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Monday, April 22, 2024

India’s Success Story Took Centre Stage At Davos

The annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the picturesque Swiss ski resort of Davos stands out as an unparalleled congregation of global influence. With a participation of over 60 heads of state this year, representatives from diverse sectors such as business, government, civil society, academia, and media convene annually. Together, they collaboratively strategize on deciphering the imminent shifts in the global economic terrain and chart a course to steer it in the optimal direction.

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By: Dipak Kurmi

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The annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the picturesque Swiss ski resort of Davos stands out as an unparalleled congregation of global influence. With a participation of over 60 heads of state this year, representatives from diverse sectors such as business, government, civil society, academia, and media convene annually. Together, they collaboratively strategize on deciphering the imminent shifts in the global economic terrain and chart a course to steer it in the optimal direction.

Steering clear of the customary worries surrounding government regulations, taxation, and trade dynamics, this year’s assembly of delegates emphasized a shift towards prioritizing women’s health as a crucial factor in the pursuit of prosperity. According to analyses conducted by the renowned global consultancy McKinsey, a strategic emphasis on empowering women and safeguarding their well-being has the potential to contribute a staggering trillion dollars to the global economy on an annual basis by the year 2040.

In the span of the last two centuries, spanning from 1800 to 2018, there has been a remarkable surge in global life expectancy, ascending from a mere 30 years to a commendable 73. Nevertheless, delving deeper into the statistics unveils a significant disparity: women, on average, endure 25% more of their lives in a state of poor health, totaling nine years. This health discrepancy not only hampers their effectiveness in domestic, professional, and communal spheres but also diminishes their earning potential. Bridging this gap holds the promise of lifting more women out of poverty, empowering them to secure better provisions for themselves and their families. The ensuing benefits encompass a ripple effect, offering increased opportunities for the business landscape.

In a noteworthy development, the traditionally divergent concerns of civil society – centered on health, equity, and inclusivity – and business entities seem to be finding common ground. A pivotal insight from this year’s discussions is the acknowledgment of the imperative to place a special emphasis on India. Undergoing a rapid transformation, the country has positioned itself as the world’s fastest-growing major economy. Policymakers are forward-looking, aspiring to shape a domain characterized by sustainable, inclusive growth and opportunities. McKinsey, in collaboration with some of India’s influential thought leaders, has actively engaged in deciphering how to harmonize priorities for steering growth in the nation over the next quarter-century.

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Nandan Nilekani, one of the founding figures behind Infosys and presently serving as its non-executive chairman, imparts a crucial message to entrepreneurs and leaders globally: “Harness technology in a manner that enhances the well-being of people.” In his perspective, striking a balance between the public and private sectors is essential. While markets play a pivotal role in facilitating the integration of digital technology, certain aspects should be treated as public infrastructure. “If a billion people can benefit from something, that’s a true advantage. A billion individuals can access education, improved healthcare, and career transitions through technology,” he emphasized. Presently, India is navigating a transformative period spanning the last decade and the forthcoming years, where we anticipate witnessing a multitude of innovative ways in which digital technology will be employed for the greater public good.

Nandan Nilekani not only envisions the future but also delineates the rapid acceleration of growth within the IT services sector. Surpassing a significant milestone, it took three decades for the industry to attain $100 billion in revenue. The subsequent $100 billion materialized within a decade, and the anticipation is that the third $100 billion milestone will be achieved in a remarkably compressed timeframe of three to four years. Reflecting on employment trends, the industry’s workforce burgeoned from inception to 4.5 million employees over 40 years. Projections now indicate a substantial leap, with expectations reaching nine to 10 million individuals employed within the sector in the next decade. Nilekani’s foresight is particularly bold given the contemporary landscape where leading IT firms are downsizing and exercising caution in campus recruitment due to the increasing automation of tasks through artificial intelligence.

In McKinsey’s exploration of the trajectory of the Indian economy, another influential figure they engaged with is GV Prasad, the co-chairman and managing director of the renowned Indian pharmaceutical multinational, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. Prasad’s driving force stems from a profound belief in the transformative potential of science and technology to innovate, combat diseases, and enhance overall human health and well-being. Reflecting on the historical narrative and peering into the future, he emphasized that while the Indian pharmaceutical industry has excelled in developing generic products, there’s a pivotal need for an exponential surge in expertise if the aim is to pioneer innovation and introduce novel therapies, including biology-based medicines such as antibodies, as well as groundbreaking cell and gene therapies, to the Indian landscape.

Drawing a crucial distinction between the software services sector and the pharmaceutical industry, GV Prasad outlined a notable evolution in government involvement. In the case of the former, a pivotal shift occurred when Manmohan Singh assumed the role of Finance Minister. The government’s successful strategy involved maintaining a hands-off approach, allowing the industry to progress without the constraints of the erstwhile license permit raj system. However, Prasad advocates for a different role for regulators in the pharmaceutical sector. Rather than staying on the sidelines, he envisions them as enablers, providing support to the industry in shaping its clinical development pathways and navigating the complexities of bringing innovation to patients in India.

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Emphasizing the need for regulatory guidance on effective innovation, he notes that, presently, companies often turn to the United States Food and Drug Administration or European agencies for such direction in drug development. Furthermore, Prasad highlights the necessity to augment funding for clinical development, urging investors to grasp the intricacies of the entire investment cycle involved in cultivating an innovative pipeline. Recognizing the inherent risks, he underscores the importance of investors exercising patience and acquiring a profound understanding of the industry to effectively finance its sustainable development into the future.

While Davos this year marked new frontiers by spotlighting concerns for women’s health and acknowledging India’s rising success, it also offered conventional insights. A paramount takeaway is the imperative for businesses to embrace sustainability, steering clear of an extensive carbon footprint that obstructs the path to achieving net-zero emissions. Companies at the forefront, strategically repositioning themselves ahead of competitors – illustrated by the transformation of steel mills from fossil fuel-driven blast furnaces to electric arc furnaces powered by green technology – are poised to emerge as the frontrunners in this transformative journey.

In addition, companies are urged to harness the transformative power of generative artificial intelligence, a rapidly evolving technology that holds the potential to reshape various functions including sales, marketing, customer operations, and software development. Those adept at leveraging this innovation stand to unlock trillions of dollars in value across a spectrum of sectors, ranging from financial services to life sciences. Thus, this year’s World Economic Forum gathering transcended being merely a forum for business leaders; it served as a platform that generated novel ideas and perspectives amidst the scenic backdrop of a Swiss resort. (The writer can be reached at dipaknewslive@gmail.com)

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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