There was a time when having a Davos hangover was something to celebrate. Basically, it meant that, despite a desperate hunt for Alka Seltzers, you were a member of one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet, a global elite of wealthy, powerful men and women who gather every year at a tiny Alpine ski resort to attend the five-day gabfest called the World Economic Forum. In between the high-powered sessions, where politicians, business leaders, economists and sundry celebrities debate the burning topics of the day, there are invitation-only parties, musical events and grand balls hosted by giant corporations or individual countries where Champagne and caviar are secondary to the opportunity to network and exchange visiting cards with what one pink paper described as the ‘Masters of the Universe’.
Till recently, it was every businessman’s dream destination. The late Samuel Huntington even coined a phrase; ‘The Davos Man’. Davos used to come way behind St Moritz, Gstaad or nearby Klosters as a place to enjoy an apres-ski evening. That changed, thanks to Klaus Schwab, the German economist who founded the World Economic Forum which, by the 1990s, had became a magnet for the rich and powerful. India came late to the Davos party, with barely a handful of businessmen like Rahul Bajaj, Anand Mahindra and Pawan Munjal being regulars for any length of time. It was in 2005, with economic reforms having added a turbo-charger to the Hindu rate of growth, that the Indian contingent at Davos acquired numbers and clout. Come the third week of January (this year, the dates are 23-27), and India Inc would pack their Louis Vuitton suitcases, Burberry overcoats, the more adventurous would add skis, and head for Zurich to negotiate the tricky climb through twisting, frozen, mountainous roads to Davos.
There, they would mingle with the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Bono, Paul Coelho, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, all regulars, along with an assortment of former and serving presidents and prime ministers, heads of global financial institutions, corporate fat cats, IT czars and the biggest collection of billionaires to be found anywhere on the planet. There was nothing more ego-boosting than to be in Davos, and mind you, there are lots of egos that get boosted during those five days with journalists having joined in the jamboree to capture the mood of the global power elite. It’s actually quite comical