Perhaps nothing sums up the mood on the ground here at the World Economic Forum better than a pithy comment by one leading industrialist as we walked through the Congress centre. “Iss baari thanda pada hain”, was his pithy comment when I asked the Davos veteran about how things are here this time around.
For a moment, I thought he was joking about the warm sunlight making many delegates sweat under their warm suits, given the abiding image of Davos is that of the winter time snow of the Swiss Alps. Sensing my consternation, he was quick to clarify: “Russia nahin hain, Chinese bhi nahin. Cannes bhi chal raha hain. Timing galat hai.” (Translation: Russia is not there, China too isn't here, and on top of that, Cannes is going on. Wrong time for WEF).
He could have well been talking about every major global economic issue.
The consequences of Russia’s exit from the global economic order are palpable on the energy security of Europe, and regardless of what anyone may say, the Saudis and other oil producing nations aren’t going to stop smiling anytime soon.
China’s strategy of Covid-zero has come at a cost–extracting a brutal price from its citizens and bitten off a big chunk from the just-in-time supply chains that kept the global economy running.
And who would blame some among the global elite for choosing the red carpet of Cannes as the must-attend event of the season, given that it is back in full glory after two years of being disrupted by the pandemic.
And while delegates from Russia and China are a scarce sight here, the Indians are enjoying their time in the spring-time here. India is making quite a splash at Davos and the government-sponsored lounge has become a hotspot for chai and samosa. Davos folklore suggests that the samosas were a particular favourite of Mukesh Ambani during one of his Davos visits.
Indian government ministers Piyush Goyal and Hardeep Singh Puri are sparing no effort here to hard sell India, with dozens of back-to-back meetings with industry bosses and government leaders, leading lights of global business tend to nod in agreement with the potential that India presents as companies look to have an option to China.
Speaking on the issues, Deloitte CEO Punit Renjen said it is important India for India to step up and seize the moment as global supply chains realign from a ‘just-in-time’ to ‘just-in-case.
“China is going to be a potent competitor. I am not going to downplay that. But I think, India can compete,” is what the Rohtak, Haryana born global business leader had to say on the subject.
And that is message that resonates in other conversations that can be summed up as: India has the opportunity to be an alternative to China in the medium to long term, but that needs some more heavy-lifting by all participants in the India growth story.
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