Vibrant Gujarat 2015 - When the world raised a toast to Gujarat March 2018 issue

Inside views of the Mahatma Mandir. This convention cum exhibition centre and a memorial located at sector 13, Gandhinagar was the venue of Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015

Vibrant Gujarat 2015 - When the world raised a toast to Gujarat

Following PM Narendra Modi’s rise from the state of Gujarat to global prominence, the Vibrant Gujarat Summit has also gone through a transformation – from being just another trade event to one of the most sought after global business meets. The Dollar Business presents an on-the-ground report from Gandhinagar

Sisir Pradhan | The Dollar Business

Sheer presence of world’s most prominent business heads, influential political leaders and top officials of biggest international institutions demonstrate how significant has been the rise of Vibrant Gujarat summit which reached its 7th edition in January 2015. The summit has now catapulted itself into one of the most significant and sought-after global platform where business and political issues of international importance are discussed. The bi-annual event not only heralded a change in the political career of PM Narendra Modi but also became by-far the grandest of business events in the country. Till date, the inaugural ceremony of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit is one single platform in the country where the biggest and largest of investment announcements are made. In fact, the event now draws parallel with the annual winter meeting of World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland.

In some way or the other the growth of the summit has followed Prime Minster (PM) Narendra Modi’s political career path in reaching to a stage of world prominence. PM Modi not only caught the imagination of the nation and won 2014 general election but his sheer popularity, demonstrated through formation of a union government with absolute majority in after 30 years, has forced the world to take notice of him. During the last 8 months he made foreign visits to eight countries which include Bhutan, Brazil, Nepal, Japan, USA, Myanmar, Australia and Fiji. His visits were not limited to diplomatic engagement and business meeting but he connected with the people and commanded great attention of the nation by projecting India’s soft power through his interactions with Indian Diaspora, especially in US and Australia. During the same period several heads of states of world’s most prominent countries made their visits to India. It clearly showed the eagerness and new understanding emerging in the world about India as a place to be for business.


A steady start

The seeds of Vibrant Gujarat – Global Investors’ Summit came to life on September 28, 2003. Gujarat state administration backed it with solid PR campaign and went all out to bring in together the biggest names from the world of business to stand alongside Modi and announce their future investment in the state. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time, at the first inaugural event in 2003 said, “Gujarat is a policy driven state and does not run on the whims and fancies of an individual. The talent, resilience and potential of the people are unlimited in vibrant, colourful Gujarat where there is no red tape, only red carpets and green signals and blue-chip companies.” India’s largest private sector company Reliance Industries also threw its weight behind Modi and the state of Gujarat. Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani announced that his group would invest around Rs.8,000 crore in energy and infotech industries in the state. The event wasn’t as successful as Modi would have liked to be, but it marked the emergence of Gujarat as model-state. From then there was no stopping as the summit attained new heights with each passing edition.


A platform to engage

The Vibrant Gujarat Summit, since its debut, has always incorporated many other trade events which are organised alongside the main summit in various parts of the state. This year’s edition was no exception. Vibrant Gujarat Global Trade Show was organised alongside the summit; however, it was kicked off few days earlier to the summit on 7th January and continued till 13th January. The exhibitors’ pavilion was primarily divided into 16 groups to accommodate various industries and other private and government institutions.

At business-to-business meetings all the registered participants got an opportunity to meet their prospective partners and explore investment opportunities in the state. Overall, the summit was a pleasant experience for most of the visiting business delegates. Singapore government representative Yaser Siddiqui and Polish press agency representative Wojciech Krzyczkowski, while talking to The Dollar Business, said that the summit gave them a chance to explore the opportunities for future partnerships with business fraternity in India and also with the state government.

Vibrant Gujarat Summit-TheDollarBusiness

Bharat Is back!

The success of the summit created a solid foundation for Modi’s political campaign of projecting not just Gujarat but also India as the most preferred destination for investment. Although comparing Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit with Davos meet sounds as far-fetched as Modi’s claim of transforming India’s economy from current $2 trillion to $20 trillion economy, without a timeline of course. But the fact is, Modi has been successful in making Vibrant Gujarat summit a grand success. He has not left his pet project mid-way even after becoming the Prime Minister of the country. It was evident from the fact that 110 countries participated in the event.


Are we there yet?

The fatter cheque you have the better treatment you get. That was the mantra at the summit. Exhibitors ensured that CEOs and top executives of those companies which were to announce multi-million dollar investment proposals during the inaugural ceremony were greeted well and had access to top ministers of the state, including Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Vibrant Gujarat3-TheDollarBusinessHowever, medium and small investors were not lucky enough to come even close to the top ministers.

Apart from this, there are lots of areas where the event organisers need to improve before calling the summit a true world-class affair. To begin with many exhibitors said that they spend lakhs of rupees to set-up their stalls, however it was difficult to find people with real business intentions. There were many events and trade shows which were organised alongside the main summit, and the venues were scattered at various locations at Mahatma Mandir and Exhibition Ground in Gandhinagar. “The venues of the summit and exhibition are located far apart. Since all the limelight is focused at the summit venue at Mahatma Mandir, the exhibitors at the trade show are not getting visitors. Moreover, finding the location is bit difficult as many taxi drivers are not aware of the venues,” Angana Banerjee of Arvind Ltd. told The Dollar Business. 

Photos of Vibrant Gujarat Global CEO Summit inaugural function. Top corporate leaders and delegates from over 100 countries were present at the forum. Over 21,000 MoUs worth Rs.25 lakh crore were signed in this summit.


"This year’s event was bigger and more impressive than all the previous editions" 

Many participants while complaining about the arrangements at the summit said that mixing the summit with the Vibrant Gujarat Global Trade Show was too much for the organisers to handle. Beside this Gandhinagar proves to be too small a city to host an event of this stature. The nearest airport and railway station is around 30 kms at Ahmedabad and the organisers forgot to arrange fast and efficient transportation system from railway station and airport to the venue. The result the visiting delegates had to rely on private taxis to reach the venue. Majority of participants were first-time visitors to Gandhinagar. The inefficient transport system let many of them stranded for hours before reaching venue.

Vibrant Gujarat-TheDollarBusiness Recipe for success

Despite small hiccups, this year’s edition of Vibrant Gujarat was a grand success. Reason: The state has most of the vital infrastructure to support industrial growth. It includes uninterrupted power supply, wide expressways, sea ports and water related resources. All these factors, combined with limited red-tape and business friendly culture, have made the state a preferred business destination in India. At several occasions PM Modi has said that his excellent man-management skills have helped to get things done. Much of it is quiet visible all around Gujarat. In fact, one cannot deny that he has ensured that the developmental projects, particularly related to infrastructure whether initiated by him or earlier governments, see light of the day.


Photographs of participants attending various business meets and seminars that were organised during the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015. Seminars and conferences this year focused on areas of manufacturing, micro, small and medium enterprises, ports and shipping, defence, sustainable development and healthcare

The kind of investment that Gujarat is getting, thanks to the Vibrant Gujarat summit, have prompted states like West Bengal which were traditionally conservative to private investments, to mend their approach and put their acts together. In fact, West Bengal has already started its own version – Bengal Global Business Summit. Tamil Nadu too is planning its own version soon. And it’s a good sign, as far as India is concerned. Commenting on why state governments should organise such business summits, Avinash K. Dixit, eminent economist from Princeton University and Sherrerd University Professor of Economics Emeritus, said, “Even though information about relevant government policies and investment opportunities is already available, it takes much time and effort by potential investors to put it all together in useful form for their decisions. A summit can make information available in one place and in a useable format.”

What started as yet another business summit in 2003 is now one of the most sought-after business event globally. And this is true for Gujarat as well. Having established itself as a preferred investment destination, Gujarat is now projecting it as a global platform for exchange of ideas and to attract investment for all Indian States. All thanks to Vibrant Gujarat. It’s truely “Davos in action”! 

“Beware of Prisoner’s Dilemma” - Avinash K. Dixit, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Princeton University

Avinash K. Dixit, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Princeton University

Some investments can only be profitable if other synergistic investments are made at the same time. At a forum like this, investors in such mutually complementary projects can get together and coordinate their actions. A summit can make the information more easily available to them in one place and in a useable format; they can also follow up any questions with officials who are present right there. Having said that, other states can learn more from Gujarat’s policies than from the summit per se. They should sustain a high quality of governance and infrastructure - low bureaucratic barriers to doing business, low corruption, good transportation, reliable power supplies, and so on. However, there is a danger of a mutually damaging competition among states to attract investment and business. Each may have to offer higher subsidies and other benefits to match or surpass the competing offers of other states, with little overall effect on investment in the whole country; then the only beneficiaries are the businesses that collect these subsidies, and the citizens or taxpayers of all states are the losers. This in game theory is known as the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” - when each state pursues its own interest, the overall outcome hurts them all. This should not happen.


“Other states still have a long way to go”- Sheba Nandkeolyar, National Vice Chair, Australia India Business Council

Sheba Nandkeolyar, National Vice Chair, Australia India Business Council

Summits like Vibrant Gujarat have become a landmark best practice, not just in India but the world over. Australia India Business Council (AIBC) has recognised this and supported this conference as a Business Council Partner third time in row. The conference is a great meeting place for business leaders wanting to do some serious business. In fact, the B2B meetings are highly productive. Indian Prime Minister and Gujarat’s former Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi always met our delegates and the new Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has continued this tradition. She had two meetings with our AIBC team during this year’s edition which clearly shows the policymakers are interested in furthering business investments in Gujarat. Other states have just started waking up to the best practice that the Vibrant Gujarat conference has initiated. One case in exception is erstwhile Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu who attracted a large number of overseas investors to Hyderabad. Rest of the states still have a long way to go. There is immense potential in all states and if they come forward with a strong business investment intent, the business community overseas will definitely take notice and come forward.