Mahal lookalike in Bryant Park, and, food tastings and Indian fusion music at South Street Seaport in downtown Manhattan.
“This (the US) is a country that works on signals,” says Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises and president of industry lobby Confederation of Indian Industry, which has organized the event in association with various Indian ministries. “We want to present the picture of a confident nation ready to engage with the world.”
Sunday’s launch ceremony and dinner spread over two venues (including Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher hall) was attended by Charles Schumer, the senior senator from New York and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, as well as a slew of Indian ministers and CEOs.
The audience at most venues appeared to be predominantly of Indian origin. Not surprisingly then, Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor received the loudest cheers when presented to the audience at the Avery Fisher hall.
So far, most newspapers here seem to have given the event a miss with the online editions of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times didn’t have anything on the event through Monday morning and even the top listings on Google News for India@60 were all from Indian newspapers or websites.
That should change over the next few days as the event moves into its business phase. The US India CEO Forum, a group of Indian and American CEOs headed by Tata Sons Ltd chairman Ratan Tata and former JP Morgan Chase chief William Harrisonis also meeting against the backdrop of the India@60 event.
Major companies such as Cisco Inc, Citigroup, Louis Vuitton and venture capital firm KKR will host receptions for those participating in the event. Panels during the events will include historian and sociologist Ramachandra Guha, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Yale University economics professor T.N. Srinivasan, PepsiCo Inc’s CEO Indra Nooyi, Cisco’s John Chambers, Vodafone Plc’s Arun Sarin, Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, WPP Plc’s Martin Sorrell.
Meanwhile, actor and activist Shabana Azmi, who is part of a panel on women and global leadership, is also part of non governmental organization ActionAid’s efforts to lobby the UN General Assembly, which is also meeting in New York, to put food on the agenda. Food is an issue in India as well, where around 300 million people live on less than $1 a day.
Management guru C.K.Prahalad sees that as an opportunity. Speaking at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (a convention for overseas Indians) here on Sunday, he said that India had an opportunity to define a new business model, a new way of doing business, that could address the issue of poverty and serve as a template for the rest of the world.
If the country could move up the human development index ranking (calculated by an United Nations Agency) from 127 (out of 175 countries) in 2003 to 20 in 2022, and reduce its corruption perception index (based on a survey conducted by Transparency International) score from 2.7 (very corrupt) to 7 (less corrupt), its gross domestic product per capita would rise from $3000 in 2003 to $25,000 in 2022, he said. “The poor in India are ready for the journey,” he added. “Are the leaders?”