Doing Business in India

Social Challenges and a Slowing Economy

February 27, 2020 12:00 pm - February 27, 2020 1:00 pm



Following his party’s sweeping victory in nationwide elections last year, India’s Prime Minister Modi has pushed through a series of controversial social initiatives as part of a Hindu nationalist agenda. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) coupled with a plan to implement a nationwide counting of citizenship (National Register of Citizens or NRC)are widely perceived as discriminatory against India’s Muslim minority, and have triggered widespread protests. Despite its lock on the national legislature, the Prime Minister’s ruling BJP has suffered consistent losses in state and local elections, where the pain of the country’s economic downturn are acutely felt and driving political restiveness.  A recent downgrade of India’s growth forecast by the International Monetary Fund is adding to both domestic and international pressure on Modi to get his economic house in order.

Demonstrations opposing Modi’s Hindu-nationalist policies and strikes caused by his ham-handed and ineffective economic policies have disrupted key cities across India and threaten supply chains.  Government use of draconian security measures–including inciting violence at demonstrations and cutting off internet access–suggest that businesses should be prepared for more uncertainty.

In this webinar, our panel of experts will discuss the current economic environment, the status of the protests and government response, and what to watch for going forward.


Ronak Desai

Vice-Chair, India Practice at Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Ronak is a recognized scholar in the fields of law and foreign policy. He has published extensively in these areas, focusing primarily on US-India relations, diaspora politics, international security and law, sanctions enforcement, global governance, and corruption. Until recently, Ronak was a practicing attorney at the law firm of O'Melveny & Meyers LLP in Washington, DC where he worked on a wide range of litigation, regulatory, and public policy matters. He represented clients in front of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the Department of Commerce, and the House and Senate Ethics Committees. He also conducted white collar, export control, and FCPA investigations for individual and multinational clients around the world.

Varun Kareparambil

Chief Executive Officer at GRID91

Varun has invested more than 15 years of his life in the Security and Risk Management industry. Taking up a job as a Security Guard back in 2004 with the sole objective of covering his living expenses while studying Travel & Tourism Management in the UK, the aspect of experiencing unique challenges every single day led him to the decision of pursuing a full time career in the security industry.

Between 2004 - 2007, he worked across the UK in various physical security roles, in the process garnering a very diverse experience. Be it working for top hotels, providing security cover to some of the most high profile football teams, safeguarding popular concerts, protecting some highly sensitive places of worship etc.

In 2007, Varun returned home to Mumbai to start a new journey within the security industry in India. He spent a couple of years as part of the security teams of 2 large international hotels. It was during this period that the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai took place following which the security landscape in India changed significantly. An opportunity to head security at a large British financial institution came along in January 2009, which he took up and held on to that role for almost a year before deciding to dabble with risk consulting.

In June 2016, Varun co-founded GRID91. As the CEO of the company, Varun has used his specialisations in building lean, yet effective teams; forming international collaborations, brand building and developing bespoke solutions, to establish a company which carries a good market reputation. GRID91 has been helping clients enhance their business resiliency through bespoke intelligence & analysis, robust protective operations, hands on training programs and pragmatic consulting.

Irfan Nooruddin

Director, Georgetown University India Initiative at Georgetown University

Irfan Nooruddin is the Hamad bin Khalifa Professor of Indian Politics in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he directs the Georgetown India Initiative. He is presently affiliated with Lokniti: Programme for Comparative Democracy in New Delhi, India & have been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

Professor Nooruddin studies problems of economic development, democratization, and civil conflict in the developing world. He is the author of Coalition Politics and Economic Development (2011) and Elections in Hard Times (2016, with T.E. Flores), both published by Cambridge University Press, as well as of numerous journal articles, edited volume chapters, and op-eds.

He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan, and a BA in Economics and International Studies from Ohio Wesleyan University. He spent my early life at St. Stanislaus High School and St. Xavier's College in Bombay, India.

Fred Burton

Chief Security Officer, Stratfor

Fred Burton is one of the world's foremost authorities on security and terrorism. He oversees Stratfor's analysis of global security developments and consults with clients on security-related issues affecting their business assets or personal safety. He also guides the firm's coverage of situations involving terrorism, hostages, hijackings and plane crashes. Before joining Stratfor, Mr. Burton served as a counterterrorism agent with the U.S. State Department from 1985 to 1999.

During his 14-year career, Mr. Burton was involved in many high-profile investigations including: the search for and arrest of Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing; the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; the killing of Rabbi Meir Kahane and al Qaeda's New York City bombing plots before 9/11; and the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel and Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

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