Ivanka Trump’s visit to India business summit raises questions about her brand

Ivanka Trump’s visit to India business summit raises questions about her brand

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Ivanka Trump, Global Entrepreneurship Summit
Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump is making a significant solo outing by headlining a business conference in India, but her trip is highlighting questions about whether her message of empowering poor women matches her actions.

Ms Trump landed in the southern city of Hyderabad today to make the opening address at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

“Thank you for the warm welcome,” Trump tweeted. “I’m excited to be in Hyderabad, India for #GES2017.”

The city cleared away beggars and filled potholes ahead of the visit by Ms Trump, who is senior presidential adviser to her father, President Donald Trump.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is joining her at the opening and will host her for dinner at the luxurious Falaknuma Palace Hotel.

“Women entrepreneurs help drive innovation and job creation, as well as address the world’s greatest and most critical challenges,” Mr Modi tweeted.

Many in India are excited about Ms Trump appearing at the conference, co-hosted by the US and India, and have marvelled at the improvements made around Hyderabad, where more than 1,200 people are expected to attend the three-day conference.

But not everyone is thrilled about Ms Trump’s presence.

“It’s now being called Ivanka Trump’s summit. It totally overshadows all our work,” said Sangeeta Agarawal, the chief executive of US start-up Helpsy Health. “We feel that’s it become more about her.”

The conference’s focus on female entrepreneurs raises questions about some of the commercial decisions made by Ms Trump and her namesake brand.

Critics have accused her of failing to use her leadership role to call out labour and human rights abuses, particularly in China, where the bulk of her US merchandise ships from, and they point out that she has failed to take a public stand on alleged abuses in her brand’s own supply chain.

Ms Trump stepped back from day-to-day management of her brand before taking on an official role as White House adviser, but still retains an ownership interest.

Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand, has called supply chain integrity “a top priority”, but the brand has not joined the growing number of companies that publicly identify their manufacturers.

A September investigation by the Associated Press showed that Ms Trump’s supply chain had become more opaque than ever after she took on her White House role, making it impossible to know who her company is doing business with around the world.

The brand has said supply chains are the responsibility of its licensees.

Earlier this month, 23 rights groups signed a letter urging Ms Trump, her brand and two licensees to publish the names and addresses of suppliers.

They also urged Ms Trump and her brand to publicly demand that the Chinese government not prosecute three activists detained this summer while investigating the brand’s supply chain, and allow independent monitoring of factories.

In India, the clean-up of Hyderabad, a southern technology hub, began a month ahead of the conference, when the city began rounding up several hundred homeless people and beggars.

Officials said the drive against begging was launched because two international events were taking place in the city – the entrepreneurship summit and the World Telugu Conference in December.

Begging is a criminal offence in India and can be punished by as much as 10 years in prison, although the law is rarely enforced.

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