Students Organize the Inaugural Darden Emerging Markets Conference
By Molly Mitchell
Last week the University of Virginia Darden School of Business held the inaugural Darden Emerging Markets Conference, which brought together leaders, professionals and students to discuss business opportunities in global emerging markets. The conference was hosted by Darden international affinity clubs Darden South Asia Society (DSAS), Latin American Students Association (LASA), Asia Business Club at Darden (ABCD) and Darden African Business Organization (DABO).
The conference featured a keynote session from the Honorable Jayant Sinha, chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Finance and member of parliament in India, followed by panel discussions by experts in the fields of entrepreneurship, investing, technology and economics in global emerging markets. Panelists represented regions in South Asia, East Asia, Latin American and Africa.
Dean Scott Beardsley opened the conference and introduced Sinha, his former colleague at McKinsey. “Darden is a very global business school. In fact, a record 43% of the incoming full-time class have international backgrounds,” he said. “We’re also a very student-led enterprise. When you combine the breadth of experience and intellectual curiosity with the initiative of the students, you get wonderful experiences like this conference.” He noted that emerging markets tend to be “a hotbed of innovation.”
Sinha’s keynote address focused on the development model in India in light of rapidly progressing climate change. While the US, China and other developed countries followed a “farm to factory” model of development, Sinha argued that the same model is proving unsustainable for India. He said the country must instead pivot to a “farm to frontier” model, as in the frontier of climate-friendly technology and development. He describes farm to frontier as a model in which “we, by using technology, push the boundaries of the green frontier, move towards decarbonization and zero emissions, robust economic growth and much more sustainable development.”
He said that emerging markets are indeed hotbeds of innovation because they must address development and decarbonization at the same time as a matter of survival in the face of rampant climate change related disasters. Sinha emphasized that “Net Zero is Net Positive” for India, and encouraged Darden students to understand their important role in the next decade. “If I was back at business school, I don’t think I’d join McKinsey,” he said. “I’d join a green startup.”
Panel discussions on technology, investment and economic changes in emerging markets followed the keynote presentation. “The Impact of Technology Innovation in Emerging Markets” panel featured Diego Gamba of Mercardo Libre, Himanshu Wardhan of Thevasa, YP Chan of Avidian Technologies and Opeyemi Awoyemi of Fast Forward Ventures. Discussion ranged from pandemic-related acceleration of digital adoption, the potential of innovation to level the playing field between developed and emerging markets, investing in offline infrastructure to support online business and distinguishing between the hype and reality of new technologies like AI and blockchain.
“Investment Trends in Emerging Markets” featured panelists Francisco Escobosa of Revo Re, Eunice Ajim of Ajim Capital, Gunjan Shukla of OLX and Xingcheng Hua of MX. Moderated by Darden Professor Elena Loutskina, panelists discussed opportunities in emerging markets and investment trends in their respective regions, such as fintech in Africa and Latin America, climate tech in India and investments related to the aging population in China.
The “Changing Economic Landscapes in Emerging Markets” panel included Victoria Nuguer of the Inter-American Development Bank, Harun Alp of the Federal Reserve Board and Manuel García-Santana of the World Bank. Nuguer presented research on inflation in Latin America, Alp discussed studies on the relationship between firm growth, delegation and profit in India and García-Santana presented research on the role of governments and procurement in emerging economies. A lively Q & A from attendees followed the experts’ presentations.
Closing the event was Marc Johnson, senior assistant dean for student engagement and strategic and global initiatives. He thanked the student organizers, saying “today is a showcase that gets to the heart of why we do what we do at Darden.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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