In late November, after months of preparation from so many on both the American and Indian sides, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) came to Hyderabad. Thousands of delegates from around the world gathered in our city and gave people around the world a firsthand view of the strengths and benefits of the US-India partnership.
The GES was such a whirlwind of activity that it would be impossible to fully encapsulate here, but let me share some highlights.
Centrality of Women
Prime Minister Modi and Adviser to the American President, Ivanka Trump, inaugurated the GES and jointly declared the centrality of women to our shared economic future. Prime Minister Modi noted the pivotal role women have played and continue to play in India and reaffirmed that, “women’s empowerment is vital to our development.”
In her own remarks, Ms Trump reminded us all that “India has a true friend in the White House,” and recognised three extraordinary women: American Dara Dotz of Field Ready, Indian Rajlakshmi Borthakur of Terra Blue, and 15-year-old Azerbaijani Reyhan Camalova, founder of Rainergy.
All three are pursuing their business ambitions while also working to better their societies. The GES provided them a platform that can propel them to the next level, and – crucially – brought them together to learn from other entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors.
Learning from Luminaries
Indeed, hundreds of entrepreneurs from around the world, and many thousands more tuning in from home, learned from some of the best minds in business and policy through panel discussions, master classes, and breakout sessions.
Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Amway president Doug DeVos, sports superstar Sania Mirza, US Treasurer Jovita Caranza, and ICICI CEO Chanda Kochhar were just a few of the luminaries that came to Hyderabad and shared their wisdom with the delegates.
Our local expert on innovation, IT Minister KTR, moderated a popular session on skills training featuring Ms Trump and Cherie Blair. No matter what the field or sector, there was a mentor on hand to offer advice to the entrepreneurs.
Our new US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, also joined us at the GES after just days of arriving in India. Ambassador Juster got a wonderful overview of the innovation happening here in Hyderabad, and I know he’ll be back soon to learn even more about what drives this dynamic city.
An Incredible Group
But for all the VVIPs that joined us, the summit was truly about the delegates themselves, an incredible group of entrepreneurs and investors. For the first time, women made up a majority of the GES delegates.
Delegates representing some 150 countries came to Hyderabad, and the American cohort came from 38 US States. In a very special gesture, and thanks to a special effort from the Government of India, we were joined by several entrepreneurs from Pakistan, who were visiting India for the first time.
From these delegates, we heard dozens of intriguing pitches during the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Catalyst pitch competition and crowned a competition champion in Indian-American Ajaita Shah of Frontier Markets, which provides last mile distribution for clean energy products and works to make women a key part of their distribution model in Rajasthan.
In addition, the delegates exchanged countless handshakes, meetings and exchanged business cards during the GES. This will lead to companies that one day become household names and change the trajectory of our collective future.
The GES was three days of concentrated excitement that followed many weeks of ‘Road to GES’ activities in Hyderabad, elsewhere in India, the United States and around the world.
But there’s recognition on all sides that the road from GES holds just as much promise and potential. Already, we’ve seen announcements from both public and private sectors that will ensure a smooth transition.
Our colleagues at the US Agency for International Development, whose administrator Mark Green was on hand for GES, announced several initiatives that will help global innovators, including the Women Connect Challenge, designed to help bridge the digital divide for women entrepreneurs.
Our friends and partners at NITI Aayog and the Government of Telangana, who were so critical to the success of GES, have already announced initiatives that will continue to support women entrepreneurs in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The private sector also has a critical role to play and has lived up to that mantle: companies like Uber and Boeing each announced their own programmes that will continue to support entrepreneurs long after the summit itself.
And of course, you’ll continue to see a robust slate of entrepreneurship-related programming and content from our Consulate, the Embassy in New Delhi and our other US Consulates around India.
In closing, on behalf of our team, I’d like to thank everyone who was so critical to our success at GES. This, of course, includes NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, Telangana Chief Minister KCR, IT Minister KTR and Telangana IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan.
Perhaps most crucially, it includes all of the people of Hyderabad. Thank you for hosting us, for allowing us to share jewels like Golconda Fort (one of Ms Trump’s favourite stops!) with our visitors, for coping with the traffic delays and security measures, and for creating the energy, innovation, and optimism that define this city and made it such a natural host for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
(The author is US Consul General in Hyderabad)