There was a palpable excitement in the air as the curtain was raised on the 7th Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit, projected as the Davos of the East, amidst much fanfare and unprecedented security for the summit which took place during 11th to 13th January 2015 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
The biennial summit, conceptualized 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 summit had many firsts to its credit. To begin with, it was the first time that the Indian Prime Minister graced the occasion by his presence. The last six editions were presided by Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. It was also 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, rubbed shoulders and exchanged views on pressing global issues like climate change, health and environment with chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies and domestic corporates.
This year’s event saw eight countries, Canada, Japan, China, Australia, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa and the U.S. partnering with the State. With aggressive campaigning, there was participation from over 2,000 companies, two million-plus visitors and over 2,500 international delegates. Interestingly, in a major bid to improve bilateral ties with India, and specifically with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India, the US, which had denied Narendra Modi a visa for years, sent the largest-ever US business delegation for the event.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to make India the ‘easiest’ place to do business with a stable policy and tax regime and also promised “truly unlimited” development across sectors and regions.
Addressing global leaders, Narendra Modi said, “India offers you 3Ds – Democracy, Demography and Demand and this is what you are looking for. You will not find all of them (3D’s) together at any other destination of world. We have a large number of hands to work and even a larger number of dreams to be realized.”
Vibrant Gujarat Summits (VGS) have always seen huge investment commitments to the tune of billions of dollars by business leaders from India and abroad. As many as 31 MoUs were inked on the inauguration day. Taking the lead, billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani said Reliance Industries would invest Rs 1 lakh crore over the next 12-18 months across businesses.
Adani group signed a MoU for setting up a solar park in Gujarat in partnership with US-based SunEdison at an investment of USD four billion (about Rs 25,000 crore), while creating 20,000 jobs. They also signed an agreement with Australian energy major Woodside. While Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla also announced Rs 20,000 crore investments in the state in cement and other businesses.
Among foreign companies, Australian mining giant Rio Tinto’s CEO Sam Walsh said the group would add 30,000 jobs in diamond cutting industry in Gujarat, adding that entire Australia is looking forward to the state as a promising business destination. Japanese auto major Suzuki’s Chairman Osamu Suzuki said its new car manufacturing unit in Gujarat, being set up at an investment of Rs 4,000 crore, will be ready by 2017.
Diversified Kalyani Group also said it will invest Rs 600 crore for upgradation and overhaul of Armoured Fighting Vehicles unit at Dholera, Gujarat, while Welspun Renewables announced an investment of Rs 8,300 crore to set up about 1,000 MW solar and wind capacities in the state. In the last six of these summits, the States signed MoUs worth Rs. 48 lakh crore. However, the investment generated has been way below the intention expressed in these summits.
Showering fulsome praise on Narendra Modi and on Gujarat, Kerry said that “Gujarat has become synonymous with possibilities, change and energy”.