• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print

Pranjal Sharma

Pranjal Sharma has been analysing, commenting and writing on economic and development policy in India for 25 years. He has worked in print, TV and digital media in leadership positions and guided teams to interpret economic change and India’s engagement with the world

More From The Author >>
BW Businessworld

Decades Of Davos For An Inclusive World

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, India is expected to play a key role and its views on an inclusive approach to growth will resonate at WEF annual meeting this year, writes Pranjal Sharma

Photo Credit :


In 2010 when I attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos for the first time, I could participate in several milestone gatherings. Davos celebrated 50 years in 2020 and I have found it more immense, inclusive and innovative with each passing year. As the first post covid-19 January meeting begins, it is time to reflect on how the changes in Davos have reflected the changes around the world.  

Over the decades, WEF has taken essential steps in making the Davos meeting more inclusive. From a largely global CEO gathering, WEF has painstakingly evolved into a platform of diversity. Davos welcomes and showcases leadership in all categories of business, society, innovation and politics.  

It has remained famously neutral to most issues while staying committed to an open, democratic world. 

Some of the issues championed by Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab have reverberated among heads of state and business leaders across the world. The importance of the fourth industrial revolution has been placed centre stage by Prof Schwab at Davos since 2015. 

He anticipated the rapid increase in the pace of tech innovation. Davos spotlighted the global shifts of the fourth industrial revolution and its impact not just on the tech creators but also on billions of users.  

Let me share a few lines from my Davos column for BW from 2014.  

"Welcome to the annual corporate Kumbh mela, "I said to a technology CEO at the Zurich terminal. I referring to the religious event in India where millions gather to wash away their sins."

But the CEO was not amused with my analogy. "Davos is actually a multi-stakeholder summit. It is not just for corporates," he said.
Then I realised how true it was. No longer is this summit about deal-making alone. Yes, networking is still a key activity. However, a significant number of civil society and development organisations participate now.

The Global Agenda Outlook for 2013 presented by the World Economic Forum highlights the poor reputation of capitalism. Most of those surveyed were neutral or negative about the future of capitalism.

Capitalism has to become democratic to survive. Only when it embraces the values of an egalitarian society will capitalism regain respect. 

Ideas of the great reset for the world were seeded by Schwab at Davos. Concepts of ESG and SDGs are a culmination of the realisation that chasing profits can be the sole goal of businesses. Debates and discussions on such issues among global leaders have been accelerated at Davos.  

Over the years WEF has taken its meetings to all the important regions in the world. WEF holds summits in South Asia, Gulf Region, Latin America, East Asia and Africa. Several communities have been consistently promoted and grown. Groups of 20-something global shapers, scientists and unicorn founders find ample opportunity to collaborate and share ideas and experiences.  

India has been an enthusiastic participant at Davos for over since the friendship struck between the late Rahul Bajaj and Prof Schwab about four decades ago. Bajaj persuaded and brought increasing cohorts of business leaders and policymakers to Davos. He also helped create the Indian Economic Summit by WEF in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry.  

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended Davos in 2018, this is what I wrote for BW. 

India is back in favour among global investors as Modi is throwing numbers at them that are difficult to argue with. A strong delegation of six ministers, two Chief Ministers (Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh) and over 100 Indian CEOs are contributing to India’s comeback story at Davos. The members of the business delegation led by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) are also busy as ambassadors of India’s economic might. 

The entire branding and imaging are being managed by Invest India, the national investment promotion and facilitation agency of India which is the first point of contact for foreign investors. Invest India has been set up as a non-profit agency. 

The economic reforms driven by the government since 2014 are now bearing results that CEOs are eager to understand.

Today, India is in an even stronger position. It is an island of economic and political stability in an ocean of turbulence. At Davos this year, India will be aligned to the theme of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, “Cooperation in a Fragmented World.” This is similar to the theme of India’s G20 Presidency “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth, One Family, One Future” which closely ties with Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE).

A Covid-battered and war-torn world is likely to struggle for the next few years. India is expected to play a key role and its views on an inclusive approach to growth will resonate at WEF annual meeting this year. The meeting this year should aim to heal a fractured world.  

Tags assigned to this article: