After a 27-year long alliance, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have parted ways on organising the India Economic Summit, fuelling many theories on the reason. Both the organisations, however, sought to play down the development, saying it was a natural evolution for the Davos-based WEF to organise its event in India as it does in other regions.
A former CII president said there were some differences between the two organisations, though he did not elaborate on the divergent views and refused to go on record. Other industry players said the differences started with last year’s event organised by WEF and CII in Mumbai, which did not evoke as much interest as was expected. While the usual location for the India Economic Summit was Delhi, last year it was moved to Mumbai.
Ahead of last year’s India Economic Summit, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF and CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee had told Business Standard that the change of location was a move to emphasise the importance of Indian states, as well. But the argument seems to have lost ground as the summit, with a different name, has been brought back to the National Capital Region.
This year, the three-day summit, to be rechristened the World Economic Forum on India, is scheduled to take place in Gurgaon beginning November 6. The theme of the summit would be ‘From Deliberation to Transformation’.
The India Economic Summit had been organised in New Delhi for 26 years in a row, which made it an event that attracted the maximum number of corporate eyeballs as well as the best of policymakers and thinkers from around the globe.
However, people in the know said that the Mumbai event did not meet the standards set by the earlier meets in New Delhi.
Not reading much into WEF going alone in India, Banerjee said, “We still work in association with the WEF on various issues like migration and agriculture. WEF organises regional conferences in various parts of the world like Africa and Latin America. The same concept is now being brought to India.”
A national council member of CII also said the split was on the anvil and an internal dialogue was on for some time. “They (WEF) tested waters with CII and then wanted to be independent,” he said. When asked whether the WEF India event, India Economic Summit, had become the biggest corporate and industry event in the country, CII’s director general disagreed, saying the CII annual general meeting was a bigger event. At the same time, he maintained CII will continue its partnership at the Davos summit of the WEF.
“We have been discussing the situation with the WEF since the last India Economic Summit,” he added, when asked if CII was aware of these developments. Sushant Palakurthi Rao, senior director and head of Asia for WEF told Business Standard on email, “We are not going alone in India. We have a long-standing history and relationship with CII, which has evolved beyond an event-based relationship to one where we are closely linked on a number of strategic initiatives.” WEF said it is a natural evolution for the Forum to establish an office in India when one considers the increasingly important role of India, both regionally and globally. “We wish to continue deepening our engagement in India, and following our offices in Beijing, New York and Tokyo, we are now looking forward to our fourth location outside of Switzerland in India,” Rao wrote.