We're absolutely certain that the UAE-India relationship is going to see a quantum jump from here, says Aman Puri. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Senior UAE and Indian diplomats, ministers, as well as founders and CEOs of companies in both countries have come together at the two-day India Global Forum beginning today at the Taj in Dubai.

How will global disruptors change the regular way of doing things, how much will UAE and Indian companies contribute to this trend, and what more can be done to support companies as they develop into unicorns – these will be some of the questions that the experts will try to answer, even as they chart the course on how the two countries can further enhance their trade relations, and at the same time be the perfect platform that their economies and companies need to thrive and generate jobs. (All you need to know about the forum)

“The comprehensive economic partnership being negotiated with India will boost investments from both sides,” said Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

“India did go through significant challenges during the last two years, (with) the COVID-19 pandemic having its impact on the Indian economy,” said Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs & Food & Public Distribution and Textiles, Government of India.

“UAE is one of our largest trading partners and therefore it was very natural for us to look at bringing together businesses and investors of both the countries,” said Goyal.

“We have very ambitious targets ahead of us and we have the desire to bring prosperity to 1.3 billion Indians,” said Goyal. “India is expanding very rapidly towards expanding trade and partnership.”

Prashant Pitti, Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip, speaks during a session at the India Global Forum in Dubai.

“I think it is very interesting that probably in my entire 40 years of professional career, I don't think ever a prime minister of the country mentioned supply chain,” says Rahul Garg, Founder and CEO, Moglix. “Both manufacturing and supply chain are critical for any business.”

“We need to appreciate supply chain. COVID-19 really taught us the importance of it. Everything that we use in our daily life has something to do with manufacturing and supply chain.”

“We launched in UAE earlier this year. It is becoming a very important epicenter. UAE is much more than oil and energy. With supply chain optimisation, tech and sustainability, we are committed to making UAE the epicenter of GCC.”

“We believe the Moglix template will cater to the world. We digitise the supply chain and bring frictionless finance. As a company we are big on packaging. But when it comes to sustainability, we are working across steel, mining, pharma etc. We use EV vehicles and we aim to bring more sustainable ideas to our table in the coming years.”

Anchit Nayar, CEO, Beauty and E-Commerce, Nykaa, speaks at the India Global Forum in Dubai.

“She identified the market gap and gave up her long-term investment banker carrier for Nykaa. She admired risk taking and she reflected that in this business,” says Anchit about Nykaa founder Falguni Nayar.

“She is taking the right risk and that is something I admire.”

“We are a lifestyle retailer, and there is a lot of potential. Indian is a massive market and we will continue to cater to them. But expanding in the Gulf, especially UAE, is on the agenda,” says Anchit.

“We are very proud of our brand and how it has grown. But we are continuing to build on what we have and want to show the world about our engineers. We want to create a new age company.”

“As a business we need to understand the needs of the consumer. That will be our focus and that’s what drives us. Competition makes us better, everyday,” he adds.

“We are more focused on building business, and we have to do our job without expecting anything. Same applies to business. It’s a long inning for our business,” says Nayar.

Deepak Bagla, MD and CEO, Invest India, and Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta, Head of Markets, Digital Assets & Institutions, VC/Fintech, Head of South Asia, Abu Dhabi Global Market, address a session titled ‘Investing In A Joint Future: Getting The Money To Flow’.

“To bring down the cost of medical equipment and devices, we need developments to happen from this region, from the UAE and India,” said Faizal E. Kottikollon, Chairman and Founder, KEF Holdings.

He called for collaborative efforts from the UAE and India to manufacture affordable medical equipment and devices.

“We need to collaborate further and transfer the knowledge,” he said, after pointing out that a significant part of the funding for the Al Jalila Foundation for medical research and education was done by Indian businessmen in the UAE.

Commenting about the UAE’s quick recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Kottikollon said the country’s visionary leaders had acted quickly in the wake of the Coronavirus right from the beginning and acquired the Sinopharm vaccine from China to begin the vaccination programme. Subsequently, the UAE acquired all major vaccines that came out in the international market.

“That reaction time is what made this country one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.”

At the ‘Collaborative Constructs: The UAE-India Partnership on the Ground’ session with Neeraj Makin, Senior Executive Vice President - Group Head, Emirates NBD, and Abhimanyu Munjal, Managing Director and CEO, Hero Fincorp, during the India Global Forum in Dubai.

Faizal E. Kottikollon, Chairman and Founder, KEF Holdings; Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Chemical and Fertilizers, Government of India, and Lav Agarwal, IAS officer, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, during a session at the India Global Forum.

Addressing a session at the India Global Forum, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Chemical and Fertilizers, Government of India, highlighted the Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) policy of India, focused on an affordable, cohesive and equitable system with universal health coverage for all. For this the Indian government initiated the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, where the country has created over 1.5 million health and wellness centres , providing comprehensive primary, preventive, rehabilitative diagnostic across the country.

He highlighted that India has the largest health insurance scheme, and is committed to strengthening its primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.

In addition to this, India has created a seamless digital platform where it has conducted 80 million telemedicine consultations.

During the pandemic, India did not look at medicine and healthcare for global profits. It worked hard towards sharing data and research on the pandemic and manufactured medicines and vaccine doses for the world. India also cooperated in following international pandemic guidelines.

The minister added that at present, India has the capacity of manufacturing 310 million doses of vaccine for COVID per month, which will not only meet its indigenous needs but also meet the global vaccine needs to a great extent.

Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Chemical and Fertilizers, Government of India, addressed a session titled ‘Dynamic Alliances: For a Smarter and Healthier Tomorrow’ at the India Global Forum.

The IGF offers an excellent avenue for bringing leading global investors and business leaders to further accelerate the growth of individual investments in developing countries like India, said Mandaviya.

COVID-19 has put the focus on the healthcare sector whether it is lifestyle, medicines, medical technology or vaccines, he added.

India produces the world's largest number of nurses, doctors and pharmacists and its medical device market is expected to be valued at $50 billion by 2025, he said.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, India, addressed the India Global Forum on Monday.

"For India, UAE and Dubai are amongst our most important partners," said Shringla. "This is guided by the visionary leadership in both countries."

"This is a good time to see the opportunities in front of us and what our governments can do to take this vital economic partnership forward," he said. "Despite the COVID pandemic, India and UAE have continued to work closely together."

"We have seen the UAE investing in our strategic petroleum reserves and we have seen investments from many major oil companies of India into the UAE and vice-versa, but at the same time we are looking at a new paradigm (and) other areas of cooperation," he said.

“When we look at trade and investment opportunities, it is this forum that brings together everyone and the presence of the ministers and the ambassadors also shows the significance of the forum.”

“We have gone through a very severe, perhaps the most devastating crisis and as we slowly revert to normalcy and businesses revive, we need to look at the opportunities and what needs to be done. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian and the UAE continue to work closely together,” said Shringla.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attached a lot of importance to the development and economic relations and he has instructed the Indian embassies to promote trade, technologies and tourism, said Shringla.

He said the new quadrilateral economic forum involving India, Israel, the UAE and the US is “quite unique” and is looking at economic projects that suit all the four countries.

Eileen Pryer, Director of Marketing, Admissions and International Recruitment, University College Birmingham UK, believes it makes sense to mix e-learning with conventional education, particularly during the lockdown.

University College used virtual reality and advanced simulation to ensure that nurses could continue learning in a hospital-like environment, said Pryer.

Through this "nurses can actually train, but also we can ensure that the standard they're being trained by is moderated and assessed by hospitals", she added.

Saranjit Sangar, CEO, participated in the panel discussion on ‘Byeting The Learning Curve’.

Talking about how e-learning is shaping the world, Sangar said: “Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that we are finding it difficult to keep up with it. That is why we find a widening gap of skill sets in different communities.”

“Nearly 25 per cent of jobs today did not exist earlier. Almost 65 per cent of students in school today will get into jobs that do not exist today.”

Talking about the importance of STEM, Sangar reiterated that its role could not be over-emphasised. “According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022 nearly 75 million jobs will be lost while 132 million new jobs will be created online. So there is a need to upskill on STEM. However, we are humans and humanity and arts has an equally important role to play for sustainability and ethics.”

Commenting on the challenges facing e-learning, Sangar said India was heralding a new era of global tech leadership. “I think there are a lot of synergies that we are exporting worldwide. But the challenges we face come from infrastructure, teaching and now outcomes.”

"While looking into the future of education, one is what you learn in the campus, second is internship and third is technology," said Kamal Puri, founder and chairman, Skyline University College, during his conversation with Mohandas Pai.

"If you don't update (your skills) on a daily basis, you can't face the current (job market)," said Puri.

"People have got a very wrong notion about e-learning," he said. "E-learning is where we have discussion rooms, assignments and all aspects of teaching."

Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education, addresses the India Global Forum, during the session ‘Byteing The Learning Curve’.

Blended education is the way forward for school children as they need to be with their peers and must learn communication skills, stressed Mohandas Pai.

“The main challenge before the companies would be to train the people (employees) on the use of new technology on a continuous basis,” said Pai.

"The consumers in UAE and India, while different, are very similar. There is opportunity to build global brands," said Ananth Sankaranarayanan, Founder, Mensa Brands. "There's also opportunity for capital flows in both directions."

"The unicorn is a mythical animal. I do not worry about the valuation," said Sankaranarayanan. "What matters is focusing on the execution and the consumer."

VerSe Innovation co-founder Umang Bedi talks about Global Disruptors Series -- Media For The Masses in The Digital Age at the India Global Forum.

"Reliance Jio did an amazing job at providing internet access at the lowest cost in the world. Internet in India in the early days was really for a (certain) class in the society," he said.

"India is now creating 3-4 unicorns per month and we can tell from the amount of capital this country is getting, there is no better time to innovate," said Bedi.

"I definitely see traditional media getting disrupted in many ways. Digital will become the core medium," said Bedi. "It is all going to get to short and snappy content."

In conversation with Jaynti Kanani, Co-Founder and CEO, Polygon Technology. Topic of discussion: Global Disruptors Series – The Decentralised Web.

Referring to the state of cryptocurrency regulations in India, Kanani said: "Every time new things come out, people are very pessimistic about them."

"People are looking at only the investment opportunities, but it is more than that and will create job opportunities in India and globally."

"We're absolutely certain that the UAE-India relationship is going to see a quantum jump from here. We're at $60 billion of trade, which we hope will reach $100 billion by 2025," said Aman Puri.

The forum this time would be hearing from ministers of the governments of the UAE and India, policy makers, captains of industries and founders of unicorns, he said. “We are maximising the opportunity to co-create innovation for the world and unicorns of the next generation.”

Welcoming delegates to the IGF UAE 2021, Dr Aman Puri, Consul General, Consulate General of India, Dubai said: “India is a land of opportunities and a global powerhouse of talent. In UAE, we have a likeminded partner that has a clear vision for transforming the region. As powerhouses, India and the UAE have much to offer and can look forward to a new era of collaboration and partnership.”

"India created 36 unicorns in 2021, India will create another 26 to become the second largest creator of unicorns in the world after the United States," said Puri.

Dubai is truly the gateway between India and the MENA region and has been hosting the single largest Indian community anywhere in the world, he said.

Next year onwards, Dubai will see an annual IGF, the Consul-General said.

"I am delighted and excited to welcome you to this very first edition of our Indian Global Forum in the Middle East," said Manoj Ladwa, Chairman and CEO, India Inc Group and founder of India Global Forum.

“India Global Forum has chosen Dubai as its destination because there is no doubt…Dubai brings together entrepreneurship, partnerships, unicorns, start-ups. I am sure we have some concrete outcomes from the forum, as well as inspirations,” says Sunjay Sudhir, Indian ambassador to the UAE.

Key industry representatives at the event talked about the apt timing of the India Global Forum. Dilip Sinha, Secretary-General, IBPC, told Gulf News: “With the UAE celebrating its Golden Jubilee and Expo 2020 Dubai ongoing as well, and India celebrating its 75th year of Independence, the time is very right for such a meet. The entire Indian business diaspora from UAE, UK and Asia will be participating in this forum.

Deepak Jagjivan, Managing Director, Supreme Jewels, sees immense partnership potential for both countries.

Harish Pawani, a UAE-based bullion trader, is excited to attend the event.

Registration for the forum continues in full swing. Leading UAE-based NRIs from the industry have arrived. The pre-event networking has created a healthy buzz already.

The much-awaited bilateral event opened at Taj Dubai this afternoon. Entitled ‘Dynamic Alliances for a Smarter Tomorrow’, the forum will explore potential alliances between the two countries in business, banking, healthcare, education, industries, start-ups and many more fields.

Delegates have started arriving at the venue for registration.

Heading for a breakthrough 2022

The forum comes at a time when UAE and Indian economies are in a position to write-off that COVID-19 infested 2020 as a lost year and refocus all energies on a breakthrough 2022.

Whether it is in manufacturing, the tech industry, the startup space, or at malls and shops dotting the country, the sentiment is turning positive in India.

In Dubai, business activities across the private sector in November are signalling a full-fledged surge. The upturn was led by the strongest increase in new business since July 2019, as firms benefited from continued rebound in international travel and higher demand. According to the IHS Markit’s UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), overall activity continued to rise sharply.