CEO Diary | We need to embrace new ideas, thinkers

CEO Diary | We need to embrace new ideas, thinkers

I need a new suit. My jacket pockets just aren’t large enough to contain the business cards I collect during a meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). But take a look to the names and the companies on my new pack of cards. It’s interesting stuff.

The world is coming to New Delhi this week—a recognition of India’s status for sure, but also a recognition of how fast global business is changing. There are the names of companies here which simply did not exist 10 years ago, and now they are coming to WEF, challenging the accepted order.

It’s great to see this.

One thing’s for sure. India is becoming a critical geography for an increasing number of global companies including my own.

BT Group Plc. now employs 26,000 people directly and indirectly in India. If my friends at Intel Corp. don’t mind me borrowing and bending their marketing slogan, it’s true to say that BT now has “India inside". India has become a critical component of our success. And it’s clear from my early meetings that we are far from being alone.

Alongside the young companies now participating in WEF are more young people. That’s not just refreshing, it is critical to the future of WEF that it embraces new ideas, and welcomes the generation of business thinkers who are rewriting the rules of the game.

Wealth generation and commerce will increasingly be shaped by individuals with great ideas. Industrial muscle and glorious tradition will no longer be sufficient defence against the irresistible tides of innovation and change which global communications and collaboration have unleashed.

For a business leader eager to absorb the latest thinking, there’s no better place to be in the world right now than New Delhi.

Returning to India, I am struck again by the pace of urbanization. It is a challenge that’s on the formal WEF agenda for debate on Monday, but friends and colleagues I have been talking to aren’t prepared to wait. It’s a critical issue.

The move from countryside to town, which has taken generations in other parts of the world, is happening much faster here, and it clearly requires a new approach. This is a complex problem, but one in which technology must have an important part to play.

In the old world, labour needed to travel to where the work was located. But in the new world lies the opportunity to bring productive work to the people wherever they happen to be. One of the massive liberations of modern communications is the ability to harness talent from any location and bring it into the process of wealth creation. Nowhere is that opportunity as great as it is here in India.

Ben Verwaayen is CEO of BT Group Plc. He will be writing an exclusive column 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 To read his walk-up to WEF go to