When I embarked on this entrepreneurial journey a decade ago, little did I know the remarkable milestones it would lead to. Each year, as we gather for the Annual SpeakIn Conclave and Awards, it’s a moment of reflection, celebration, and a reiteration of the incredible journey we’ve had. This year’s ‘Shades of Leadership’ was very special in many aspects and I felt it is important to share the insider view of this premier Business and Bureaucracy celebratory event.

Union Minister Smriti Irani and Journalist Navika Kumar at Speakin Conclave 2023
Selfie with Union minister Smriti Irani and renowned Journalist Navika Kumar

The Remarkable Confluence of Leadership

The 4th Annual SpeakIn Conclave and Awards 2023, held on 23rd October 2023 was nothing short of extraordinary. The Taj Mansingh in Delhi was our chosen venue, where thought leaders from all corners of the globe converged. The evening was a blend of intellectual discussions, new discoveries, and priceless networking.

Honouring Leadership in Business and Bureaucracy

Entrepreneurial journeys are often long and challenging, and it’s an adventure that intensifies even more when you’re a woman entrepreneur. But when one of the most respected women leaders in the country stands beside you to celebrate this journey, it becomes all the more remarkable. We were honoured to have Smt. Smriti Irani, the Honorable Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Government of India, as our Chief Guest.

Union Minister Smriti Irani at 4th Speakin leadership conclave 2023
It was an immense pleasure to have Union Minister Smriti Irani at 4th Speakin leadership conclave 2023.


This evening wasn’t just about glitz and glamour; it was a tribute to business and bureaucracy. We recognized and honoured some of the most prominent SpeakIn experts across various domains, from media and business to bureaucracy and governance.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the remarkable individuals who graced the occasion. 

  • Navika Kumar: Group Editor, Times Network and Editor-in-Chief, Times Now Navbharat: A name synonymous with fearless journalism.
  • CP Gurnani: Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tech Mahindra: A global leader in digital transformation and IT reimagined.
  • Lt. Gen. Deependra Hooda: Lieutenant General of India – Army Commander, Northern Command:  A man of unmatched valour and strategic acumen
  • Piyush Pandey: Fr. Chief Creative Officer, Executive Chairman India, Ogilvy & Mather: The creative genius behind some of the most iconic advertising campaigns.
  • PadamShree Dr. Pradeep Chowbey: Executive vice chairman of Max Healthcare: A pioneer in the field of minimally invasive surgery.
  • Vikram Chandra: Founder, Editorji Technologies and Former. CEO, NDTV Group, A stalwart in the field of Indian Journalism.
  • CK Mishra: IAS Officer and Fr. Sec. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Environment, Forests and Climate Change: A veteran bureaucrat with years of distinguished service.
  • Raman Sidhu: Chairman, EBG Federation:  A dynamic and influential personality in media.
  • Aarti Gupta: National Head, FICCI FLO Startup and Independent Director – Jindal Stainless: An expert at the intersection of technology and governance.
  • Dr. Ashish K. Bhutani: IAS Officer and Additional Chief Secretary, Assam, An accomplished bureaucrat with an impeccable track record.
  • Hari Chandana Dasari: IAS Officer: A bureaucrat with a vision for transformative change.
  • Ashwani Lohani: CEO, GMR Group and Former Chairman Air India: A name synonymous with excellence in the Indian Railways.
  • Anil Wadhwa: IAS Officer and Former Ambassador to Italy: A diplomat par excellence.
  • Dr. S.Y. Quraishi: Former Chief Election Commissioner of India: A man with invaluable insights into the electoral process.
  • Freddy Svane: Danish Ambassador to India: An ambassador with a wealth of international experience.
  • Arun Anand: Renowned Author and Columnist: A name synonymous with insightful political commentary.
  • Shri. Aman Sinha: Senior Advocate – Supreme Court, Speaker, Author and Columnist:  A distinguished advocate and a prominent voice in legal circles.
  • Ajay Thakur: SME and Startup at BSE: An expert with a deep understanding of economic policy.
  • Bhupendra Chaubey: Executive Editor of CNN IBN: A bureaucrat with a vision for transformative change.
  • Priyank Garg: Managing Partner, IAN Alpha Fund; Angel Investor; President, Delhi Chapter of ISHRAE: An expert in business transformation and strategy.
  • Vithal Donakonda: Head of Procurement for IT and Certified Independent Director: An accomplished leader in technology and innovation.

And many more such luminaries.

Their presence made this evening exceptional.

“From Rejects to Respect: Smriti Irani’s Remarkable Tale”

This Conclave offered a compelling glimpse into the journey of a woman who has defied the odds and risen to a position of influence. The conversation began with Irani’s humble roots, emphasizing that many successful individuals, including herself, did not hail from pedigreed backgrounds. Irani candidly shared her early struggles, reflecting on her mother’s role as a housekeeper at the iconic hotel, The Taj Mansingh, where the interview took place.

Irani’s narrative unfolded with poignant anecdotes, such as the chef at the hotel providing leftover club sandwiches for her school lunch, highlighting the challenges she faced as a child. 

Union Minister Smriti Irani passed on a message to the youth of the country, “embrace rejections, use it as fuel for your success.”

The conversation then delved into Irani’s political career, where she addressed the gender dynamics within the field. Irani dismissed the notion of being patronized for her gender, stating that she had never been shamed as a woman in her professional journey. However, she acknowledged the attempts by some to use gender-based attacks as a political strategy, which she deemed as a juvenile approach.

In conclusion, the interview between Times Network’s  Navika Kumar and Smriti Irani unveiled a story of resilience, ambition, and principled decision-making. Irani’s journey serves as an inspiration, reminding individuals to listen to themselves, persevere through challenges, and embrace opportunities to create meaningful impact.

Throughout this interaction, I could see, sense and experience the engagement and positive energy among the audience. You can watch the entire interaction of the Honourable Minister Smriti Irani with Navika Kumar here.


Panel Discussion: India’s Ascent: Navigating the Path to Global Leadership

A panel of distinguished individuals engaged in a thoughtful conversation about India’s journey towards global leadership. The dialogue, spanning various facets of the country’s progress, offered insights into the challenges faced, achievements made, and the road ahead.

Mr. C.P. Gurnani  – Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Tech Mahindra, shared his perspective on the positive changes witnessed in the technology sector. He highlighted the collaboration between the government and the private sector, citing advancements in semiconductors, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence. The convergence of efforts, driven by exponential thinking and the acknowledgement of the need to catch up, was deemed a crucial factor in India’s technology sector advancements.

The conversation then delved into diverse aspects, including the role of bureaucracy and administration. Mr. C.K. Mishra – Former Secretary Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, representing the bureaucratic perspective, dispelled the notion that bureaucracy held India back, emphasizing that it is an integral part of the system. He emphasized the need to focus on present competitiveness rather than comparing with the past, asserting that India is now competing globally in a manner reflective of its capabilities.

A pivotal aspect discussed was India’s military strength and its shift towards indigenous production of weapons and defence systems. The emphasis on self-reliance and technological advancements indicated a strategic approach to enhancing India’s hard power, crucial for a nation aspiring to global leadership.

In summary, the discourse encapsulated India’s multifaceted journey, acknowledging achievements, identifying ongoing challenges, and outlining the crucial elements needed for sustained growth. The consensus was clear: India’s rise to global leadership is not just a possibility but a trajectory being actively pursued and realised


India’s Global Odyssey: G20 Summit Insights and Future Imperatives, Piyush Pandey

Piyush Pandey, ad guru emphasized the essence of partnerships, pointing out that brands are not defined by self-proclamations but by what the world says about a nation. Leveraging the G20 Summit and navigating geopolitical shifts, he urged leaders to forge partnerships at various levels, creating a global perception that aligns with India’s aspirations.

The conversation seamlessly transitioned to the internal landscape, addressing the delicate balance between national priorities and the external brand. Piyush asserted that these elements should complement each other, focusing on showcasing India’s strengths to the world, fostering a unique identity that resonates globally.

Navigating Perceptions: A Candid Dialogue on Bureaucracy’s Evolving Role in India

Seasoned journalist Arun Anand engaged Mr. Ashish Bhutani – Indian Administrative Services and Additional Chief Secretary Assam, and other panellists in a candid discussion on the perceptions surrounding bureaucracy in India. The conversation delved into the common belief that the bureaucratic system is often seen as elitist and distant from the common man.

Mr. Ashish Bhutani, an awardee with a background in the Ministry of Agriculture, offered insights into the transformative initiatives undertaken by the bureaucracy. His focus on schemes like “Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana” showcased the collaborative efforts between bureaucracy and the corporate sector, emphasizing the potential for impactful change through synergy.

Mr. Bhutani emphasized the changing landscape within the bureaucracy, citing advancements like digitization, e-office implementation, and a growing connection between district collectors and the public through improved awareness.

In conclusion, the interview provided a nuanced exploration of bureaucracy in India, challenging stereotypes and acknowledging its adaptability and impact. The diverse perspectives shared by the panellists painted a comprehensive picture of an evolving bureaucratic system striving for transparency, efficiency, and collaboration. The dialogue suggested that as India progresses, its bureaucracy is not only addressing historical perceptions but actively shaping a positive and dynamic narrative.

This panel discussion gave the audience a 360 degree of India’s new standing in the global order.

The Shades of Leadership

This event also featured a panel discussion on ‘The Shades of Leadership.’ It was an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and gain insights into the world of business, bureaucracy, and media. The discussion encompassed a wide range of topics, shedding light on India’s remarkable transformation and its journey towards global leadership.

We are incredibly proud of the progress India has made in recent years. We discussed the importance of human talent and celebrated the achievements of individuals who have excelled in various fields. While bureaucracy was acknowledged as a potential challenge, we also recognized the role of governance and systemic changes in driving progress.

The discussion extended to infrastructure development, including digital and public infrastructure. These have played a crucial role in improving ease of doing business and enabling remote work. However, we also discussed the backlog in the judicial system, emphasizing the need for judicial reforms to expedite legal proceedings.

Fueling Excellence Year After Year: SpeakIn Conclave’s Impact on Leadership and Bureaucracy

Over the years, the SpeakIn Conclave has evolved into a powerful catalyst for change. It has seamlessly bridged the world of bureaucracy and business, fostering an environment of collaboration and innovation. Senior leaders, who have been a part of this incredible journey from our very first edition, have consistently acknowledged the Conclave’s pivotal role in propelling both these domains towards excellence.

The Conclave has provided a unique platform for thought leaders to exchange insights, ideas, and experiences, resulting in tangible impacts on their respective spheres. Through robust discussions and a rich tapestry of topics, it has encouraged bureaucrats and businesses to continuously raise the bar for themselves.

The effect extends beyond the event itself, influencing the larger psyche of leadership in our nation. It nurtures a mindset of growth, learning, and adaptability, which is critical in today’s ever-evolving landscape. The Conclave isn’t just a gathering; it’s a nurturing ground for leadership and bureaucracy, one that sows the seeds of positive transformation reaps the fruits of innovation, and cultivates a legacy of excellence.

Celebrating Success, Learning and Entrepreneurship

The 4th Annual SpeakIn Conclave and Awards 2023 was a celebration of success, learning, and the spirit of entrepreneurship. It exemplified the power of a community that comes together to celebrate achievements, share knowledge, and inspire the next generation of leaders.

SpeakIn, Asia’s largest digital learning platform, continues to empower learners in their journey to tackle professional challenges related to leadership, communication, motivation, and more. With a curated network of over 18,000 global leaders, the platform covers 500+ topics, offering 1:1 coaching and group speaker sessions to enable growth and development.

A Grateful Acknowledgment

We were proud to partner with TOS (Two Oceans Strategy) and the dynamic Tom Mills for this event. Your support was invaluable.

Every year, this event serves as a pause button. It’s a moment when we step back to appreciate our team, our experts, and our clients. We couldn’t help but miss the absence of Richard Rekhy and Anuj Tyagi, two stalwarts whose contributions have been integral to our journey.

I take my hat off to the incredible team that made this evening possible. Ahfaz Ansari, Ishita Lakhani, Surabhi Shrivastava, Praveen Kumar, Sherwin Toh, Pooja Jain, Tejashree Bhandari, Manik, Pallavi, Sadaf Ansari, Naina Kohli – this was a work of art and true magic. Very well done, team!

As we reflect on this incredible evening, I am profoundly grateful to all the thought leaders, panellists, and attendees who made this event a resounding success. Your presence and contributions have left an indelible mark, and I look forward to the continued journey of learning and growth together.

Deepshikha Kumar  

Founder and CEO, SpeakIn

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