Ambassador Sandhu’s power lunch with TiE SoCal Met the dreamers and doers, & visualizers and actualizers!
TiE SoCal (www.socal.tie.org) Charter Members who are business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors were invited to a private luncheon meeting with his excellency Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021 at Sheraton Cerritos. Ambassador Sandhu is the Indian Ambassador of the Republic of India to the United States of America since February 3, 2020. He was on a trip to Los Angeles to meet with business leaders, political leaders, and educators.
The event was kicked off by Anil Ramineni, Executive Director of TiE SoCal. He welcomed the guests on behalf of the organization.
Anshuman Sinha, President of TiE SoCal, took it forward and welcomed the Hon. Ambassador, Taranjit Singh Sandhu; Mayor of Cerritos, Naresh Solanki; City of Artesia council member Ali Sajjad Taj; TiE charter Members and guests. He highlighted how TiE was founded in 1992 in the Bay Area and then TiE SoCal was founded in 1997 by Navneet Chugh and Safi Qureshey. TiE SoCal was the first chapter of TiE Global. TiE now has 61 chapters in 14 countries with 3,000+ investors and mentors. Anshuman highlighted how the SoCal membership has grown, and now they have 102 charter members and over 500 regular members. He also said that in 2021 they would be hosting their 21st TiEcon, their annual flagship convention. The president then told the audience about the TiE SoCal Angel Fund, which was started in 2020. He recognized the chair of the angel group Mr. Shankar Ram who is a veteran investor. Anshuman also talked about the startups that the Fund has invested in, out of which five companies are in India, five in the USA, and one in Germany. He also spoke about the TiE SoCal angels fund II and asked the charter members to participate in the Fund. He then called upon the Mayor of Cerritos, Naresh Solanki, and Council Member of Artesia to felicitate the Hon. Ambassador.
Mayor Solanki felicitated the Hon. Ambassador with a proclamation, and he said it’s his honor and privilege to be here to honor Taranjit Singh Sandhu as Ambassador from India. The City of Cerritos takes great pleasure in recognizing Indian diplomat and current Indian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu. He is one of the most experienced Indian diplomat on U.S. affairs with a distinguished career spanning more than 30 years.
City of Artesia council member Ali Taj recounted his long association with TiE SoCal. He honored the Hon. Ambassador with a proclamation and he said, on behalf of the people of Artesia, “I, Ali Sajjad Taj, council member of Mayor and hereby extend our warmest welcome to His Excellency, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India. I look forward to working with you in the future and develop our communities.”
Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad said that we had come here to talk about trade and investments. He said that on the West Coast, California was the first state to send relief supplies as a state government to India when the COVID, the second wave, started. He lauded the rich contributions to the state that the Indian diaspora has brought. And he lauded the respect the Indians command from the ruling elite in California. He also thanked Anshuman Sinha, the president, and Mr. Anil Ramineni, executive director for gathering a galaxy of businessmen and investors in such a short notice. He said that the Consulate General of India would like to continue their association with TiE SoCal, and that they will be happy to celebrate India at 75 here in California with TiE. He invited Navneet Chugh, a founding member of TiE SoCal, to take the program forward.
Navneet Chugh touched upon how the first chapter, TiE SoCal was started in 1997. He introduced the Hon. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu and shared hard to find facts about the Ambassador’s early life in Ludhiana and his career as a diplomat. Mr. Chugh stated that Hon. Ambassador is one of the most experienced Indian diplomats on U.S. affairs with a distinguished career spanning over 33 years. He has held many important positions at the Ministry of External Affairs including Head of Human Resources and dealing with the Foreign Media. Outside of India, he served in Sri Lanka, in Germany, in Soviet Union and in Ukraine. He then invited the Hon. Ambassador to address the audience.
Hon. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu got a standing ovation from the audience. Hon. Ambassador started his speech by stating his long association with TiE, which goes back to 1997 when he organized the interaction between Prime Minister Vajpayee and TiE founders & leadership, including Navneet Chugh in Washington at the Blair House. He said that TiE had been a pioneer and has helped to raise the profile of the Indian Americans and the respect for them here. He quoted the American Philosopher Thoreau, who said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” He further said, “Hard work, passion, drive are what makes a difference. All of you here in this room today have made that difference. As they say, when dreamers and doers come together, it is an irresistible combination. You are also an important bridge that connects our two great nations. I have dealt with the India-US relations now for more than two and a half decades. And in the U.S., we see a very close friend, a strong partner whose critical, who’s transforming their dreams and their development aspirations of 1.3 billion people into reality. This is also perhaps one of the most consequential relationships not just for other countries but also for the world. I have seen this bond grow under every administration in the United States in recent times, from President Clinton to President George W. to President Obama, President Trump and now President Biden.”
He said, “Many people asked him what priorities are for the India-U.S. relations in the days ahead. I tell them about five main baskets. One of those is the strategic and defense which includes Indo-Pacific. Second, COVID and COVID-related are an immediate priority for both countries. Formal affordable healthcare, affordable vaccines, which are a domestic priority in the U.S. as well as in India. Third, many of you are very closely connected, the digital startup space that can transform our lives forever. Fourth is clean energy, including LNG, Renewables especially solar, which helps all coming together in fighting climate change and preserving the environment. And fifth and last but not the least is education and knowledge partnership.”
Hon. Ambassador said that California is of course the mecca of technology and creativity. India and California share a symbiotic relationship that thrive on each other. We are both societies that respect innovation. The Indian cross-border startups create jobs in Silicon Valley and also in India. A study indicated that every entrepreneurial visa creates eight jobs on an average in the U.S. He said the Indian leadership under Prime Minister Modi, a great believer in technology as an important tool for socio-economic empowerment. The social welfare programs that have made an actual difference to the citizens in India have been made possible only through technology. Be it the world’s largest biometric program on how the world’s largest financial inclusion program. Jan Dhan Yojana or world’s largest health insurance program Ayushman Bharat, all have technology and innovation embedded in them. Technology-enabled governance has indeed come a long way. One thing you cannot miss about India is its size and scale. A huge domestic market of 1.3 billion people, the ability to leapfrog technology, and a large skilled workforce, that’s India for you. Whatever we do is not enough given the sheer scale; this is a challenge as well as a huge opportunity. He further said that today he would urge us to do five things:
- Keep the connect strong. The Consul General is here today. Keep in touch. Our engagement cannot be one-off. It has to be a regular and continuous process. The more we interact, the larger the comfort zone and the better the results.
- Please tell us candidly what we can do to make things better. India is the only country that has undertaken bold structural reforms during the pandemic itself. Trying to convert a crisis into an opportunity as I mentioned earlier. We are aware that there is still scope for improvement. Tell us what we can do to make our journey smoother and faster. I’ll show you; we will flag it to our leadership.
- India will soon celebrate 75 years of our independence as the Consul General just mentioned. Is there an innovative way that we can showcase the strong partnership between the world’s largest and the world’s oldest democracy in a special way? When we celebrate this important milestone, can we put together something, which could bring tangible and lasting benefits to the communities on both sides? Tell us and share with us your ideas.
- It is critical to see the big picture. While we all tend to look at the small things, many a time, we have to have a broad vision. All that we do should be building blocks of a large canvas. We cannot afford to work in silos or look at the thing, piecemeal. I urge you to think BIG.
- Is something close to my heart, the knowledge partnership. It is something personal as well. Both my parents were educated in the United States from 1956 to ’58, and went back. I see tremendous confidence in the transformative power of education. This is a pillar of the India-U.S. relationship.
“I am, in fact, going to UCLA after this event. We have an active education wing now and a student’s hub at the embassy. We also have a new education policy in India, which focuses on international tie-ups. I would welcome your thoughts on how I can be part of this important story.”
A wise man once said, “Entrepreneurs are visualizers and actualizers.” “I count on each one of you to transform our vision into reality. What India and the United States can achieve together is only constrained by the power of our collective imagination. Let us dream big and act fast.” Thank you very much, Namaskar.”
After the address from the Hon. Ambassador, Ashish Saboo, Charter member chair and President-elect for 2022 & 2023 started the Q&A. Ashish set the stage by asking the charter members that the procedural questions on Visa and OCI can be answered by consul general and requested to ask questions relating to broader policy issues with Honorable Ambassador
TiE SoCal Charter Members Vijay Kotrappa, Vijay Mididaddi, Sanjay Dalal, Nitin Bajaj, Raghu Iyer, Roshan Shetty and Gaurav Bhargava asked questions related to duel citizenship, perception of the government, child education, the business climate in India, Manufacturing and trade logistics.
Vijay Kotrappa asked a question about dual citizenship. Hon. Ambassador said that dual citizenship has political connotations because many democracies, including the United States, are very sensitive to. Moreover, even during COVID travel to India is not completely suspended. However, this is a larger political issue that many homeland ministries are very conservative on.
Vijay Mididadi asked a question regarding the process of handling affairs in India as an Indian-American person, specifically with the issue of OCI cards and how the process can be cumbersome.
Hon. Ambassador stated that he respects the procedure and that the cumbersome process is not exclusive to India, but also that he has had trouble with obtaining and legitimizing documents here as well.
Sanjay Dalal asked a question regarding how does India remove itself from its sensationalized media history which we saw in the reporting of Kashmir
Hon. Ambassador answered by highlighting the importance of the truth in media and went on to highlight India’s democratic triumphs which despites its detractors show successive elections as well as a heterogeneous mixture of different cultures and religions practicing. The Hon. Ambassador went on further to highlight the successes in the Kashmir and Jammu especially in regard to COVID-19 responses as well as the social justice programs that have been put in the region.
Nitin Bajaj asked a question on what can non-profits and other similar organizations can do in addressing the education problems that afflict Indian children, especially on the policy level. Hon. Ambassador answered, highlighting how Indian-American success has been paved by educational opportunities, which many of the TIE attendees benefited from. He said that the education in India is highly subsidized. He said that currently we have 200,000 Indian students here and out of which three fourth are in the STEM areas. He talked about the new education policy in India and how he is connecting with Presidents and Chancellors of various educational institutions and creating partnerships. He has created a special desk in the embassy with a counselor-level officer just looking after the education. He also stressed upon that 50% of the indian population is 27 years or below and that gives India a unique opportunity.
TiE SoCal volunteer Vedant Sinha, a grad student at CSULB asked a question What is the next big issue that India and America should be mobilizing together to solve? The Hon. Ambassador said that and we quote “So, as I mentioned, that a lot of challenges today are global in nature. Just like the pandemic you are seeing. I think it’s extremely important now for the like-minded countries to come together. And I’ll give you one example of the Quad. And how we are coming together to actually resolve many of the global challenges. Quad, of course, consists of Australia, Japan, India, and United States. And one of the three initiatives which have been undertaken, there has been Biden hosted the first virtual summit in his first hundred days, and three clear ideas, practical ideas were identified.
One, vaccines. As I mentioned to you that all four will come together, United States technology, Japanese financing, Australia’s lift power, and India’s pulp production capacity. And together, we are going to produce 1 billion doses of COVID vaccine and supply it to Southeast Asia to start of it. This is a work in progress.
Number two, we are coming together for what is called new and emerging technologies. I’m sure you understand what gets covered in this 5G that you know Japanese have made a lot of progress. Again, the counties will come together.
Third is climate change. And in that, there are several issues, including climate finance and climate technology. So, there are such requirements that necessitate the like-minded countries, and these are not exclusive clubs. On different issues, they will collaborate. So, these are the kind of challenges for which we need to come together. And I’m so happy to see one of the young guys here. Of course, when they said you are from political science, I got a bit nervous because being a political science international relations graduate, I know how the minds of the political scientists work.”
Raghu Iyer asked about how the embassy and the Indian consulate help entrepreneurs in making ease of travel and business. The Hon. Ambassador stated that how India is different from non-democratic governments and how he intends to engage with the private sector. He gave the example of how during COVID, he contacted each of the big healthcare companies and created a task force to help facilitate oxygen, medical equipment, masks and medicines. The interest is certainly reflective of the future strong economic relationship between United States and India.
Roshan Shetty said that he is a nano-technology entrepreneur and investor, but his question concerns history. He asked how Indian entrepreneurs from abroad can contribute towards educating the young generation about the glory of India. Hon. Ambassador answered, “I don’t think India, as a country, will shy off in getting its own people coming back, visiting different areas to where you belong you rediscover because all this comes together in the Indian ethos.
Each one’s pride becomes part of the overall pride. And here, since you have given me this opportunity, I’m going to again be very candid to all of you. It’s very good to see a young person here but most of the areas I go and perhaps TiE is a different organization because you have technology, a lot of young get involved. But I tell the earlier generation, which has succeeded, that it’s very important that you need to draw your young and get them connected to India, not just on the basis of what you are saying cultural, social factors. They should know their roots. They should take pride in their roots. And how can that be done? All of you can make a bit of an effort. I think these are very important stories for the children to know and we would certainly facilitate that. Sometimes, parents are concerned about security. Fair enough. You are sending young people. The Consulate will ensure that. Whichever state they are going, we will liase with the local authorities to ensure that they have the security provided. So, that’s one way to start off it and perhaps TiE itself, you can have a group of kids going — you have so many different chapters. You can organize a trip for the young to go back and mix it up with culture, social and also the five areas I mentioned and so much of the new budding areas and why I’m saying that. And that comes to my final point, because there is economic relevance in that. In coming years, the market in India is a very important market. It is an unsaturated market. Many of the other markets have gotten saturated. At that time, if your children know India well and they can work with the Indian business well, they will be in unique position to capitalize and get all those jobs. So, it is an economic factor also to have that so I hope I broadly answered your question.”
Gaurav Bhargava who is an entrepreneur and is a textile manufacturer, asked about the logistical challenges. He cited example of huge opporutnitity for India to do more business related to cotton in US and asked how we can increase the consumer business and cooperation between both the worlds. The Hon. Ambassador told the audience that how they are working on providing more connectivity between Los Angeles and India. He agreed that a lot of work needs to be done on the logistics side. He requested Gaurav and others to get in touch with Consulate General with their ideas so that he can bring it to the attention of the relevant authorities.
The event concluded with thank you note from the Charter Member Chair Ashish Saboo who requested all the attendees to assemble and snap some pictures with the Hon. Ambassador who graciously obliged.