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Dubai kicked off Expo 2020 on Thursday and India is all set to generate huge investments and opportunities as the world emerges from the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the first such event in the Middle East, 25 million people are expected to visit over six months. With gleaming pavilions in the dusty Dubai suburbs, Expo 2020 may even overshadow the Tokyo Olympics, during which strict Covid-19 rules ensured the venue lacked spectators.
However, pandemic protocol will make its presence felt at Expo 2020 too, as visitors will have to wear masks, socially distance themselves and carry vaccination certificates and negative test reports in order to enter.
According to the government, India will take new strides at Expo 2020. Over the next six months, the country will focus on fighting Covid-19 and the reforms ushered in by the Centre during the pandemic. These are expected to set the stage for a sustained high-growth phase going ahead.
The commerce ministry, which is steering India’s participation at Expo 2020, said that the country will primarily focus on presenting unlimited opportunities for the global community to participate in India’s growth story and benefit from it. This confidence stems from the fact that a large percentage of India’s population has been vaccinated and the target of inoculating all citizens soon seems doable.
Commerce minister Piyush Goyal, ahead of his visit to Dubai for the ceremonial opening of India’s pavilion at the world expo, maintained that the idea is to present the emergence of a ‘New India’ to the world.
Recently, while unveiling the curtain raiser on India’s participation at the expo, Piyush Goyal said the government is confident of generating ‘big time’ investments from the event. However, the government has not stated how much investment it expects to generate.
The inauguration of the India pavilion will consist of a grand cultural show and a three-minute video message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The message may reflect his clarion call, which he gave earlier, for India attaining sustainable growth over the next 25 years and becoming a global frontrunner in creating a safe and prosperous world.
India will present itself with a triad of themes: Openness, Opportunity and Growth. This is in sync with the expo’s three sub-themes: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
The Union government plans to showcase the resilience of the Indian economy as well as the appetite for reforms and improving ease of doing business to shed old tags of ‘licence raj’, red tapism and archaic rules.
Meanwhile, India Inc will be there to assert its significance as it becomes a bigger partner to the government in the growth story. The participation of a large number of Indian states will underline how reforms and a better ecosystem are broad-based and have been institutionalised.
Ficci Chairman Uday Shankar, speaking to India Today, sounded upbeat about the dividends that may accrue to India from its deep participation at the expo. He said, “The Indian economy showed exemplary resilience in the midst of the pandemic. The bounce back has been credible. The government, in this period, has walked its talk. Policy changes and reforms to improve participation of the private sector in strategic area and the political will to take right decisions has made a change.”
The states and union territories that are participating at the India Pavilion along with their delegations for planned B2Gs and G2G meetings include Gujarat, Karnataka, Ladakh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. These states will exhibit their culture, food and business opportunities at the India Pavilion.
The ministries of AYUSH, tourism, petroleum and natural gas, environment, forest and climate change, space, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals and textiles are among those participating at the India Pavilion.
India Inc will be there in the form of Indian conglomerates and global companies including Tata Group, Reliance, Adani, Vedanta, Hinduja Group, L&T and UAE-based majors such as Lulu group, KEF Holdings, Aster, Malabar Gold and IFFCO.
In addition, several others such as Hindustan Unilever Limited, PepsiCo, HSBC, ITC, Facebook, EaseMyTrip, Oyo, Standard Chartered Bank, Trident Group, Baidyanath, Apollo Hospital, Sun International, MIKO, Daawat Rice, Bank of Baroda, Patanjali, Dabur, BLS International, Petrochem, Nikai, Al Dobowi, Shycocan, NPCI, Jagran Lake City University, Air India and ICICI Bank will be present.
Dilip Chenoy, the secretary general of Ficci, said, “Foreign companies participating in India’s showcase along with Indian companies is not going to escape notice. It’s a significant change. The reform in banking and lending in India is a global talking point. The presence of Indian financial institutions can have a multiplier effect.”
The representative of a German multinational at the expo said, “What is critical about India’s attempt to present itself as an alternative is the fact that in a period of distress, it hasn’t digressed from reforms and removing restraints.”
The PLI schemes and the removal of nearly 23,000 compliances announced in India recently are resonating across the expo.
Ficci Chairman Uday Shankar said, “There used to be big concerns earlier that India always had the right answers but execution was faulty due to a variety of reasons. In the 18 months of the pandemic, it has been displayed that there is no shortage of political will to make radical changes.”
In keeping with the themes of the expo, visitors will get a glimpse of Indian innovations and successes in the fields of space technology, robotics, electric mobility, edu-tech, e-commerce, energy, cyber security, healthcare, cryptocurrency and blockchain.
In conjunction with the objectives of Expo 2020 Dubai, eleven key themes will be represented at the India Pavilion. These are Climate and Biodiversity, Space, Urban and Rural Development, Tolerance and Inclusivity, Golden Jubilee, Knowledge and Learning, Travel and Connectivity, Global Goals, Health and Wellness, Food Agriculture and Livelihoods and Water.
These themes represent the future of the Indian economy by exhibiting the sectors that show promise and have the potential to grow. To highlight modern India’s mission to the world, these themes will be strategically displayed at the India Pavilion every month.
The India pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will have the participation of a slew of start-ups from across different sectors to underline the government’s commitment to enable ventures and encourage investors to explore inward and outward growth and investment opportunities.
At the expo, India’s planned display will have startups rubbing shoulders with large corporates and public sector maharatnas and navratnas.
The India Pavilion will, in bold letters, announce India’s status as the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world. India’s unicorn count has reached 51 with a combined valuation of $168 billion, according to recent data from Hurun Research Institute. Only the USA, with 396 unicorns and China with 277, are ahead of India.
As per government sources, despite the crippling impact of the pandemic, India has been adding three unicorns every month on average. To showcase the country’s innovation potential and capabilities, an ‘Indian Innovation Hub’ has been developed. It will offer a platform for budding innovators and startups.
Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India in Dubai and Deputy Commissioner General for India, said, “The ‘India Innovation Hub’ will be a platform for investors and consumers to experience the capacity for innovation of India’s multiple startups. As the world’s third largest creator of unicorns and with an ecosystem of over 50,000 recognised startups, the Innovation Hub is set to be one of the most exciting places to visit for anyone interested in experiencing future-oriented products and services.”
Among Indian startups, Byjus, ProSolMinds, Grassroots Energy, Dhruva Space, GCRS, E Waste Social, PadCare Labs and Sunemison Solar Energy have confirmed their participation, while several others are expected to sign up soon.
India’s proposed ‘startup play’ at Expo 2020 is all set to be a hit as there is an assessment that emerging startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are today facing the same problems that their Indian counterparts faced some years ago. A Dubai-based expert said “The Indian experience can be part of the learning process for those in the MENA region. And the improvements in the region can create more business for Indian startups.”
Over the past five decades, the desert nation of UAE has tried to prove that it embraces change and is looking to the future with confidence by making the most of new technologies. India is already one of the top trading partners of the UAE. India’s participation at the expo will take the next step in presenting India’s case for upgrades in trade and ties between India and UAE.
Expo 2020 Dubai, which has been delayed by a year, is UAE’s initiative to boost the UAE economy. Talking about India’s participation at Expo 2020 Dubai, Ambassador of India to the UAE Pavan Kapoor said, “It is very clear that by the sheer size of our proportion of the population, by the connections that we have here, we’ll be the largest participant at the Dubai Expo.”
The India Pavilion has also invited young Indian school students, especially from aspirational districts of India, to attend the world expo. These children’s arrival will be timed to coincide with the celebration of 50 years of UAE’s independence.
India is working on building a collective template for the 75th year of its Independence under the global campaign ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ and the 50th anniversary of UAE’s foundation. Pavan Kapoor said, “This is a significant time in the history of both countries and Expo 2020 is a tremendous opportunity to cement already flourishing ties further.”
Since the UAE is keenly pushing the sustainability theme of the expo, India will also be using the expo’s global platform to fortify its place on the world stage in the same regard.
To underline its commitment to ties with the UAE, India has set up the largest pavilion at the expo. The four-storey India Pavilion will feature an innovative kinetic facade made of 600 individual colourful blocks – a mosaic of rotating panels to depict the theme of ‘India on the move’.
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