More Smiles Per Capita = India

Posted on November 13, 2011 by 2 Comments

I am here in Mumbai, India – an incredible city of vibrant and hard-working people. I am participating in the World Economic Forum’s India Summit, and spending time with our India people, clients and influentials. India is often characterized as a place of complexity and contradiction. A place of confidence and entrepreneurial spirit. And a place challenged to quickly improve the opportunity for its people by elevating the economy to a more interconnected, inclusive, stable  growth path as it finds its place on the world stage. 

The opening Plenary Session at WEF “India In the New Global Reality,” explored how India will shape its global leadership role in a world faced with new, complex realities.  Panelist Mukesh Ambani (Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries)  aptly pointed out that India is often described as a land of problems. But that he, instead, views it as a land of a billion opportunities.  As do I.

Perhaps the most poignant and important frame for the discussion was the comment made by panelist Ben J. Verwaagen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent Frankce, who noted that India has the highest number of smiles per capita. And the greatest capacity to generate an entrepreneurial spirit.  His comment highlighted the attitude and adoptive response that’s been so clear to me on my trips to India, including my visit yesterday to Dharavi, and as another  example the incredible public laundry system (pictured below) called Dhobi in central Mumbai.











An immense number of skills reside among the poor and I agree we must unleash those skills and ambitions. Allow them to contribute as they wish to do, and so clearly will.  By empowering its population, 150 million people in India have risen out of poverty. With 220 million young Indians soon to join the workforce, it’s imperative that the journey continues with optimism and a spirit of partnership. I am looking forward to hearing more about @Davos, #WEF and #GlobalShapers who are representative of the great talent within India’s youth population.  

I noticed that some of my fellow WEF participants voiced a degree of disappointment that there was not enough enlightened perspective and dialogue in this morning’s discussion to tackle the very real and difficult reforms that will be required to achieve sustained prosperity.  I agree and I am interested myself to see how those tough challenges are addressed throughout this forum.  But as an unfettered optimist, I choose to lead with the positive. As he was wrapping up the discussion, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Director, WEF said, “There are so many opportunities in India. If I were a young entrepreneur, I would come to India.”  Mr. Schwab: I couldn’t agree with you more.

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Nancy on November 14, 2011

I admire the way Indian economy has progressed over the years and how it is expanding in different areas and industries. I too see India as a land of a million opportunities.

Supriya Venkat on November 17, 2011

The Ambanis have received a ton of flak over the years (and IMO deservedly so) for their over-the-top lifestyle bordering on the obscene — Mukesh’s home in Mumbai has 27 floors, multiple helipads, swimming pools, blow-your-mind opulence, all surrounded by gut-wrenching poverty and not too far from the Dharavi slums, which i recall passing by when taking the public trains in India as a child and holding my nose to not gag from the stench. In fact, Mukesh Ambani was called to task earlier this year by the veteran and respected billionaire Indian industrialist Ratan Tata:

For all the progress my other homeland has made over the last couple of decades, far, far too many things have remained unchanged…especially for the urban poor. Clearly, those are facts hard for the Ambanis to spot when looking down from the 27th floor!

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