It's Bollywood time in Davos!
By Dipankar De Sarkar
Davos, Jan 25 (IANS) Shelving worries about a global financial downturn, this snow-clad town in the heart of the Swiss Alps is shaking a leg to the rhythms of Bollywood this week.
Courtesy a massive Indian show, with a power-packed delegation that's the largest to the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF), India and its economic performance loom large over this ski resort.
From the opening plenary to special sessions to food and now Bollywood, it's India all the way in Davos - host to the WEF that is an annual networking event for the good and great from the world business and politics. Some 2,500 people have turned up at Davos from 88 countries this year and not one of them could have escaped some message from India during the Jan 23-27 event.
Not that anyone is complaining. From the moment you enter Zurich - the nearest international airport to Davos - India is ever-present on the horizon. A large advertisement, written entirely in Hindi, greets the visit at Zurich airport reminding them it is perhaps time to learn Hindi. The advertiser is Swissair.
Standing along the snowy main street of Davos, the Promenade, are two black-and-yellow three-wheeler auto-rickshaws. They are there for the show, of course - you can't take a ride on it. Familiar to all Indians, they brighten up a cafe.
"India is everywhere and we have a dream team led by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram this year," said Ajay Khanna, deputy director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that is coordinating the Indian presence here.
Delegates were swinging to Bollywood beats at the best nightclub in town, Kabana, Thursday and Friday night.
"We are massively oversubscribed, with more than 700 confirmations every night," said Khanna. The Bollywood night begins at 11 p.m. local time and not only business leaders turn up.
"Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel's here," said Khanna.
India's presence at Davos kicked off two years ago with the CII's 'India Everywhere' campaign, but the marketing push took an air of urgency this year due to the global financial turmoil triggered by the US subprime mortgage crisis.
A large number of delegates at the WEF have been looking at India and China as markets that may help cushion the worst effects of the financial crisis. In particular, India, whose growth is fuelled by domestic consumption, is the flavour of Davos.
"There was a time, a few years ago, when the global community used to ask, hey, what do the Americans think about this important issue. Today, it's pretty much what the Indians and Chinese think. The equations are changing," said Lee Howell, head of Asia at the WEF.
The idea, according to the masterminds of the campaign, is to give India a "360 degree presence" in Davos.
But the strategy has moved from showcasing India as a country to Indian companies, reflecting a move away from a previous focus on the government.
"This growth story needs to be told to the world, so we have brought in not only political leader but also business leaders and thought leaders," said Khanna.
India has close to 60 speaking slots at the forum and is in 33 sessions. Co-chairs of the forum include ICICI Bank CEO K V Kamath and Pepsico's Indian-born chief Indra Nooyi.
Sharing the stage alongside Kamath and Nooyi on the opening night was Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the organization that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore.