Editor’s note: Atlanta has long benefited from an active, prosperous community of Indian-origin immigrants that some estimate to number more than 100,000. Many metro companies have deep operations in India, and the city has been the venue for billions of dollars in Indian-backed acquisitions. Indian tech giants like Wipro and Tech Mahindra employ thousands of Atlantans and are becoming increasingly active in building the city’s next-generation workforce and recruiting from its top-tier universities.
Still, Atlanta hasn’t quite become a hotbed for Indian investment, lagging other major metros in influence and awareness. A new branch of the National Indian-American Chamber of Commerce, launched at the Indian consulate general last month, aims to change that by injecting the Southeast U.S. into bilateral conversations about business.
Global Atlanta caught up with new chairman C.N. Madhusudan, a veteran M&A practitioner who runs VectorSpan, to discuss the timing of the launch and how the chamber can help as companies in sectors from food to fabrication to fintech seek to engage with one of world’s last fast-growing large economies.
Global Atlanta: Why is there a need for a local branch of a national chamber here in Atlanta?
Mr. Madhusudan: Having the presence of a national chamber in Atlanta provides tremendous leverage in carrying out our mission of promoting economic development between our region (Southeast U.S.) and India and supporting Indian-American owned businesses in the region.
This leverage is in the form of coordinating trade visits (both inbound and outbound), thought leadership driven by an eminent advisory council, access to policy makers in Washington and New Delhi, close coordination with the Indian Embassy and its consulates and access to NIACC resources in the rest of the United States and India. Having the Indian Consulate for the SE United States based in Atlanta is a tremendous boon and enables a close working relationship with the Consul General and her team.
Global Atlanta: What missed opportunities or gaps you see in the Atlanta-India relationship, and how do you believe this new chamber will help address them?
There is already a strong relationship between businesses in Atlanta with India and several companies of Indian origin operate here. Atlanta’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is significantly enriched by Indian American entrepreneurs and investors. There is still a lot of work to be done in scaling the Atlanta – India relationship. Atlanta and the Southeast U.S. are not yet top of mind for Indian corporations. A number of corporations here in the Southeast do not have a significant presence in the Indian market. That is a big opportunity.
Similarly, Indian American owned businesses need a forum to raise their issues – be it policy, working with federal, state and local agencies, cross border transactions and such. The chamber will be a platform to address this both at the regional and national levels.
Global Atlanta: How will you garner support?
Members will be at the core. Membership will mainly consist of corporations and business owners. Their needs will be primary. The consulate and access to NIACC national and international resources will be other significant sources of support. Our leadership team will include members of leading American and Indian businesses and their support will provide us tremendous leverage.
Global Atlanta: Mergers and acquisitions has been a key area of Indian investment in the Southeast U.S. How do you see that growing? Also, how can we win more greenfield Indian manufacturing?
There has been a fair amount of M&A activity from India. Really large investments like the Novelis acquisition have taken place. This type of activity needs to be sustained. Awareness building about Atlanta and the region is key to this process. The business-friendly climate of the region and the abundant availability of resources in the region need to be emphasized.
There is still a lot of work to be done in scaling the Atlanta – India relationship.
Global Atlanta: Where is Georgia on the Indian executive’s mental map? The Southeast U.S. in general? How has that changed over the last 10 years?
Georgia and the Southeast U.S. are not yet top of mind. While there has been a tremendous amount of change in awareness and perceptions, there is still a lot to be done to bring awareness of this region to that of California or the Northeast. The absence of direct flights between Atlanta and Indian cities sometimes makes Atlanta an afterthought — an extra leg that reduces top of mind visibility. This is an area we need to work on.
Global Atlanta: What should the economic development community be doing to target Indian investment better?
We need to recognize the economic power of India and the attractiveness of the Indian market first. Targeting the Indian market and Indian investment needs a well-defined and well-funded strategy. An occasional business delegation to India is totally inadequate. We need to have a significant permanent presence in India, visibility in major business events, and build strong connects with the Indian business leadership and policy makers. Patience and persistence are keys for this. NIACC looks forward to being a catalyst to drive cross border investments.
Leaders of the NIACC Southeast Region include:
- C.N. Madhusudan – Chairman and CEO
- Narendra Shah – President and Regional Director
- Brenda Morant – Special Assistant to the National Chairman and Co-Chair
- Rudy Beserra – Co-Chair
- Niraj Sheth – Co-Chair
- Viren Mayani – Co-Chair
- Madhu Sheth – 1st Vice-Chair
- SuBrena Graham – 2nd Vice-Chair
- Milton Chambliss – Regional Director
- Vasudev Patel – Regional Director
- Jagdish Sheth – Advisory Board Member
- Girish Panicker – Advisory Board Member
See their bios and contact information here.