Seven Powerful Messages From The Harvard India Conference 2017

Challenges, motivations and global goals of new age India

1. “While the twentieth century opened itself to democracy, the twenty first century needs to open itself to diversity.” — Shashi Tharoor, Chairman of committee on external affairs, India.

He is one of the most well spoken Indian politicians (a rather rare breed indeed) Shashi Tharoor shed some light on how the world is moving more inwards after globalization. With the world’s major superpowers putting in place a protective international regime on trade, immigration, resource management and everything in between, Mr Tharoor emphasizes on a legacy the 21st century should actually be leaving behind.

2. “Demonetization is bad for me but good for my country” — responses from Abhijit Banerjee’s survey of people’s attitude on demonetization in rural Orissa.

In demystifying demonetization Abhijit Banerjee, co-author of the best seller, poor economics talks about responses from research surveys in rural India which reflect confusion in the purpose of the demonetization plan put in place by the Indian administration but also signifies faith of the common man in the radical change.

3. “The future of media is recognizing but not stereotyping culture.” — Struta Vootukuru, VP of Sling TV

Things from chicken tikka masala to peppy Bollywood dance numbers have created a stereotypical image of Indian culture. Discussing about the future of content in India Sruta Vootukuru explained that as tech synthesizes populations in rural and urban India media will transition such that it is no longer a by product of culture but a global brand.

4. “As an entrepreneur you will face many choices but the only choice that is black and white is if you are ready to fight for what you believe in or not.” — Suchita Salwan, Co-founder and CEO at Little Black Book

Little Black Book is on a growth sprout, the activity discovery startup for the urban Indian millennial has at least 200,000 users everyday who use the platform to discover their cities. Suchita Salwan shared her take on navigating through the entrepreneurial journey with emphasis on one question that needs to have a mandatory answer.

5. The day we stop viewing our youth as a vote bank and move to viewing it as an invaluable asset, things will change — Omar Abdullah‘s address on the potential of India’s youth

The average population age in India is 28 to put that in perspective, the average age in China and the US is 38 and Japan is 46. India is set to become the youngest country in the world by 2020. It is the world’s largest democracy but it is certainly not the most efficient and the under utilization of the youth bulge is a major reason contributing to inefficiencies. The road forward however is an opportunity like no other.

6. “Non profit management is no different than corporate management, we are running social enterprises not non-profits.” — Arun Nalavadi, Director of Sustainable Partnerships at Magic Bus

In the discussion about innovation and social impact, Arun Nalavadi explained the scalability of Magic Bus as an organization and the fact that running a not for profit organization requires the same skills and temperament as running a corporation.

7. “Plan for scale from day one” — Dr Aparna Hegde Founder and Managing Trustee at ARMMAN Foundation

She introduced the idea of using tech to provide maternity care for women in rural India as a method to improve woman health via simple text messages. Today ARMMAN runs five different projects that aim at improving rural health and sanitation. Charity is not all what a social enterprise needs, there is an invaluable benefit in revising business models to scale which in turn leads to sustainable partnerships.


I like to think of India as a startup it’s young, it makes mistakes but it is set to scale a global footprint. The question however is if it can recognize the opportunities unique to it’s economy, culture and people.