Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, gestures as he speaks during a plenary session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)  

What India Inc. Made Of Modi’s Davos Speech

Terrorism, climate change and protectionism were the biggest threats of our times, and the world must unite and reform global institutions to meet these challenges, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

Modi called for collaboration by global leaders to work toward a future “where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls”, taking a leaf out of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali. His plenary address at the World Economic Forum was the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 21 years.

This was a different approach by Modi, who usually pushes the India story aggressively, said Sajjan Jindal, chairman of the JSW Group. Jindal had earlier told BloombergQuint that he expects Modi to “sell India”, by talking about its potential as an investment destination. Instead, the Prime Minister was way more ambitious, using the platform to larger global issues.

Here's what leaders from India Inc. made of PM Modi's near hour-long speech.

‘Well Balanced’

Jindal said that Modi’s speech was well balanced and the Prime Minister used words wisely to address the forum. “I thought he has clearly portrayed India’s leadership and talked about our history,” he said.

He did mention about coming to India, investing to India and but he didn’t want to over ‘sell’ the country.
Sajjan Jindal, Chairman, JSW Group

‘Statesman Over Salesman’

This was the “speech of a global statesman” while the world was listening, said Uday Kotak, billionaire banker and vice-chairman and managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has moved on from being a salesman of India...The three points he made on climate change, terrorism and protectionism are key points in the world order and what better place than this for this statement.
Uday Kotak, Chairman, Kotak Mahindra Bank

India’s Global Role Takes Centre Stage

The Prime Minister’s speech struck the right note for the country, according to Ajit Gulabchand, the chairman of the Hindustan Construction Company Ltd. He addressed the issue of a “fractured world and how to bring it together”, Gulabchand told BloombergQuint.

If you notice, he made a reference several times that we are a democracy which is not just a question of votes but a question of philosophy and a way of doing things. He is directly comparing with China and saying that we are a different kind of force.
Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman, HCC

Modi Chooses ‘A Moral Playground’

Modi did well to highlight India’s soft power instead of just speaking about India’s economic might, said Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group. The Prime Minister took an inclusive approach by inviting world and corporate leaders assembled at Davos to come to India, saying solutions to the world’s biggest problems can be found here.

I think he covered all grounds by saying we are spiritual, harmonised and open but we are also becoming a more self-confident nation. I think it was a well-crafted piece of content and I think it’ll be compared right away to President Trump’s, so let’s watch the action.
Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group

Mahindra said that while some people may criticise Modi for not focusing on economics at such a forum, he’s not in that camp.

I think when you change the rules of the game, then you dominate proceedings, and I think he did that.
Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group

‘Refreshing Vision’

Modi’s speech articulated a vision of India “rarely spoken about or discussed at a forum like this” which is expected to be business oriented, said Rajiv Lall, managing director and chief economic officer of IDFC Bank.

It was more of India as a democracy, as a multi-cultural society and it was about what India has to share with rest of the world without experiencing and dealing with that complexity
Rajiv Lall, MD & CEO, IDFC Bank

The speech had a "very coherent narrative" as it also talked about how India has improved financial inclusion through reforms, Lall added.

‘Measured and Humble’

The Prime Minister’s speech was “powerful” as he voiced his aspirations for India with “great charisma in Hindi and not in English”, said John Studzinski, vice-chairman of the Blackstone Group. “His real charisma comes out in Hindi,” he told BloombergQuint.

However, offering “constructive criticism” Studzinski said Modi tried to cover a wide variety of issues, and investors and economy watchers had to wait till the end for his views on the India growth story.

Modi’s speech reflected managing expectations, humility and his aspirations for India. He was much more measured and humble (than President Xi last year).
John Studzinski, Vice-Chairman, Blackstone Group