AIESEC, the world's largest non-profit youth-run organisation that helps develop leadership in the youth, is now 70-years-old. AIESEC India, meanwhile, started in 1982 and has been responsible for facilitating social development programmes and professional internships for student volunteers across 35 cities. These volunteers are engaged in various activities in schools, colleges, universities, NGOs, and over a 1,000 partner companies. AIESEC believes “leadership is the fundamental solution and youth is the key to unlock it.”
At AIESEC India’s Annual Stakeholders Conclave organised by the Mumbai Chapter of the student-run organisation, several dignitaries gathered to weigh in on India’s increasingly “global” status.
Is India’s economy self-sustainable? How can India and global businesses work together? Where does India stand in the global economy? What is aiding its growth? And so on… were discussed.
The evening witnessed keynotes from individuals across different walks of social and corporate life. A media-man, a banker, and an author put forth their varied perspectives on India and its place in the world.
Sudeep Malhotra, CEO of Satellite Media, and Member of the AIESEC Board, started by acknowledging the platform’s contribution towards youth leadership in India. “AIESEC has had a long journey in India. The budgets at which we execute our programmes now are great,” he said.
Talking about India’s sustainability quotient, Malhotra stated, “Countries can be sustainable in certain sectors. Only six or seven countries in the world are self-sustainable in agriculture, and India is one of them. We may not be self-sustainable in all other sectors. For that, we have to move towards greater global cooperation. International trade only brings countries closer.”
He added that self-sustainability across sectors is “a pipedream” but can be accomplished with initiatives like Make in India and the National Skill Development Mission. He revealed that specialised schools have been set up by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to skill the nation’s youth. Till date, it has educated and imparted skills to over 5 lakh students across India. “There’s been a 40 percent jump in 2018-19,” Malhotra revealed.
The second keynote was delivered by Aarti Kelshikar, author and intercultural consultant and coach with business experience in India and Southeast Asia. She shared insights from her book How India Works: Making Sense of a Complex Corporate Culture to draw parallels between India and the world when it comes to collaboration and co-creation - something that drives global business.
She observed, “Global brands when they want to be successful have to be cognisant of local sensitivities because culture impacts business exchanges. Having a global mindset means recognising that there is not any one way of doing things. The greatest example is that of Uber. Globally, 70 percent of Uber rides are cashless payments. But, in India, the primary mode of payment is cash. Uber could identify that need early on and hence manage to succeed.”
Kelshikar also stressed upon the fact every country has different skill sets to offer the world. Indians, for instance, are good at “problem-solving” while the Chinese are great at “organising things and giving them structure”.
“Hence, businesses have to build cross-cultural credibility. Only by bridging the culture gap can we close the career gap,” she added.
The third and final keynote of the evening was delivered by Vijay Chandok, Executive Director at ICICI Bank. He described how India was at a very “interesting stage in banking, corporate and business” despite some volatility in the short-term due to global and local factors.
He said, “Even though corporate spending is muted with growth is largely driven by government spending, our economy is broadly doing well. From being the #11 economy in the world some years ago, we’re now at #6 or #7 and will reach the top three by 2020.”
Chandok said India is riding on its rich demographic dividend which is unlike any other country in the world right now. He explained, “The average age of India is 27, and by 2040 it will be 30. It is the power of the youth that is driving the country forward. The 31-40 age bracket, also known as the ‘thorties’, is a very fertile segment of the population. These are people peaking in their careers. India will have a large number of such people in the years to come.”
The evening ended on an optimistic note. Krishnav Roy, President, AIESEC Mumbai, wrapped it up by saying, “AIESEC has organised over 200 voluntary exchanges in Mumbai in line with the UN’s sustainability goals. Several companies have also gone on to hire from our volunteer network.”