DAVOS: Making its presence felt with a large delegation, India emerged as a major talking point during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that ended on Thursday with the war in Ukraine being the single-biggest topic of discussions among the leaders assembled here.
The main promenade of this small ski resort town during a rare springtime WEF Annual Meeting was dotted with pavilions of as many as six Indian states -- Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu -- in addition to the famous India Lounge and pavilions of various Indian companies including HCL, Wipro and Infosys.
The only other lounges visible to that extent were of crypto and blockchain players.
The food served at these lounges also remained a hot favourite among the Indian and foreign leaders.
The summit saw three union ministers -- Piyush Goyal, Hardeep Singh Puri and Mansukh Mandaviya -- participate in various sessions, in addition to two chief ministers -- Karnataka's B S Bommai and Andhra Pradesh's Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, as well as leaders from other states.
Nearly 100 business leaders from India also attended the summit, although some regular big names gave it a miss this time.
The Indian leaders discussed various key issues including energy transition, food and fuel crisis, health equity, plastic pollution and freshwater crisis.
Over the week, leaders placed a renewed focus on India's rising economic opportunity while disclosing its plans to ramp up green energy capacity and technological innovation.
The WEF also launched the India chapter of the Alliance of CEO Climate Action Leaders on Monday to supercharge India's climate action and decarbonization efforts.
"As a major global economy, India's role in mitigating climate change is critical, and India Inc. must add its full weight to the country's efforts, as well to the global endeavour, against global warming," said Sumant Sinha, Co-Chair, Alliance of CEO Climate Action Leaders India, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ReNew Power.
A just transition could generate annual business opportunities worth over USD 10 trillion and create 395 million jobs by 2030 worldwide.
India alone could see more than 50 million net new jobs and generate over USD 15 trillion in economic value, according to the WEF.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has massively reshaped the global energy landscape and market, Oil and Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, "Clearly, we are moving toward green energy...(but) we can't afford to get disrupted...We have to make sure there is enough energy available to people.
" The aim of a 20 per cent ethanol blend has been pushed ahead from 2030 to 2025, he said, as green hydrogen, biofuel discovery, and production from alternate sources is being prioritised.
"But 20 per cent blended fuel will become available in our petrol bunks by April 1, 2023, so we're going to start on that.
" The meeting also saw discussions on water security. Global conglomerate HCL announced a partnership with UpLink, the open innovation platform of the World Economic Forum, that connects highly promising startups with the partners and funding they need to scale.
Through a USD 15 million investment over five years, HCL will accelerate the innovation agenda for water and create a first-of-its-kind innovation ecosystem for the global freshwater sector on UpLink.
"Today, freshwater resources globally are extremely burdened, and every fifth child on this planet faces water scarcity," said Roshni Nadar Malhotra, CEO of HCL Group and Chairperson of HCL Technologies.
Maharashtra joined the World Economic Forum's Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), a growing list of global economies that will leverage the GPAP platform to drive localized solutions for the circular economy.
"This agreement with the World Economic Forum's Global Plastic Action Partnership marks a critical juncture in our state's battle against the plastic pollution endemic," said Aaditya Thackeray, Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Maharashtra.
The concept of the metaverse was also talked about considerably by the Indian leaders.
CP Gurnani, Managing Director and CEO at Tech Mahindra, told the Forum, "Today, for Tech Mahindra, I have a rural education programme being run in the metaverse, and remember, I'm talking of a country where the smartphone penetration is only 26 per cent."
"I have sports training being conducted in the metaverse; I have retail commerce happening in the metaverse. So, this evolution of web 3.0, blockchain, and metaverse is here to stay (and) the applications are endless," he said.
The Forum also announced a new initiative, Defining and Building the Metaverse to bring together key stakeholders to build an economically viable, interoperable, safe, and inclusive metaverse.
Research suggests that the metaverse is expected to grow into an USD 800 billion market by 2024.