India Rising theme celebrated at the India Conference at Harvard

2024 India Harvard Conference at Harvard
2024 India Harvard Conference at Harvard
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Credit: Bobby Guliani (

The Indian student community of Harvard University has a long-standing tradition of running the India Harvard Conference for more than two decades. This year on February 17th-18th, the India Harvard Conference witnessed a congregation of the best minds from India and the Indian Diaspora at Harvard University who exchanged thoughts and ideas around the theme of “India Rising”. The theme “India Rising” was chosen with the intent to demonstrate India’s ascent into a country of significance globally, be it in geopolitics, business, or culture.

India Rising Theme at Harvard  
   Image: India Rising Theme at Harvard

The Harvard India conference is one of the largest student-run events in the United States today and attracts over 800 students, academic professionals, business leaders, and policy experts from India and the Indian diaspora around the world. The Conference was held at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Harvard Business School (HBS) over 2 days.

Through the “India Rising” theme, many speakers in the conference explored India’s rich heritage and provided insightful perspectives on India’s ongoing transformation as an economic and cultural powerhouse at the world stage.

Some big names from India and the Indian Diaspora were speakers in the conference including Ms. Madhabi Puri Buch, chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Mr. Indermit Gill, Chief Economist of the World Bank, Aroon Purie, founder and editor-in-chief of India Today, Radhika Gupta, MD & CEO, Edelweiss Mutual Fund, Niren Chaudhary, Former CEO of Panera Bread, Swati Maliwal is a Social Activist and a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Sudhanshu Mani, Visionary from Indian Railways and many others. From the world of entertainment & sports, Indian-actress Karishma Kapoor, Indian-American director and producer Vibha Bakshi, Padma Shri Khel Ratna Arjuna awardee, Deepa Malik and others also graced the occasion with their presence. 

The panelists event covered a wide range of topics, including policy, economy, climate, and social change, with titles such as Crossroads and Opportunities: India's Economic Trajectory, Evolving Role of Media in India, Building Bridges: Gender, Allyship, and Social Change, among others.

The conference was kicked off by Douglas W. Elmendorf, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School on February 17th, Saturday, followed by an impressive panel discussion by Prof. Tarun Khanna of HBS and Ms. Madhabi Puri Buch, chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Tarun Khanna with Madhabi Puri Buch 
  Image: Prof Tarun Khanna with Madhabi Puri Buch

Ms. Buch discussed about innovative regulatory and technology advancements SEBI is bringing in India, which is in one of the most high-volume security trading operations in the world. SEBI is aiming for T+1 (one day after purchase of stock) to same-day settlements of stocks in India, which continue to push the leadership of India in the world of finance and digital payment infrastructure.

Mr. Indermit Gill from World Bank celebrated the economic growth of India, but reminded India and authorities in leadership to continue growth in manufacturing output and Per Capita GDP for the nation, which will further strengthen the foundation of rising India.

Niren Chadhary from Panera Bread talked about resilience required in Leadership roles and inspired everyone from his story about his journey from India to a global, multi-cultural career spanning across UK, Europe and USA, exemplifying the power that Indian Americans CEOs have established in corporate boardrooms around the world.

Mr. Aroon Purie from India Today and Mr. Girish Agarwaal from the Dainik Bhaskar group spoke about the evolving role of Media in India, and how traditional media is still relevant in the country admist social media and evolving Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. They both underlined the role traditional media plays in driving social and political change through independent journalism.

Arun Poorie with Girish Agarwaal 
   Image: Arun Poorie with Girish Agarwaal

Mr. Sudhanshu Mani, the visionary from Indian Railways and the driving force behind the Vande Bharat express in India spoke about how he and his team built the superfast train in India. The train, which was initially dubbed as Train18, and later rebranded as Vande Bharat Express, has marked a significant milestone in India's railway history as the country's first locally built superfast train.

Dr. Raj Sardana, Founder & CEO of Innova Solutions and Mr. Sanjiv Ahuja founder, chairman, and CEO of Tillman Global Holdings (TGH), shared perspectives from the point of view of Indian-American entrepreneurs and how the values of persistence, dreaming big and being passionate about your mission is the secret behind the success of many entrepreneurs in the Indian diaspora.

Raj Sardana 
   Image: Raj Sardana and Sanjiv Ahuja, Indian-American entrepreneurs

Karishma Kapoor shared about the 'Soft Power' of Bollywood and how India and Indian culture touches the heart and minds of the world from Raj Kapoor movies to current work by the creative community in Bollywood and directors & producers from the Indian Diaspora. 

Soft Power of Bollywood 
 Image: Karishma Kapoor talking about the Soft Power of Bollywood

Prominent Indian American Director and Producer Vibha Bakshi talked about women empowerment through her work - Daughters of Mother India and Son Rise. Both films are winners of the National Film Awards from the President of India. She is the recipient of four National Film Awards from the President of India.

People Listening 
Image: More than 800 people from India and the Indian Diaspora attended the conference

Overall, the India Conference at Harvard beautifully celebrated the rise of India on the world stage and gave limelight to the impact Indians and the Indian Diaspora have been making in the world. At the end of the conference, there was a common sentiment emerging from all the discussions and exchange of ideas – that this century belongs to India.



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