The positive personal chemistry between Barack Obama and Narendra Modi has recast U.S.-India relations to such an extent that even Atlanta is feeling the new vibes, Sonjui L. Kumar, chair of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, told Global Atlanta.
Ms. Kumar, a founding member of the Atlanta-based law firm, Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee LLC, was in New Delhi, India’s capital, for a speaking engagement in late January when she witnessed the Indians’ enthusiasm for the relationship between the U.S. president and Indian prime minister.
“There was 24/7 coverage of the Obama visit,” she recalled of the president’s visit for India’s Republic Day celebrations. “Indians loved the personal connection and warmth that the two leaders showed.”
The mood even crept into a later meeting with the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce where Ms. Kumar delivered a presentation in Mumbai on the laws affecting mergers and acquisitions in the U.S.
Following her presentation, Rajyalakshmi Rao, regional president of the chamber’s Western Region based in Mumbai, approached her about including to visit Atlanta with a trade delegation that she was planning to lead to the South.
The Georgia Indo-American chamber was founded in 2000 and a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Mumbai chapter in 2009, but a delegation from the chapter had not taken place as of yet.
Ms. Kumar encouraged the visit that did take place this week, July 5-7, bringing a dozen executives from Mumbai including Ms. Rao, who represents the Rewas Port, which is undergoing a major expansion.
Meetings were organized for the delegation with Mayor Kasim Reed and officials from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the ATDC Incubator and Enterprise Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the new consul general for India in Atlanta, Nagesh Singh.
Ms. Kumar said that the delegation particularly appreciated a number of Atlanta’s initiatives including the Smart Cities Initiative, which uses digital technologies or information and communication technologies to enhance city services. They also were curious about public-private partnerships in which the city engages through Invest Atlanta.
Public-private partnerships are important in India as the Modi government implements its “Make in India” development plan with the expansion of the Rewas Port, as one example, proceeding in a partnership with the government of Maharashtra, the large state in western India of which Mumbai is the capital.
According to Ms. Kumar, Ms Rao would be interested in learning more about the security monitoring processes in effect at Georgia ports and within the city of Atlanta.
The terrorist attacks that lasted for four days in Mumbai during November 2008 have heightened dramatically a desire to increase vigilance throughout the city including the port.
A surprise hit at Georgia Tech was the “Monsieur” robotic bartender, which relies on artificial intelligence to mix an individual’s favorite drink. “A couple of the delegates thought of uses for that one,” she said.
The health information technology companies they visited at the Enterprise Institute also were of interest, she added, especially in that they represent an economic sector in which Atlanta is striving to be globally competitive.
While Atlanta has a large and active Indian-American community and the presence of several large Indian companies, they haven’t always been active in the Georgia Indo-American chamber.
For that reason, Ms. Kumar was particularly pleased that Atlanta-based Brian Coffey and Arvind Malhotra, both senior vice presidents at Tech Mahindra Ltd., a member of the global colossus Mahindra, participated.
Given India’s strengths in information technology it was natural for the delegation to include representatives from IT companies. Yalamanchili S Prasad, director of Digi Global Networks Pvt. Ltd., also was a member of the delegation. His company is actively expanding digital capabilities in several regions of India in keeping with the government’s digitization initiative.
Global Tech Solutions was another information and communication company represented. It mainly provides IT consulting services for banking, finance, insurance, securities, education and health care sectors.
The delegation also included Sunder G. Advani, chairman and managing director of Advani Hotels and Resorts Ltd., which operates under a franchise agreement for the Ramada brand and owns and operates a 200-room five star beach resort with a golf course on the Indian ocean in Goa.
Pradodh Thakker, the chairman of Aon Global Insurance Brokers Pvt., Ltd., an insurance, reinsurance, brokerage, risk and human resource firm operating in eight Indian cities, participated.
Other participants included: Nuworld R&D, which promotes sustainable energy projects; Seasons Impex, an apparels and clothing firm, and Dhillon Exports Private Ltd., which primarily exports readymade garments.
Ms Kumar said that she felt the delegation received a good overview of business opportunities in Atlanta and Georgia more generally. She added that the chamber would follow up on business opportunities that emerged during the meetings and looked forward to hosting similar events in the future.