- Classifieds – Main
by Shobana Muratee
HOUSTON – The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) hosted a Power Lunch on Thursday, October 13 at the Daily Grill featuring India’s visiting dignitary, former IAS Officer, Entrepreneur and author C. Balagopal to speak on Kerala as a place to do business.
Kerala is India’s rainforest state; enchanting forestry with umpteen streams, it nestles in lower southeast India and attracts heavy tourists’ traffic throughout the year. In his talk, Balagopal had a refreshing spin on Kerala when he digressed from its well-known features (having 100% literacy) to include many unknown aspects that brought into focus the prospects of trade and commerce here. “Some of you may have lost touch with India – one of the problems taking about India is its complexity and size,” he explained by giving an example of the Rs.500 having 15 different scripts!
Welcoming the small gathering of guests from Houston’s business community, Joya Shukla, President, IACCGH recognized the event sponsors D’Ambrosio & Menon PLLC and invited Hari Menon to introduce the speaker. By featuring such dignitaries the Chamber has enabled people to get a clear insight into India, she mentioned.
A native of Kerala, Balagopal was the founding Managing Director Of Terumo Penpol Limited. He joined Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1977 and later resigned in 1983 to promote Peninsula Polymers Limited (PENPOL) to make innovative bio-medical devices in India using indigenous technology.
In 1999 Penpol entered into a joint venture with Terumo Corporation Japan, a world leader in high-tech medical products. The blood bag factory of Terumo Penpol Ltd (TPL) is now the biggest of its kind in Asia outside Japan, employing 1000 skilled persons.
After selling his company to Terumo Corp about four years ago for over $50m, Balagopal invested in startups and supported them through mentoring programs as well. He is on the technical committees of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology and member of various government committees.
Balagopal’s talk focused primarily on small and medium enterprises He lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” concept of promoting manufacturing in India and said that it would be a ‘long haul’ because of the statues that are over a century old cannot be ‘whisked away easily.” India has a single window system which makes it more complex. Nevertheless, he also mentioned corporate giants that were headquartered in Kerala like IBS, global leaders in transportation, valued at $1 billion which has its headquarters in Trivandrum, Kerala. “They are all a result of startups initiated 15 years ago,” Balagopal said. Kerala is highly urbanized with 45% living urban area. “Many startups are under the radar and will become stories of tomorrow”, he added.
“Manufacturing is no longer an option but a must – especially with the way the technology and IT industry is expanding. India is bring manufacturing to center stage.” It is astonishing that less than 16% of the its GDP is accounted for manufacturing compared to China, which is more than double that of its GDP (two and half times) and four times more than India.
Jagdip Ahluwalia, IACCGH, Executive Director proposed a Vote of Thanks and later joined Joya Shukla and Usha Menon in presenting a plaque to Balagopal.
There was also a book reading by him on Saturday, October 15 from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM at Barnes & Noble in Sugar Land of his second book “The View From Kollam.” His first book “On a Clear Day You Can See India” was an anecdotal account of his experiences as a young IAS officer in Manipur, in India’s North East, when he explores questions of identity and nationhood that are relevant in today’s rapidly changing world.