* Vibrant Gujarat Summit attracts unprecedented interest this year
There’s palpable excitement in the air as the curtain rises on the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit, projected as the Davos of the East, amidst much fanfare and unprecedented security in Gandhinagar on Sunday.
The biennial summit, conceptualised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his stint as Gujarat chief minister, has morphed from a fledgling state-level conference aimed at attracting investment to an earthquake and riot-ravaged state way back in 2003, to a global networking platform with an invitee list comprising heads of states of nations across the world, political heavyweights, head honchos of the mightiest corporates in the business firmament, well-known economists and Nobel laureates.
The seventh edition of the Vibrant Gujarat summit is expected to be the mother of all state investment summits. While several states are hosting investment summits this month, including West Bengal and Rajasthan, with Madhya Pradesh having concluded its summit about a month ago, VGS is expected to raise the bar to a new level.
The summit will have many firsts to its credit. To begin with, it would be the first time that the Indian Prime Minister would have graced the occasion by his presence. The last six editions were presided by Modi as chief minister of Gujarat.
It would also be the first time that US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, along with an assortment of prime ministers, presidents and ministers of several nations, would rub shoulders and exchange views on pressing global issues like climate change, health and environment with chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies and domestic corporates.
In terms of scale, VGS 2015 is being described in hyperboles — it’s likely to be the biggest show going by the guest list, comprising the Who’s Who of the world of politics, business and academia, largest in size and grandeur and possibly the most lavish in terms of expenditure.
With eight partner countries collaborating to showcase Gujarat’s numero uno position as the ultimate investment destination and also rooting for the India growth story, VGS is expected to script a completely new growth agenda this time round. In its latest edition, Vibrant Gujarat is all set to provide a worldwide platform for knowledge sharing and social and business transformation.
The partner countries include the US, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore and South Africa.
Apart from this, representatives from 120 countries are expected to participate. The biggest delegations would be from the partner countries — 210 from UK, 170 from Japan, 160 from Australia, over 100 delegates each from Holland and Singapore, 55 from Canada and over 50 from South Africa.
Interestingly, in a major bid to improve bilateral ties with India, and specifically with Modi as PM, the US, which had denied Modi a visa for years, is sending the largest-ever US business delegation for the event.
Led by John Kerry, the delegation would have top business leaders of the US, including MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, Standard Chartered CEO Asia and group ED Jaspal Bindra, Group Executive and Chief Development Officer of Peabody Energy Chris Hagedorn and CEO and chairman of Emerson Electric David Farr.
Other top notch captains of industry who have confirmed participation include the likes of Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao (UK), CEO of RasGas Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi (Qatar), CEO of Rio Tinto Sam Walsh (Australia), Chairman and CEO of Suzuki Motor Corporation Osamu Suzuki (Japan) and CEO of China Light and Power Richard Lancaster (Hong Kong).
Though not a partner country, China, too, is sending a contingent of over 100 delegates, while 50 each from Russia, France and Denmark and 40 each from Sweden and UAE have confirmed participation.
Interestingly, MOUs and intentions of investments are likely to be given a complete go by this time in a bid to project Gujarat as a global stage. It may be recalled that in 2011, memorandums of understanding for a staggering R20 lakh crore were signed. In 2013, the Gujarat government said it had similar agreements of interest for R10 lakh crore. According to PM Modi, the summit, “that had started as a business meet has today metamorphosed into an international knowledge sharing platform. The Vibrant Gujarat Summit is not only a global event but also a globally sought- after event”.