10 Break-Out Sessions

  • Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

A Demographic Revolution: Young India Takes Charge (with All India Management Association)
Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, OYO Rooms
Pranjal Sharma (Topic Leader), Economic Analyst, Advisor and Author, India

India is undergoing its economic, technological and demographic transition simultaneously. An old country is becoming youthful and adventurous with the passage of time. Young Indians like OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal are quietly taking charge of Indian ethos by becoming icons of audacious aspirations and tangible proofs of its potential, spawning startups that are becoming most valuable and famous than many legacy companies. How can young revolutionaries find ways to carry the older generation of investors, regulators, workers and consumers with them and what can other economies and founders learn from India’s momentous transition?

Collaborative Advantage Across Generations: Reflecting on the SGS Experience (ISC Alumni)
Former Members of the International Students' Comittee
Christoph Loos (Topic Leader), Chief ­Executive ­Offi­cer, Hilti AG
Vivian Bernet (Topic Leader), Head of the Organising Committe, International Students' Comittee
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For over 50 years teams of student have volunteered to organise the St. Gallen Symposium. They have written countless invitations, met thousands of partners, and welcomed some of the most important personalities of their time on stage. Together with former members of the ISC we will reflect on the St. Gallen Symposium experience of cross-generational dialogue and collaboration, the lessons they have learned for their lives and on how the symposium has evolved. This session is organised together with ISC Alumni.

Collective Genius? Cultivating Creativity in the Arts and Beyond
Susan Goldsworthy, Affiliate Professor of Leadership, Communications and Organizational Change, IMD Business School
Gerry Hofstetter, Light Artist & Film Producer Hofstetter Marketing
Javiera Estrada, Artist
Tatjana Rupp (Topic Leader), Member of the International Students' Committee

As the need for innovation is growing, the routinisation of well-structured creative processes within organizations is key for concurrent value creation. Prof. Susan Goldsworthy of IMD, this year's St. Gallen Symposium artist Javiera Estrada and Light Artist Gerry Hofstetter will discuss the role of collaboration in the creative process. Together, and in conversation with the audience, they’ll explore the way collaboration can drive creativity in various organisational contexts, and, on the other hand, the role of introversion and lone contemplation in creating something new.

Connecting Business with Purpose: The Potential of Skills-Based Volunteering
Curdin Duschletta, Head Community Impact Switzerland & Foundations, UBS
Christopher Jarvis, Executive Director, RWInstitute
Prof. Amanda Shantz (Topic Leader), MBA Director and Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen

Many employee volunteering and giving programs are presented as an employee perk, similar to casual Fridays or a team-building event. But treating workplace giving and volunteering this way fails to fully capitalise on the great potential of such programs: to foster employee personal growth, and address key societal challenges. The panel will particularly explore the potential of skills-based volunteering, its benefits, and the unique challenges that arise when moving from merely transactional volunteering to something far more transformative.

Financing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital
Makram Azar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Full Circle Capital
Prof. Julia Binder (Topic Leader), Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation, IMD Business School

The investment landscape over the next twenty years will be radically different from previous generations. While there appears to be greater access to capital, there also appears to be much more volatility and debt with no clear dominant financing mechanism. Entrepreneurs, VC, Private Equity, and banks will have to find new ways to work together to create growth and stimulate innovation. How can investors and entrepreneurs better collaborate and find mutually beneficial agreements that balance risk and return?

Hacking the Fashion & Luxury Watchmaking Industry towards more Sustainability (with Condé Nast College)
Martina Bonnier, Editor-In-Chief, Vogue Scandinavia
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO, Omega S.A
Carmen Jenny, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CLOTHESfriends AG
Johannes Reponen (Topic Leader), Director of Post-Graduate Programmes; Academic Affairs; Research & Knowledge Exchange, Condé Nast College

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. For long, the fashion and luxury watchmaking industry drove, together with the fashion media industry, unsustainable dynamics in the sector: generating more and more demand through an artificial cycle of new collections and seasonal trends. Businesses’ marketing, media as well as influencers thereby create a constant longing and demand for their products. How can designers, fashion houses and publishers exit this vicious cycle and, collaboratively, drive the transition towards more sustainable and ethical fashion and luxury watchmaking?

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium@St. Gallen: Media’s New Power: More Impact Through Collaborative Journalism
Mathias Müller von Blumencron, Journalist, Member of the Board, Tagesanzeiger and Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
Joanna Krawczyk, Chairwoman, Leading European Newspaper Alliance
Paul Radu, Investigative Journalist, Co-Founder OCCRP
Astrid Frohloff (Topic Leader), TV Presenter and Journalist, Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium

Media diversity, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe are currently under threat. Journalists and independent media companies are increasingly joining forces across borders to respond to such challenges as well as to be able to continue to offer independent quality journalism in the future. This session will identify learnings from new media partnerships such as the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to identify how media can most effectively work together.

Democratizing Access to the next Generation of Technology and Innovation: Communities and Radical Transformation
Gina Loften, Member of the Board of Trustees, TIAA
Luzius Meisser, Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse
Tycho Onnasch, General Manager, Trust Machines
Shuo Chen (Topic Leader), General Partner, IOVC

Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the modern economy and social mobility. Given their importance, we should strive to improve accessibility to tech, education and entrepreneurship across all backgrounds. Creating open and inclusive communities, especially with tech is important to accomplishing this goal, but it is easier said that done. Simultaneously, a third iteration of the internet – Web3 – has the potential to radically transform the internet of things and reduce barriers to access. How can these forces be effectively harnessed and directed for the benefit of all people and move the world forward?

Varieties of Tech Capitalism: Europe's Approach to Innovation and Regulation in a Global Context
Julian Teicke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, wefox
Lisa-Marie Fassl, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Female Founders
Christoph Keese (Topic Leader), Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, hy

Over the past decades, the tech sector, especially the internet of things, has become a central component of modern economies. Trying to catch up with the exponential pace of technological development, the US, China, and Europe are crafting rules of the game on digital markets. What are the emerging characteristic differences between regulatory regimes of digital markets, in the US, Europe and beyond, and how do they balance innovation and regulation? In light of strategic competition over tech dominance between the US and China, what are the opportunities and challenges for Europe in particular?

Changed for Good? Engaging with the New World of Work
Petra von Strombeck, Chief Executive Officer, New Work SE
Jean-Christophe Deslarzes, Chair of the Board, Adecco Group
Nat Ware, Founder & CEO Forte
Prof. Heike Bruch (Topic Leader), Director, Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management, University of St. Gallen
Watch Here

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. The fast and widespread adoption of remote work and an ever-increasing concern of employees with purpose and meaning on their job have intensified the war for talents. Reaching out to and concurrently engaging employees is key for businesses across sectors and regions. What learnings can be drawn from the pandemic as regards our approach to work? Has the world of work changed for the better? And what role does leadership culture and a new approach to hiring play going forward?

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Freeman Shen’s electric dream

Freeman Shen spent more than a decade studying and working in the U.S. More recently, half of his time was spent in Europe. But when the Chinese businessman decided to found his own electric car company, he placed the headquarters and manufacturing facilities in China.

Not traditionally known as a hotbed of car manufacturing, China is the world’s largest auto market. In 2018, roughly 28 million automobiles were sold in China.

But Shen was interested in something else: Thanks to strong government support, China is also the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, or EVs. Over 1.25 million EVs were sold in China in 2018 – more than in the rest of the world. In 2018, although the sales of overall automobiles dropped by 2.8%, in the Chinese market, the first negative growth in 28 years, sales of EVs increased by 61.7%.

Shen spent most of his career at car manufacturers, from Fiat and Volvo to the Chinese brand Geely. After completing an advanced management program at Harvard Business School, Shen decided to start his own business. In his mind, there weren’t many differences between working as a professional manager at Fiat and serving as the CEO of his  own electric car start-up.

“Even though I worked for cross-national corporations, my work had always been something new. When I joined Fiat China, the company was restructuring its business; when I started my work at Geely, the company was experiencing hardships too,” Shen said.

Years in the business convinced Shen that conventional cars have reached a plateau. EVs, on the other hand, are still in their infancy. Certain that he could not compete with world-famous conventional carmakers, Shen decided to focus on EVs.

EVs have a different propulsion system than conventional vehicles. And they don’t use a complex, multi-gear transmission. This, however, does not at all mean that it becomes easier to manufacture electric cars.
“Many companies underestimated the difficulty of making EVs. EVs employ different sets of key components and software. For established car companies, the transition to making EVs is the most difficult challenge,” Shen said.

Shen should know. The entrepreneur’s father was an architect and his mother was a civil engineer. Shen applied to study architecture. However, his red-green colour blindness betrayed him: He was assigned to a mechanical engineering major. In 1991, he was admitted to the University of California Los Angeles to study structural engineering.
After graduating, Shen went to work for the US powertrain manufacturer Borg- Warner, later jumping to Fiat. In 2009, Shen accepted a job offer from Geely, a Chinese car maker. Not long after, Li Shufu, chairman of Geely Holding, gave Shen a mission impossible: purchase Volvo Cars, which at that time was losing money.

Back to Black

Shen led an acquisition team made up of over 30 people. Together with his colleagues, Shen made a plan for post-acquisition Volvo, including steps the company would take one year and five years after the acquisition. For over half a year, Shen lived and worked in Europe. Finally, all the hard work paid off: The acquisition was completed in August 2010. Geely Holding paid USD 1.5 billion for the Swedish company, and Shen was later appointed as the head of Volvo Car China.
Shen helped build two car plants and one R&D center. Two years after the acquisition, Volvo Car Group began making profits. Volvo’s Chinese subsidiary alone contributed half of the profits.
After working for Geely for more than five years, Shen resigned and went to Harvard for an Advanced Management Program. When he finished, he decided to launch his own company. He called it WM Motors, a deliberate dig at his colleagues in the German car industry. “Germany is the world champion of cars. The name came from the German word Weltmeister [meaning world champion] because we want our German friends to know our goal,” Shen says. He hopes the company will be a world leader in the fast-growing EV sector.
Basing the company in China was a strategic decision. The Chinese government has been a strong supporter of electric vehicles, providing manufacturers with subsidies of up to USD 9,600 per vehicle.
In the past ten years, central and local governments have paid over USD 30 billion as subsides on EVs. Local governments have also been replacing conventional taxis and buses with electric ones. For example, Beijing’s government stipulates that new taxis have to be electric. Shenzhen, where BYD, another leading EV company in  China, is located, electrified its entire fleet of 16,000 buses, a global first.
China’s government, Shen says, sees EVs from a national security perspective. China is the world’s largest importer of crude oil and natural gas: In 2018, over 70% of China’s oil was imported. One third of its oil was consumed by vehicles. By 2020, experts say, vehicles will consume more than half. “The most important reason China develops electric cars is to decrease its reliance on imported oil,” Shen says, “which is critical for national security.”
Electric cars may alleviate China’s environmental problems as well. Air pollution has been an issue in China for years. Using electricity rather than gasoline might help return Beijing’s skies to blue.
The technology has its critics. For example, manufacturing EVs is emissions-intensive, perhaps even more so than making conventional cars. Also, electricity generation has a carbon footprint too.

Global Player

To Shen, environmental protection is a welcome side benefit, but not the main point. “China lacks oil but is rich in electricity,” he says. And EVs can be used as batteries: In China, as in most places, electricity usage spikes in the daytime. At night, electricity usage drops – and much of the electricity generated by power plants is wasted.  Electric cars can help power plants balance electricity usage and utilize energy which otherwise would have been wasted.
Supporting EVs is also a way for China to become a global auto power. EVs provide a way to leapfrog more established players. With a smile, Shen uses one more automotive metaphor: “Overtaking on curves and corners is impossible for China; it has to change lanes,” Shen said. “In fact, overtaking on curves or corners might cause rollover.”
Conventional car companies in China have also tried their hands at making electric cars. However, Shen said that these cars are very different from what his company is producing.
“They are still based on conventional cars, and drivers don’t feel many differences. In contrast, we designed our EVs from scratch,” Shen says. “We invested much more in software than conventional cars.”

Staying Connected

In Shen’s eyes, EVs are not just electric cars. They are smart cars connected to the internet – like Shen himself, who has over 100 apps on his phone. He has so many
apps, in fact, that he takes another phone from his pocket while browsing through his first phone. “I have two phones – and it’s more than 100 apps,” Shen says, proud of feeling at home in the digital world.
Even though there are dozens of EV companies, Shen said that only three are capable of mass producing smart EVs: Tesla, based in the U.S., and NIO and WM Motor, both based in China. These three companies target different segments of the market. “Tesla and NIO are doing ‘Audi’,” Shen says, “but we are trying to be ‘Volkswagen’.”
Beginning next year, the Chinese government will stop subsidising EVs. Shen says that this will provide a necessary shake-out in the market: Poorly made electric cars won’t find buyers, and only the best manufacturers will survive. Shen hopes to be among them: In the next few years, WM Motor will adopt WLTP, a new harmonized global standard for determining the quality of driving vehicles. And WM hopes to build cars with a range of 600 kilometres, comparable to Tesla’s .
Shen said he, his wife, and all his senior executives drive WM cars. “We can provide feedback on the driving experiences to produce higher-quality cars,” Shen said.

China is the world’s largest market for both conventional and electric cars. The Chinese government is supportive of the EV industry, motivated by both national security and environmental interests.

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