Summary of Columbia’s India Business Conference

Titled India: Growing at the Speed of Thought, this year’s India Business Conference at Columbia University looked to the unbridled growth and change that India has experienced over the last 15 years since economic liberalization spread throughout much of the country. The conference brought in some major names within their respective fields and also appeared to have drawn an attendance of over 500 current, future and past professionals all interested in learning about how they could capitalize on India’s rapid growth. The organizers also are proud to note that the conference itself sold out for the 2nd straight year.Columbia Business School Conference 2008

While the majority of the conference focused on major industry players and big business, there were some aspects of the conference overall that were relevant to social entrepreneurship and ThinkChange India.

Possibly the most relevant event of the day was the breakout panel on entrpreneurship, which featured Premal Shah: President of Kiva.org, as one of the panelists. While the panel itself was primarily concerned with entrepreneurship generally, it was still great to see a social entrpreneur share the limelight.

One keynote speaker, Dr. Rajiv Lall, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), spoke about the differences between China and India and the ongoing problems that India will face as it struggles to develop. He highlighted the fact that China currently spend 8X as much on infrastructure than India does. He also emphasized that out of a list of the 50 most innovative companies in the world, India only had 2.

Giving a more public sector perspective, the Honorable Shri Yashwant Sinha, Member of Parliament and Former Finance/External Affairs Minister of India, in his keynote spoke to the need for India to complete the second generation of liberalization reforms and to begin the implementation of the third generation. Taking a traditional approach to development, Shri Sinha described the second generation to include primarily economic reforms, while the third generation focused on administrative and judicial ones.

The conference also had more focused panels on a variety of topics ranging from Private Equity to Bollywood. All in all, the conference was a well run, well attended success for the organizers. While much of the material was beyond the scope of this blog, it was nevertheless an interesting and worthwhile experience.

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