Through its National Strategy Day on India on 4 November, the World Economic Forum will bring together a multi-stakeholder group to boost economic growth and social inclusion, and drive profitable agriculture, foster youth employability, ensure access to sustainable energy, move universal financial access to universal usage and realize smarter approaches to urbanization.

The five key focus areas of the National Strategy Day on India are:

(1) Bridging the skills-opportunity mismatch

With one million Indians hitting the job market every month, India has both an opportunity, as well as a ticking time bomb, at its doorstep. This vast pool of talent is demanding economic opportunities and also holds the key for innovation and problem-solving in unprecedented ways. The rapid pace of technological change and shift in business models call for a workforce that is agile and entrepreneurial.

The World Economic Forum’s India Skills Initiative aims to help bridge the business need for talent with the demand for employment by the nation’s more than 487 million workers.

Set in a solutions space, the discussions under the Human Capital, Skills and Employment pillars will aim to invite commitments from business players to invest in human capital for greater economic competitiveness.

(2) Powering India with clean energy

India has set itself one of the most ambitious clean energy goals of any nation, with a plan to have 175 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy by 2022 of which 100 GW will come from solar energy. Coupled with this ambition is the positive news that the cost of clean energy technology and its deployment is coming down.

However, despite these cost and policy drivers, the well-known challenges of scaling clean energy investment—a combination of technological, regulatory and investment and risk-reduction bottlenecks—remain stubborn obstacles.

The World Economic Forum is facilitating a multi-stakeholder Clean Energy Alliance with support and leadership from power minister Piyush Goyal. The goal of the alliance is to structure a process of public-private cooperation designed to accelerate domestic clean energy infrastructure deployment; thereby helping to meet or exceed the government’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) target for clean energy, while also reducing the cost of implementation.

(3) Making agriculture a sustainable engine of growth

Over 50% of India’s work force is dependent on agriculture and allied sectors while contributing less than 14% to the gross domestic product (GDP). The rural economy continues to lag in terms of widening income and lifestyle gaps with urban centres. This trend, of course, means greater migration to cities, social uprooting for millions and a never-ending cycle of abject poverty and unskilled labour for many. It is more critical than ever to facilitate strategic investment in supply chain, technology and agri-based businesses to make rural economy an engine of growth. Food processing currently enjoys less than 10% share of total production, while it is 30-50% for other comparable countries.

The New Vision for Agriculture Initiative in India has been working to improve productivity and efficiency to help Indian farms reap their full potential. Through a multi-stakeholder dialogue on 4 November, the initiative aims to take the lessons from Maharashtra into other states in India.

(4) Taking financial inclusion to the next phase

It was a little over a year ago when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Jan Dhan Yojana, promising a bank account for everyone. Since then proving its worst critics wrong, the nation went on to open 10 million bank accounts in one day and continued its success. However, the action is only now getting started, and a huge opportunity exists in ensuring these bank accounts stay active.

Connecting subsidy transfer to bank accounts was one such measure. We need more technology-driven solutions that bring low-cost, secure and easy to use options to citizens for everyday banking options. The Aadhaar programme needs to be scaled up and merchants incentivized for low denomination, cashless transactions. This and a lot more will be discussed on 4 November with minister of state for finance, Jayant Sinha, and the Forum’s multi-stakeholder community.

(5) Planning for smart urbanization

With urban population set to rise to 814 million by 2050, India faces a massive urban crisis if it does not address the signals, already visible in most cities, of air pollution, heavy traffic and lack of water and sanitation. India’s 100 smart cities plan is both an acknowledgement of this huge challenge and an appeal for public-private partnerships to address urban infrastructure and service issues. Over the past year, the central government has put forth guidelines and a framework for the smart cities and also eligibility for government funds.

Since a majority of funds need to come from the private sector and to be raised by the states, it is time for the guidelines and framework to now evolve into local reforms.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Urban Development and Services initiative has been working closely with the Smart Cities initiative to bring global best practices and private-sector strength for an informed dialogue on urbanization in India.

Akanksha Khatri is community lead, India and South Asia and Global Leadership Fellow at World Economic Forum.

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