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From Mahatma Gandhi to Harry Potter, PM Modi’s inaugural speech made him star attraction at Davos

The star of the WEF meeting was clearly PM Modi, presenting India as a land of ‘unprecedented opportunities for higher returns on investments’ to leaders attending the world’s biggest networking platform.

Davos Summit 2018 Updated: Jan 23, 2018 23:50 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times, Davos
Davos‬‬,India‬,Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 annual meeting, on Tuesday. (AFP Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi cited the Upanishads, big data, artificial intelligence, Twitter, Google, Mahatma Gandhi, Osama bin Laden and Harry Potter to urge more than 1,000 delegates at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos on Tuesday to work together to address humanity’s three biggest threats — climate change, terrorism and inclusive globalisation.

The first Indian Prime Minister to give the inaugural speech at the forum invited global businesses to “invest, travel, work, manufacture, export products”, as he reaffirmed his government’s commitment to end the “licence raj” in the country.

His speech focused on positioning India as a “humanising and harmonising force in an increasingly fractured world”.

The buzz created is palpable. “Its India year in Davos, everyone wants to know how digitisation and innovation is taking India forward,” said Ana Clara Costa from Sao Paulo, her fourth consecutive WEF annual summit.

Craig Newmark, the San Francisco-based founder of Craiglist, is not interested in the India story, though. “I’m not interested in politics, I’ll go for sessions on transparency, fake news and media,” he said.

It’s not officially “India Year in Davos”, but certainly seems like it, with US President Donald Trump’s proclivity for the unexpected being the only thing threatening to upstage Modi at an event that is being covered by around 500 journalists.

What investors and businesses heard about India at Davos
  • Electronics market to reach $400 billion by 2025
  • Gaming market to reach $801 million by 2022
  • IoT market to reach $9 billion by 2020
  • Speciality chemical market to reach $70 billion by 2020
  • Dairy industry to double to $140 billion by 2020
  • Food and retail to touch $482 billion by 2020
  • Household consumption of processed food to treble to $403 billion by 2030
  • Auto market to touch $300 billion by 2026, with exports growing five-fold
  • Auto component after segment to reach $32 billion by 2026
  • World’s largest generic drug and vaccine producer, with vaccines exported to 150 countries.
  • More than 500 active pharmaceutical ingredients manufactured in India
  • Pharma exports grew by 11.9% for decade ending 2015-16
  • In the electronics sector, generation and T&D equipment to reach $100 billionSource

Bollywood stars, costumed waiters, women in flowing silks, hot samosas and chai turned the inaugural event into an India-themed party with all the trappings of a Hindi blockbuster shot in Switzerland.

Shah Rukh Khan received a Crystal Award for his work for children and acid attack victims with two other celebrities — Cate Blanchett for human rights and Sir Elton John for his work for people living with HIV.

But the star of the event was clearly Modi, presenting India as a land of “unprecedented opportunities for higher returns on investments” to leaders attending the world’s biggest networking platform.

India hosted a welcome dinner in Davos for the first time, which included popular street foods such as dhokla, chaat, pav bhaji, samosa, lamb mince, karwari prawns and fish fry.

While 30 chefs were flown in from Taj with 1,000kg of spices, the catering staff hired locally turned up in colourful turbans and Rajasthani jackets — much like extras in a Mira Nair film.

Yoga gurus Bhardwaj Tripathi and Amir Prafulbhai Vyas added to the mystic quotient in their flowing white robes in a roomful of delegates in sharp suits. The two from Ramdev’s University of Patanjali in Haridwar will run 45-minute yoga sessions twice a day at the India Investment Centre till January 26.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 23:27 IST