One of the downsides of inching towards the centrestage is that you get less and less space to hide your unflattering side. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, India may be concerned about awkward questions that may pop up about its economy — its relative lack of social inclusion, its tickertape tale of corruption, socialist-era ghosts still rattling in the closet — but the truth is that it still has a way to go to be caught under the heavy spotlights over the next five days. Making a pitch by distributing a flyer titled 'India Inclusive: Consolidation Phase' among the 115-odd CEOs from India, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) hopes to prepare them for some 'uncomfortable' queries. The 'India Inclusive' campaign is also a means to get the eyeballs. But offence is the best form of defence and what matters to global players and shoppers isn't only being comforted by good intentions, but also to be wowed by the wares on the table.
Social inclusiveness is something that India has to get done in India and sell at home. Over near the Alps it's the Chinese who are getting the heavy interest. 'The future of Chinese enterprise', 'China's impact on global trade and growth', 'Reshaping the US economy' (yes, this is a session led by a senior fellow of the Chinese Social Academy) are drawing the 2,500-odd crowd. The session on 'New realities of modern China' has received interest from double the number of official attendees. No equivalent dim sum and noodles table at the Chinese stall, the way India has a chit-chat room, 'India Adda', set up in Davos.
But in terms of what it has to offer, India is not China yet. But there is a need to put real nuts and bolts on the table in a global talking heads forum like Davos. Having a Dilli Haat branch in Switzerland is sweet, but it will be just eye candy unless we start getting more focused. Everybody loves India. But it's time to bring out the shoulder-padded jackets, not the tray of samosas and masala chais.