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It is an honor to be the National President of Indo-American Chamber of Commerce as it completes 50 years of vibrant activity. I am thankful to each one of you for reposing faith in me and shall endeavor to live up to your expectations.
When I look back, a rare sense of accomplishment engulfs me. This hallowed organization has stood the test of time and effectively carried out is role, over the last five decades, as the binding force of the US India business engagement. But we have miles to go. We need to take advantage of the policy support from the two administrations and commitment of the private sectors to work together to unleash hitherto dormant business potentials. God willing, the bilateral economic engagement will achieve new milestones.
Friends, after considerable deliberations, we have decided on a theme: Strategizing an eternal Economic Partnership through American Cutting-Edge Technology and Indian Skilled Workforce. Why eternal? We pray and hope that the economic relationship of the two largest democracies is for all times to come.
Let me briefly touch upon some of the high points of the theme on which we will be having a number of meetings, high-level deliberations, seminars, workshops, symposiums, etc during the year in different parts of the country.
World is becoming more and more technology centric. Those who are technology savvy, be they individuals, societies, countries, regions etc have a clear edge over others in all realms of life, particularly in carrying out businesses. For tech-savvy people, innovation is a way of life. For governments, dependence on technology enhances the quality of governance. Technology is also a great leveler since most of the welfare schemes need strong technology platforms to reach out to the target group and to keep in touch with their felt needs, wish lists and satisfaction levels. Technology also makes the system transparent since the law violators and tax dodgers can be traced with ease and swiftness. Technology eases doing of business by creating an ecosystem that can help swift launch of business, run them transparently and, importantly, easier compliance of the law. Every profession, segments of businesses, societal life, etc. have been upgraded by technology. At the same time, it has brought to the fore plethora of challenges. Interestingly, the challenges also present business opportunities such as cyber security, data protection, etc.
A few years back, the general perception was that technology comes to play in the India-US economic engagement only in the ICT sector. Not true anymore. Every conceivable segment in the bilateral relations is dictated by the strength and power of technology. Technology traction in defense and aerospace was never talked about in India since we were buyers of technology, equipment and modern gadgets and never serious producers. Our beliefs, our concepts have undergone a dynamic change. We wish to produce these goods domestically and to emerge as not only a production hub but a supplier of such cutting-edge equipment globally. That holds for all sectors. Our capacity building in transport, including high speed railway engines and e-vehicles, creating state –of –the-art equipment for smart cities, manufacturing, taking services sector to its next level of growth etc are predominantly technology dependent. That is where the future partnership of India and the US lie: creating structures and institutions that the two countries can hand hold to achieve higher levels of excellence in all fields, especially that directly fall in the domain of technology and innovation.
Cooperation in technology between the two largest and oldest democracies can and will spill over to segments like agriculture, education, tourism. For instance, application of technology in agriculture has given rise to a new concept like precision agriculture, wherein the stages of agriculture-pre-harvest, harvest and post harvest- are monitored and carried out using digital devices like sensors, computers, artificial intelligence, robots etc. Of the FDI committed to food processing sector- close to US$ 7 billion this fiscal- a sizeable chunk has come from the US. Interestingly, investment and technology flows between India and the US are not one- dimensional. India’s transformation from an aid dependent economy to an important foreign investor can be a lively case study for any hallowed business school. India has considerable investments in the US including small and mid-sized companies and startups. Our effort during the year will be also to goad the Indian SMEs to invest in the US and vice versa.
A related area is employment creation. The demographic configuration of India and the US is at variance. We have the youngest population in the world. By skilling them, by imparting right technical skills that are in demand globally, particularly in the US, India can emerge as the world’s largest provider of quality manpower. At the same time, foreign investors can easily meet their burgeoning manpower requirements not only for their requirements in India but also for their production bases globally. Youngsters, who fit the investors’ bill, could range from highly skilled technocrats to medical professionals, always-in-demand masons and coiffeurs. That is the inherent strength of India. As it is, many high-end US technology companies hire Indians locally and for their overseas requirements. With honed skills, India has the capacity to provide the manpower needs of any economy, especially the US. Let’s partner the US to take stock of our respective manpower requirements and demographic profiles and march towards enriching each other’s capabilities for a win-win situation.
Friends, in the coming 12 months, we will be holding many programs and projects to take the message of our theme across the breadth and length of the country. I am confident I will have your unstinted support, guidance and matured advice. I once again, thank you all for the great honor bestowed on me.
S K Sarkar