Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) is an annual India-focused business conference organized by students of Wharton and UPenn. WIEF 2017 was held on Jan 6-7, 2017 in Taj Palace, Mumbai, India, and was attended by 450 people over two days. The conference was focused on promoting startups and conversations around the theme, “Innovate to Grow in India”. Jan 6 saw 10 of the most promising startups in India (selected from 530 startup applicants) pitch to a panel of VC investors to win the prestigious WIEF-SBI Startup Competition Award. Jan 7 saw notable speakers from the fields of policy, business (large-enterprises), social sector, investing, and academia. Praveen Chunduru, who was a Co-Chair of WIEF 2017(along with Aman Jain, Ankita Bajaj, and Divya Menon) spoke to Wharton Journal on his experience of putting together the conference. This article captures Praveen’s experience and views only.
Why did you decide to be a part of the board of WIEF?
To help strengthen Wharton’s connections with India, and in the process, enhance my understanding of Indian business ecosystems and build a stronger network of alums / industry professionals focused on India.
What is the primary goal of WIEF?
To leverage Wharton’s knowledge base, reputation, and network to facilitate conversations focused on Indian-business, that result in long-term partnerships. Examples of partnerships include research projects between Wharton and Indian enterprises, business connections between startups and investors, and Wharton faculty / alumni potentially joining boards of Indian companies.
What were some of the biggest challenges in organizing WIEF?
The three biggest challenges we faced in WIEF were: Collectively articulating our long-term vision for WIEF and where WIEF 2017 fits in; Balancing interests of and coordinating between the various teams within WIFE and Balancing time between WIEF and other commitments of organizing members (students).
Can you specifically talk about how you leveraged the Wharton brand in organizing this forum?
We took the help of Wharton faculty and alumni in getting introduced to potential key speakers and sponsors and in getting advice on best practices based on their observations of previous years’ WIEF conferences.
What were some big achievements of WIEF this year?
The three biggest achievements of WIEF this year are:
- Expanding the conference in India to include a speaker series and then bringing on board prolific speakers (considering both the number and repute of speakers, we view WIEF 2017’s speaker list as probably the most high-profile one in WIEF history).
- Shedding light on Indian innovation, especially at the startup level through the WIEF Startup Competition, which helped catapult the network and visibility of some of the most promising startups in India.
- Achieving a diverse attendee-mix, with healthy representation from large enterprise, startup, investing, policy, and academia spaces.
Where do you see WIEF in the future?
Building on the primary goal of WIEF that we described, we are helping put in place structures that are optimized to achieve long-term partnerships that contribute to the growth, sustainability, and prominence of Indian businesses on a global stage.
How important has WIEF been in your Wharton journey?
It has been the single most important extracurricular activity that I have been involved in. Not only did it help foster some strong friendships, it has also taught me the key skill of institution building, which encompasses mitigating uncertainty through planning and communication, putting in place structures and processes that constantly improve, and balancing members’ interests & constraints. I am confident that no matter which business situation I face in the future, I will have a corresponding WIEF experience to draw lessons from.