As India has seemingly surpassed its frequent and often lazy classification as an ‘emerging market’, it was perhaps fitting that one of the world’s most exciting economies was the focus of the new MSc Management cohort’s first panel discussion. An inquisitive group, fêted for its diversity of thought and healthy representation of the Indian business leaders of tomorrow, the class was exposed to five of India’s finest academic and business thinkers for an evening of broad discourse that included political, financial and economic discussion. It was an evening where emerging minds met the drivers of an emergent nation.
Programme Director Dr Paolo Taticchi and Imperial College Business School Dean Professor G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam introduced the illustrious panel, presenting Dr Sankalp Chaturvedi, Director of Imperial’s Gandhi Centre, Professor Kashi Balachandran, Emeritus Professor at New York University, Mr Manish Singh, Strategist and Head of Investments at Crossbridge Capital, Mr Venkat Venkatesan, President of Business Development and Strategy at Hinduja Automotive, and Mr Rajeev Aikkara, Head of Data and Integration at ASOS.com.
Dr Chaturvedi opened the proceedings, describing the evening as “an opportune moment to introduce the future of India,” and highlighting India’s vast population and young workforce as both sources of concern and causes for optimism, an opinion that was later echoed by the other panellists. Dr Chaturvedi spoke of the leadership in start-ups, digital innovation and logistical expertise that the Gandhi Centre provides in linking Imperial’s core competencies within, and between, global and Indian companies and institutions.
Following Dr Chaturvedi’s introduction, we moved on to an engaging panel discussion. Dr Taticchi posed questions regarding challenges faced by the Modi government, the sectors that will thrive in the nation’s economic growth, and the advantages and disadvantages surrounding India’s explosive population growth. A broad set of problems was consistently diagnosed with an insistence upon education reform and investment, an increase in political will, and a focus upon infrastructural development. Dr Balachandran urged the audience to view these issues as intensely interdependent. He cited Modi’s efforts to centralise government, and the introduction of a goods and services tax, as two key governmental failures that represented a misunderstanding of a political and economic landscape dogged by political indifference, in which opposition parties habitually reject all government initiatives.
Mr Singh was more supportive of Mr Modi, identifying the vested interests of 300-400 families as a significant political hurdle that is rarely recognised by commentators. He argued for measures that will reduce the cost of capital, and a drive to educate women that will match China’s highly trained female workforce. Mr Aikkara spoke positively of the growth opportunities in mature and sunrise industries, highlighting the pharmaceutical, retail and biotech industries that are capitalising upon a youthful and technically literate workforce, and recognised a growing trend in entrepreneurial spirit amongst the bright Indian minds of today.
Questions from the audience followed, with thoughtful students questioning the utility of democracy in the region, the caste system and the ubiquity of modernity that has characterised both globalisation and India’s extraordinary development over the last 25 years.
An engrossing evening that embraced India’s difficulties and sought to provide prognoses for politicians and businessmen alike, it is easy to see why Imperial’s MSc Management programme has retained its national and global standings in the Financial Times rankings at 2nd and 19th respectively. Students can eagerly anticipate a year of enriching discussion that will aid them in their studies and insight into global business affairs.