<p>The shift out of New Delhi, for the first time in 27 years, is meant to highlight the role of the states.
It houses the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. It’s the ‘maximum city’ and the ‘city of dreams’. Welcome to Mumbai, the city from where the Quit India Movement was launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942; where India’s first cricket club — the Orient — was founded in 1848 and its first rail tracks laid; a place where one’s idea of personal space is no one standing on his or her toes. You may hate it or love it, but can’t ignore it. That is Mumbai for you.
This year, India’s financial hub Mumbai plays host to the 27th edition of the India Economic Summit. Organised jointly by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the summit has been held in New Delhi for the past 26 years. Around 800 participants from 40 nations across the globe will be participating.
The organisers believe that Indian states also play an important role in the development of the country, and that it is time to showcase them to the world. They had proposals from several states, and finally, Mumbai was chosen. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, WEF, explains, “The decision to host the India Economic Summit for the first time outside of New Delhi is strongly linked to our strategic intent to foster a stronger linkage with the states of India. States play a critical role in ensuring the success of implementation of national policies. In this regard, we have first and foremost come to the state of Maharashtra, one of India’s economically most important states, which is also home to the country’s financial and commercial capital, Mumbai.”
CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee shares this view and reiterates that Maharashtra was chosen because it is one of the most progressive states in terms of leadership and industry. Mumbai was the natural choice, being the capital of the state and the centre of the Indian financial services industry, Banerjee adds.
India Inc. endorses the choice of the city as the destination for the Summit. Niranjan Hiranandani, managing director, Hiranandani Constructions, says, “Mumbai has been the commercial and financial capital of the country for a long time. Regulators such as RBI and Sebi and financial institutions such as UTI, SBI and LIC have their headquarters here. Industrialists such as Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata and Kumar Mangalam Birla are based here. I think business and trade started here and still leads in the country.”
Going a step ahead, Adi Godrej, chairman of the Godrej group and co-chair of the summit, believes that the move will help put Mumbai on the world map more effectively, as innumerable global investors and corporates will come for the event. “It will help the Maharashtra government to showcase the city and state to all potential investors,” he says.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region contributes 40 per cent of Maharashtra’s Gross State Domestic Product, and Maharashtra in turn contributes 14.7 per cent of India’s GDP. D K Joshi, principal economist at Crisil, says, “Mumbai plays a critical role in the Indian economy. Being the financial capital, this city has been given the opportunity to be the venue of the Summit.”
Rahul Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto, adds, “I think that this year Mumbai was chosen because the World Economic Forum wanted a change. I believe that people who had been coming to Delhi for the past Summits wanted a change. When change had to happen, India’s financial capital Mumbai was naturally chosen.” Describing it as a positive change, he believes that this move may help the country to get more FDI to India and enable Indian companies to expand globally.
Mumbai’s non-governmental organisations have also welcomed the move to choose the city as the venue for the Summit. Sunil Saberwal, CEO of Mumbai First, an NGO working to transform Mumbai into a world-class city, says, “Mumbai is the financial capital of the country. Major corporates including the Tatas, Reliance, Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej, Mittals and Jindal are located in Mumbai. Sixty per cent of all international transactions are conducted in Mumbai. The city also makes a major contribution to the Central government’s tax revenue. It is also a hub of foreign business heads, including those of banks and financial institutions. The presence of the Bollywood film industry and the stock market also makes it a prominent location in India.”
Saberwal adds that Mumbai is also a better location, due to its proximity to the other major hubs of the country such as Pune and Hyderabad. He believes that Summits like this can play a major role by focussing on the viability of Mumbai as India’s financial nerve centre.
Though WEF has announced that the Summit will be held in cities other than New Delhi every alternate year, the forum is all praise for Mumbai. Schwab says, “Mumbai is not just a commercially important city, but it is equally vibrant in terms of culture, education, social development and history. So many ideas, cultures, religions and ways of life have converged on Mumbai over its history that it is a gateway not only to other parts of India, but also to the world. Like other fast growing mega cities in emerging markets, the city is characterised by immense opportunities and challenges alike.”
It is not yet clear whether Mumbai will be chosen again for the Summit, but the Forum’s officials believe that the city is a good place to initiate the change. “We felt that Maharashtra was a logical destination when we decided to move from the Centre to the states. Mumbai was chosen as it is not only the nerve centre for Indian businesses, but also the gateway to the Middle East and Africa. When we decided to change, we felt that Mumbai would be a good starting point,” sums up Sushant Palakurthi Rao, senior director and head of Asia at the World Economic Forum.