Why I’m Going to Davos
Shaping the world of tomorrow with the leaders of today at #Davos 2024.
I’m thrilled to once again join such a distinguished group of global leaders at Davos, for the World Economic Forum. This year, the theme is “Rebuilding Trust.” In Switzerland, we’ll be surrounded by foremost experts, business and government leaders, representatives from international NGOs, youth representatives, and other diverse change advocates, all working together to Rebuild Trust and envision a better world.
Now, you may be asking yourself: why is this Silicon Valley startup founder / CEO, who has plenty of work to do in the United States, attending the World Economic Forum?
Since I was a child, I’ve dreamt of shaping the vision for a better world. After years of work, I finally had a real crack at it when I decided to take on a problem my mom faced in India when she was a young professional: the issue of how to get kids to and from school. Back in India, my mom couldn’t make it work—she had to leave the workforce to make sure my brothers and I got to school and back safely. As a kid, I saw firsthand how lack of transportation options perpetuated a backward cycle, where women could not advance professionally and children did not get the public transportation they deserved.
Then, decades later, I faced the exact same issue with my own children. Only, this time, I was in America—and not just America, but Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world! I couldn’t believe that the backward cycle still persisted. So I decided to break it. While studying at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, I launched a purpose-led company to break the cycle of inequality for women and mothers, a company that would rebuild community trust and revolutionize student transportation.
Our first concern at Zum was student safety and parent convenience. We wanted to build a company that would safely transport all students to and from school, in a way that put the minds of parents and school administrators at ease. As we scaled, however, so did our ambition. The larger we grew, the more we realized how much of an impact we could have by tackling issues with student transportation.
It’s not a well-known fact, but school buses actually represent the largest mass transit system in the U.S., transporting 27 million students to and from school every day. 90% of those buses run on diesel, which emits 8 million metric tons of CO2 annually, CO2 that diminishes both student health and academic performance. Zum is tackling that issue by transitioning our entire fleet to EV buses—buses that will not sit idle when not in use, but instead plug in and return clean energy to the grid through vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.
Modernizing student transportation, we realized, would not only boost economic productivity by enabling parents to return to their jobs and arrive at work on time, but it would also eliminate tons of greenhouse gas emissions harmful to students and the environment alike, reduce the need for costly and pollutive peaker plants, fortify local grids, and help decarbonize cities nationwide. Further, modernized fleets cost less to school districts, freeing up much-needed cash for after school programs and meal subsidies, and give students more time to learn or spend with their families. Ultimately, by building student transportation that’s safe, reliable, and sustainable, we hope to rebuild trust in our communities and shape a better, greener future.
That’s why I’m going to Davos: so I can contribute to, and most importantly learn from, all the discussions about Rebuilding Trust—at the local, national, and global scale. Those dreams I had as a kid continue to be my inspiration, and as one global society, I believe we can envision a better world, together.
Since I’m fortunate to be returning to Davos, I’ve prepared a “Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Arriving” list, for anyone who’s coming to the World Economic Forum for the first time (link here).
Please DM me if you’ll be at #Davos—it would be great to meet up!