50th St. Gallen Symposium "Freedom Revisited": 7–8 May 2020


Words that shaped my life

I had the opportunity to visit the University of St. Gallen, as a finalist of the ISC Symposium (now St. Gallen Symposium) in 2001 and 2002. It was my first trip outside India, my home then, and a very memorable one at that. The memories of home-stay with a local student of the university, along with the networking and sharing of ideas with the participants at the symposium are still etched in my mind.

I am sure each finalist feels honored and humbled to be a part of the St. Gallen Symposium. I for one definitely felt honored to be amongst the best in terms of the student participants as well as the corporate and political speakers. I was truly humbled and enlightened by the various presentations made by the participants and the chance to interact with the participants. The symposium gave me an exposure to the global stage and with it, the ideas that are most relevant to the world. More than a decade ago, in St. Gallen, we were in a miniecosystem where a handful of people were debating and discussing ideas that would be relevant to the future of mankind, and where we could shape the world we live in.

The symposium gave me an exposure to the global stage
Impressions of the 31st St. Gallen Symposium (ISC-Symposium at the time)

The topics that were chosen for the essays were very thought provoking; for instance, in 2001 the topic was New Balance of Power and in 2002 it was Pushing Limits, Questioning Goals. Looking back, these topics are still very relevant.

The topics were very thought provoking

The first essay was about how the balance of power between governments and the business sector will shift from the government playing a “regulatory” role in 20th century to that of a “growth catalyst” in the 21st century. 15 years fast forward the buzzwords deregulation, digitization and go-green are everywhere and are becoming mainstream through government-led initiatives such as the Smarter Financial Centre initiative of the MAS1, Digital India2 and Swacch Bharat3.

The second essay I wrote was about how companies can maximize efficiency (push their limits) to achieve short-term success but will need to look to become innovative (question their goals) to survive and compete in the long run. This is even more relevant in today’s era given the global financial cisis, the coming of age of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Alibaba and others and the rise of consumer expectations during the last 15 years. There is hardly any industry that has not been disrupted by tech-startups (whether it is Fintech, Medtech, Agritech or even Edtech). While Artificial Intelligence and Robotics might help improve efficiencies in the short-term, companies will need to play in the “sharing economy” and innovative their business models to survive in the long run.

There is hardly any industry that has not been disrupted
Impressions of the 32nd St. Gallen Symposium (ISC-Symposium at the time)

Both of my visits to the symposium left me feeling a little wiser and ingrained in me a sense of self-leadership that has guided me and will continue to guide me as I traverse through various levels of my corporate journey. It has instilled in me an understanding that enough is never enough and there is always something more to learn, to do and to help accomplish to make the world a better place.

As I reflect on the essays I had penned down 15 years back, I realize that those were not just words or discussion topics but were building blocks that subconsciously have been shaping up my thought process and actions throughout my life. I am currently in a senior leadership role in the Fintech and Innovation team at one of the top banks in the world and I fully understand and realize the need to constantly push limits and question goals (learn, unlearn and relearn) to enable my organization to compete in the 21st century through new business models, new technologies and new skill sets. I also see the balance of power shifting from the large corporates and the government to tech startups and consumers, and hence we are playing a very active role to embed our organization into social eco-systems and participating in the “sharing economy” rather than do it all by ourselves.

Those were not just words


1(Banking regulator in Singapore taking the lead on Financial technologies OR “Fintech” such as Blockchain, Roboadvisory, Big data, Biometrics, Digital payments, P2P lending, etc.)

2(Government of India’s campaign to ensure that Government. services are made available to citizens electronically through innovative initiatives such as unique Identity for each of the 1.3 billion Indians)

3(Government of India’s campaign to clean up the streets, roads & infrastructure of India).