Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Kellogg India Business Conference

The following article was published in my Financial Times blog today. Reproducing without any edits.


This past weekend we hosted the 18th annual Kellogg India Business Conference. The conference, the first one was held in 1995, is one of the most prominent conferences organised by the student body and attracts some of the most accomplished men and women from corporate India and beyond.
Opportunities Take Flight
Once again this year we had a wide gamut of Indian achievers from a variety of fields including the internet, enterprise software, venture capital, consumer packaged goods and not-for-profit. The conference started early on Saturday morning and was kicked off by a most riveting welcome address by one of Kellogg’s favourite professors – Mohanbir Sawhney.
Prof Sawhney delivering the welcome address
This was followed by a keynote address by Param Uberoi, the chairman of Pernod Ricard, south Asia who retraced his steps from his initial days in the beverage industry and outlined how the market has grown and matured drastically over the years. He regaled the crowd with plenty of anecdotes and insightful observations about not only the beverage industry but also the overall landscape of business in India.
Mr. Uberoi delivering the opening keynote address
This was followed by a panel discussion on financial services in India called “Fuelling a Billion Aspirations”, which was moderated by Navin Chopra. It included Kellogg alumni Rahul Khanna, the managing director of Canaan Partners, India and Jasjit Mangat, director, investments, Omidyar Network India Advisors, as well as K B Chandrasekar, the founder and chief executive of Asia Bridge Capital and Amitabh Chaudhry, the managing director and chief executive of HDFC Standard Life.
A wide variety of subjects were discussed including the exit strategies of venture capitalists in Indian start-ups and how and when should Indians working overseas decide to return to their home country.
The finance panel in progress
After the panel discussion the audience was enthralled by a passionate speech from Abraham George, the founder and chairman of The George Foundation, who has been working hard for many years to try to improve the lot of the underprivileged in India. He moved the assembled audience with his statistics about the real impact of poverty in India and discussed various ways in which everyone can make a difference and contribute towards a brighter, more egalitarian future for the nation.
Abraham George delivering his keynote speech
The afternoon session started with the social innovation competition that saw four student teams, three from Kellogg and one from NYU’s Stern School of Business, present their ideas about solving certain issues in India. These ranged from insurance and the availability of seeds, to iron-rich nutritional biscuits for mothers to tackle the problem of iron deficiency in Indian women.
Further ideas were investing in various kinds of skill development among the large population through a modified private equity fund and shared tractors, along the lines of the car sharing business model in the west. After an hour of intense presentation and gruelling question and answer sessions with the jury of professors and speakers at the conference, UpSkill Capital won first prize, followed by iNsure. They received $10,000 and $5,000 respectively as a team and they plan to invest these amounts in their venture ideas and bring them to fruition.
UpSkill Capital - the winning team in the Social Innovation Competition
Bharat Goenka, co-founder and managing director of Tally Solutions delivered the next keynote speech and won over the audience with his stories of the hurdles he initially faced before the success of one of India’s best known software brands. He also made a strong impact by firstly highlighting the issues that India faces as a country today, but also pointing out that nevertheless it is poised to take off as the biggest economic superpower in the coming years.
Bharat Goenka delivering his keynote speech
The final session of the conference was a panel discussion on entrepreneurship in India which was moderated by Rashmi Bansal, the best-selling author of entrepreneurial stories (Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish). The panel consisted of some of the young achievers of online India – Anupam Mittal, the founder and chief executive of People Group (the parent company of brands such as, etc) and Neetu Bhatia co-founder, chairman and chief executive of KyaZoonga.
Bharat Goenka was also on the panel and discussed the opportunities available to those who want to make a start in the world of Indian entrepreneurship. Lots of personal experiences were shared by the panelists and by the end of the session it seemed as if many in the audience were motivated to move back to India and start off on their own!
Rashmi Bansal moderating the entrepreneurship panel
The Entrepreneurship Panel in progress
The highly energetic and inspiring day was brought to a close by a well-attended networking session with the students and other members of the audience getting to spend some quality time with the various speakers and panelists.
And finally a note of thanks to the conference leadership committee who worked very hard for months to put it together and deliver a most engaging event.
The India Business Conference Leadership Team

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