From 100 participants in 2003, rise and rise of Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit
The presence of top industrialists at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit and pledges of investments prompted other states to organise similar events
In October 2001, Narendra Modi took over as the Gujarat chief minister in the aftermath of the earthquake that flattened swathes of the state’s Kutch region and claimed thousands of lives nine months earlier. The Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank collapse the same year added to the state’s woes. The collapse had a ripple effect and hit 133 more banks. Gujarat was in dire straits when the communal riots a year later battered the state’s image further.
In an atmosphere of despair, Modi launched the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit to restore the confidence of investors. The event has grown in scale since September 2003 when it was first held at a community hall in Ahmedabad with around 100 participants.
The interest of exhibitors and participants surged in 2005 when the exhibition area for the summit was tripled. Two years later, Modi famously suggested during the 2007 summit to then Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata to move the manufacturing of low-cost Nano car to Gujarat from West Bengal following protests there over inadequate compensation for land acquired for its factory.
The presence of top industrialists such as Tata at the event and pledges of investments prompted other states to organise similar events. The platform fostered business-friendly policies and demonstrated the potential for economic growth besides helping Modi boost his image, which played a key role in his rise as the Prime Minister in 2014.
Japan participated in the event as the first partner country in the 2009 summit, where industrialists Sunil Bharti Mittal and Anil Ambani praised Modi and said they saw a national-level leader in him. Over 600 foreign delegates, including political dignitaries, participated in the 2009 edition.
At an event marking 20 years of the summit in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, Modi hailed the transformation of the summit as an institution while recalling the indifference of the previous Congress-led Union government. He said the central ministers in the earlier government refused to attend the event and even threatened foreign investors to discourage them from participating.
Modi said far from cooperating, the previous government put hurdles in their way. He said foreign investors chose to invest in Gujarat despite challenges due to their positive experiences—good, transparent, policy-driven governance, fairness, and equitable growth opportunities.
Modi recalled the challenging circumstances under which he took over as the Gujarat chief minister with no prior administrative experience. He said the event would become key to restoring faith in Gujarat. Modi said the number of participants has grown to over 40,000 from 135 countries.
Modi recalled the humble beginnings of the summit in makeshift tents. Instead of hotels, business houses, and university guest houses provided accommodation for guests.
The government has not provided details of the memoranda of understanding (MoUs) signed at the event since 2017. The MoUs are non-binding and merely state an entity’s intent to invest in the state. An official said less than 10% of the investments would have flowed in as many of them are in large infrastructure projects with long gestation periods.
MoUs signed at the event include those for Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, Dholera Smart City Project, and Maruti Suzuki’s car manufacturing projects.