Oxford India Forum 2024

Oxford India Forum 2024

About the event

Trade-offs and opportunities emerge as Forum explores environmental responsibility, technological advancement and innovative solutions.

The inaugural Oxford India Forum, held at Saïd Business School on 15 June 2024, was both an investigation of actions that India needs to take to ensure sustainable innovation and growth and a celebration of its global influence.

The brainchild of two Oxford graduate students, the Forum brought together senior academics, business leaders, policymakers, students and thought leaders in a range of individual presentations, panel discussions and ‘fireside chats’. Perceptive questions and challenges from speakers and audience members alike enlivened the debate and suggested new ideas worth exploring.

‘The fabric of India is entrepreneurship’

India’s growth is outpacing that of other economies, and it recently overtook the UK as the fifth largest economy. Speakers argued that much of this is down to individual aspiration and an entrepreneurial spirit that has led India to be regarded as the start-up capital of the world. Its unicorn count is high (only behind China and the US), but the backbone of the country remains family-owned businesses currently ‘stuck’ at around $10m. There are few investment products to enable these successful SMEs to scale; how can that be changed?

Underpinning this entrepreneurial spirit is an increasingly well-educated and well-travelled younger generation, exemplified by so many in the room. Through studying and working abroad they contribute to a cross-fertilisation of ideas and a willingness to make changes and try new things.

Creative disruption

From digital payments to electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals to flying taxis, the Forum touched on diverse sectors in which Indian people and companies are at the forefront of development.

In many sectors there is direct support from the Government, which is keen to support a narrative of both ‘made in India’ and ‘designed in India’. There were, however, calls for more training, particularly in areas such as AI, to translate India’s nascent talent into continuous innovation.

‘Net zero is net positive’

As Oxford Saïd’s Dean, Professor Soumitra Dutta, said, ‘Climate knows no boundaries’. India needs to meet its net zero targets in order to support global targets being met. With temperatures frequently rising to 50°C and an acceleration in the number of extreme weather events, India is well aware of the dangers of climate change. However, while not dismissing the tensions inherent in, for example, supporting the aviation industry while simultaneously trying to decarbonise it, speakers were confident that the need for sustainability presented opportunities as well as challenges. A green economy promises energy security as well as more jobs, especially for young people – a ‘triple win’ for the planet, the global north, and the global south.

View speaker and guest profiles.

Watch a video of the day's events.