Thomas Girst, the global head of cultural engagement at BMW Group, recently expressed his optimism for India’s growth, stating, “We’re cheering from the sidelines for this giant to rise even more.” His comments, made during his participation in the 2024 India Art Fair, highlight the growing international interest in India’s potential and the unique role companies like BMW can play in its journey.
While acknowledging the commercial opportunities India presents, Girst emphasized BMW’s deeper engagement with the country. Their sponsorship of the art fair reflects a long-standing commitment to cultural initiatives, spanning over 50 years. He sees art as a powerful tool for dialogue, promoting critical thinking and social engagement, qualities he believes are crucial for a thriving democracy like India.
Girst pointed out the significant gap between BMW’s current sales in India and the country’s vast population, indicating immense potential for future growth. The company’s decision to establish a manufacturing plant in Chennai in 2007 underscores this belief. He sees India not just as a market, but also as a source of inspiration, collaborating with young artists like Shashikanth Thavudoz to infuse their vehicles with local flavor.
Girst acknowledges the inherent tension between corporate social responsibility and profit generation. While BMW’s cultural initiatives benefit the art scene, they also contribute to brand image and reputation. He views this as a mutually beneficial relationship, where art elevates the brand while the company provides resources and exposure to artists.
Girst’s optimism transcends mere cheerleading. He encourages India to further invest in contemporary art, recognizing its critical and political potential. He believes a vibrant art scene fosters innovation and social progress, qualities that can propel India’s rise on the global stage.