Dishaa - for future leaders in the UK and India

What is Dishaa?

Launched by British Prime Minister David Cameron on 28 July 2010 in Bangalore, India, Dishaa is a programme that expands, enriches and energises relations between India and the UK.

By fostering discussion amongst diverse leaders it builds shared approaches to 21st century political, economic and social challenges and expand the existing partnerships, friendships and dialogues that are already taking place.

Each year, 40 leaders (20 from the UK and 20 from India) will gather for four days - either in India or the UK - to address a set challenge; people in the mid stage of their career with a track record of leadership.

Dishaa is Hindi for direction. Dishaa enables future leaders to see how much can be gained through links between the UK and India as they set the direction for their lives and careers.

Sudhakar Rao, Chair, Dishaa Advisory Group

Dishaa Advisory Group members Sudhakar Rao, Dr Devi Shetty and Dr Isher Ahluwalia describe the initiative



If the relationship between our countries is made up only by the politicians, the diplomats and entrepreneurs it will not last. A relationship with genuine meaning will be one that brings together people from every line of work and every walk of life. We need more than the trade of goods and services, as important as that is, we need the trading of experiences, stories and ideas between friends on opposite sides of the world.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, in his message to the Dishaa participants, January 2011.

What is the Challenge?

On each programme, the participants are immersed in a challenge and work together to come up with ideas and recommendations relevant to the challenge.

The Challenge is set by the Dishaa Advisory Group and is always:

  • A compelling issue for leaders that is common to both the UK and India
  • Significant and wide-reaching in its impact but contained in its focus to ensure the participant group can explore and present feasible and meaningful solutions.

Each year another challenge will be selected for that year's participants to investigate.

The 2015 Dishaa Challenge

What makes a city SMART?

Past challenges include:

2013: "How can we produce a step change in the interface between the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and create transformational models that would allow them to work more effectively together"

2012: As economies are driven by technology and knowledge, how do we ensure appropriate skills development to bridge the gap between education and employment?

2011: Unique carbon cutting measures are happening locally in India and the UK. How do we accelerate and multiply our actions to reduce carbon emissions by 50% in the next five years?

2010: Heart surgery at $1,000 (USD) - what has to change in how society operates and innovates to make this a reality?


Expand, enhance and enrich UK-India relations

The next Dishaa takes place in Ahmedabad, India from the 17-20 March 2015

How do I apply for Dishaa?

Complete an online application form today!

Applications are invited from exceptional leaders in the mid stages of their careers who are keen to develop as they move towards more senior roles within their organisations or sectors.

Applicants need to demonstrate:

  • a track record of leadership
  • ability to work with a diverse group to solve complex problems
  • commitment to engage with wider society/public life
  • interest in the UK/India dimension of the network.

All applications are reviewed by the Dishaa Advisory Group after which some applicants may be invited to interview.

david cameron launches dishaa

When and how much?

The next Dishaa will take place in Ahmedabad, India in March 2015. Applications are now being accepted.

Course fees are as follows;

  • INR 1,25,000 for participants from India
  • GBP 4,000 plus VAT for participants from the UK

The fee includes all accommodation, food, materials and transportation for the duration of the four days. Please note that flights are NOT included.


Applicants who cannot pay the full fee should not be deterred from applying.

There are a few part-scholarship places available for applicants who can demonstrate a clear need for financial assistance and who are unable to meet the full fee.

Requests for scholarships can be made via the application form but if you would like to discuss this further then please contact the Dishaa team.

Dishaa helps participants to:

  • Broaden and deepen their knowledge by experiencing how another city or country works
  • Develop their Cultural Intelligence - the ability to thrive when working in and with different cultures
  • Build new networks by giving them access to a peer-group and leaders that they might otherwise never meet
  • Develop their problem solving and influencing skills by throwing them into a complex challenge, with a diverse group, under pressure
  • Stretch their analytical and creative skills by exposing them to new approaches to innovation
Read some testimonials from previous Dishaa participants:

Read a blog from a recent Dishaa participant on her experience in India.

Who has attended Dishaa previously?

A strategy consultant from an international professional services firm, a programme lead in the health service, a desk editor in the national media, a programme manager in the public sector, a freelance producer and artist, an asset manager in the petroleum industry, a programme officer for a world leading economic development organisation, and a senior sales consultant for a large engineering company.

participants on dishaa programme


Meet the Dishaa Advisory Group and the team

The Dishaa Advisory Group

Dishaa's Advisory Group includes senior leaders with expertise in the public, government, private, cultural and not-for-profit sectors in the United Kingdom and India.

The responsibility of the Advisory Group is to set the challenge, and select the participant group.


Picture of Sudhakar Rao (Chair)

Sudhakar Rao (Chair)
Former Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka

Picture of Michael Duck

Michael Duck
Executive Vice President, UBM Asia

Picture of Jude Kelly OBE

Jude Kelly OBE
Artistic Director, South Bank Centre

Picture of R. (Gopal) Gopalakrishnan

R. (Gopal) Gopalakrishnan
Executive Director, Tata Sons Ltd.

Picture of Vandana Saxena Poria OBE, ACA, FCCA

Vandana Saxena Poria OBE, ACA, FCCA
CEO – Get Through Guides Publishing and Training

Picture of Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty

Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty
Chairman, Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore and Asia Heart Foundation, Kolkata

Our staff

Common Purpose is working in partnership with the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), specifically the British High Commission in Delhi, to deliver Dishaa. The FCO is the UK government department responsible for promoting British interests overseas and supporting citizens and business around the globe.


Picture of Adirupa Sengupta

Adirupa Sengupta
Chief Executive, Common Purpose Asia-Pacific


Picture of David O'Connor

David O'Connor
Course Director


Picture of Munira Sen

Munira Sen
Course Director, Common Purpose India


Picture of Archana Bhaskar

Archana Bhaskar
Course Manager, Common Purpose Bangalore







Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Visit our CQ section to find out how to develop and assess your CQ.

Find out more.