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FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum 2014

 Influential business leaders, government leaders, and civic leaders were part of the 350+ crowd at the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum. Here, U.S.-India Business Council Acting President Diane Farrell chats with Infosys leader N.R. Narayana Murthy during one of the breaks.

The stars of Indian film, politics, and business, along with leaders in those arenas in the U.S., all came together for the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum in Tampa last week.

As part of the Indian International Film Academy Awards held in Tampa this year -- also known as the Bollywood Oscars -- The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry organized the business forum in conjunction with the USF College of Business. The forum was held at the Tampa Convention Center on April 24 and 25.

Countless Indian dignitaries, actors, and businesspeople attended the two-day forum.

Panels of experts discussed such issues as U.S.-India Trade Relations, sport and entertainment, information technology, higher education, and sustainability. During the event, FICCI also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tampa Bay Trade & Protocol Council with the goal of promoting business connections.

Diane Farrell, acting president of the U.S. India Business council, noted that the connection between IIFA and business might not be immediately apparent, but said it made perfect sense.

"Why would a business forum be here at IIFA when there's all this glamour? I think there's a lot of glamour in this room," she said. "When I think about the IIFA theme of 'One People, One World,' that's really what we have the ability to create."

  Infosys leader N.R. Narayana Murthy (left) chats with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (right) and University of South Florida College of Business Associate Dean Kaushal Chari before the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum.

Top leaders in global businesses and government -- including FICCI Vice President Harshavardhan Neotia, Consul General of India-Atlanta Ajit Kumar, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal, Tata Motors President Ranjit Yadav, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairperson Rajendra K. Pachauri, Syntel Chairman Bharat Desai, UST Global CEO Sajan Pillai, and Chief Executive at L&T Infotech Mukesh Aghi -- spoke about such issues as the growing Indo-U.S. business relationship, sorting out the challenges in relations between the two nations, and the steps business needs to take toward sustainability and countering global warming.

One panel, moderated by USF College of Business Dean Moez Limayem, included discussion about the opportunities in higher education internationally. Panelists from American and Indian universities discussed ways they are already making a difference and talked about ways to do more.

"We're very active trying to make a difference for both communities we serve," said USF President Judy Genshaft, speaking about creating a university that benefits both domestic and international students.

Another higher education panelist, T. Muralidharan, founder and chairman of Indian HR services firm TMI group, noted that in India, higher education has yet to become geared toward meeting the workforce's needs.

"People think graduation is a means to something, and by creating more graduates we create more unemployment," he said.

  More than 350 people attended the two-day FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum, hosted by the USF College of Business and held at the Tampa Convention Center.

In contrast, Genshaft noted that USF works with the local community to make sure students are gaining relevant experience.

"Every student needs to have a practicum or internship before they graduate, so they are job-ready," she said.

Local entrepreneur, philanthropist, and doctor Kiran Patel gave a keynote speech before a panel on worldwide health and health care. His remarks drew spontaneous applause as he questioned the direction of health care in both America and India.

"The fundamental question people should be asking is, is health care a birthright or a privilege?" he noted. "In the 21st century, unfortunately, ethics and morality are sometimes coming second to finance."

He spoke about the need for humanizing the business of health care and to bring a level playing field to India so that the rich are not the only ones who can receive care.

"Your health care is only as good as the ethics and morality of your own doctor," he said.

From the entertainment side of the business equation, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Rinku Singh, the first Indian baseball player and also the subject of the upcoming Disney movie "Million-Dollar Arm," spoke about his career trajectory on a panel moderated by USF Sport & Entertainment Management Director Bill Sutton. Singh spoke about his desire to give back to children in his hometown, and Sutton offered him a scholarship to the USF Sport & Entertainment MBA program to make that happen once he retires from baseball.

"When you think of India, you think of cricket, you don't think of baseball," Singh said. "My own mom doesn't even know what baseball is like."

He also spoke about wanting to give children in his village the opportunity to pursue their passions regardless of class or wealth in both education and sports.

  Avinash Vashintha and Ranjit Yadav were among the business leaders at the two-day FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum, hosted by the University of South Florida College of Business. Yadav, the president of TATA Motors, and Vashistha, the chairman and managing director of Accenture India, joined the Tampa Tribune's Rachel Riley discuss challenges and opportunities related to Indo-U.S. commerce.

"It took me seven months to learn to play baseball, and look where I am now -- I'm here," he said. "Every single human in this world, they want to succeed."

John Paul Basile, Associate Vice President for International Development at the NBA, spoke on the same panel about the grassroots movement to market basketball in India. The NBA is giving basketball to Indian children, hoping to reach 500,000 this year and one million the next.

"It hasn't developed the same way it has in China, but there's a following there," he said.

The room was packed for another discussion between Indian rockstar businessman N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder of global tech giant Infosys, and Indian filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.

"He is a person who has inspired millions of Indians to believe that wealth can be created in a fair and ethical manner," said USF College of Business Associate Dean Kaushal Chari in his introduction of Murthy. "He has demonstrated to the world, yes, it is possible to build a globally respected company in India, provided one dreams big – and has the courage to put in the hard work and dedication required to make those dreams come true."

  Tampa Bay Business Journal Editor Alexis Muellner (far left) moderated a panel discussion that included United National Panel on Climate Change Chairman R.K. Pachauri (who is also chair of TERI), Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, Accenture India Managing Director Sanjeev Gupta, Deloitte Canada Director Arvind Vijh, and Dell Chief Innovation Officer Jim Stikeleather.

The director, clearly accustomed to being around Bollywood's superstars, seemed starstruck as he interviewed Murthy. Mehra and Murthy talked about everything from Murthy's favorite Bollywood actress to what the driving conflict would be in a movie about his life to how to globalize the Indian film industry.

Murthy spoke about the value of respect, and why it is Infosys' key value.

"Good governance is all about ensuring good value to stakeholders, along with values of fairness and respect," he said.

The forum ended with a star-studded panel on empowering women to lead through education. Moderated by former USF Provost and current University of Houston President Renu Khator, Indian actresses Shabana Azmi and Priyanka Chopra, "House of Cards" Indian-American actress Sakina Jaffrey, and film director Tara Abrahams. Part of Abrahams' movie "Girl Rising" was shown during the panel, highlighting the values of educating girls to help them live full lives.

"Every time that I watch this film, every time I screen it for people, it moves me," Chopra said. "To help tell the story of hope, faith, and belief for little girls who have none of that, they can have a better life if you give them the chance."

"Educating one girl educates a family," she added.

"To think of how much I gained from my education -- yes, I pretend to be people who are really smart, but I believe I can do it," Jaffrey said.

Abrahams put it in business terms for the watching audience.

"When you're investing in a girl, you're investing in her community and her entire country, and it's that return on investment that we should be working for," she said. "This is the mindset that needs to change in India: that a girl child is a burden."

  Dr. Kiran Patel, chairman of Freedom Health, kicked off the plenary discussion on healthcare at the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum, hosted by the University of South Florida College of Business. The businessman and philanthropist's remarks drew spontaneous applause as he talked about the direction of healthcare in India and the need for change.

  One of the more popular segments at the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum was the informal conversation between Indosys Cofounder and Executive Chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy and Film Director Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra.


  At the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum entrepreneurs such as Bharat Desai chairman and cofounder of Syntel, and Sajan Pillai, CEO of UST Global, talked about how they built their businesses from small, home-based ventures and grew them into internationally respected firms.


  University of South Florida College of Business Dean Moez Limayem, (left), moderated a panel discussion on higher education that included internationally respected leaders such as Vinod Bhat pro-vice chancellor of Manipal University in India, Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston, Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida, and T. Muralidharan, chairman of TMI Group.

  National Basketball Association AVP John Paul Basile, left, looks on as Major League Baseball player Rinku Singh, from the Pittsburgh Pirates, talks about what it was like to leave India to come play baseball in America. The subject of an upcoming movie, "Million Dollar Arm," Rinku was part of a panel discussing business and sports, moderated by University of South Florida Sport MBA Program Director Bill Sutton, right.

  The closing session of the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum was titled "Girl Rising," and featured actress Priyanka Chopra and Girl Rising Director Tara Abrahams, where they talked about the importance of educating girls worldwide, but particularly in India. Actresses Shabana Azmi and Sakina Jaffrey also joined the powerful panel discussion.

  FICCI Secretary General A. Didar Singh and Tampa Bay Trade & Protocol Council Executive Director Deborah Wilkinson sign a memorandum of understanding to promote business connectivity in Tampa Bay on April 24.

  Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaks about business sustainability to an audience at the IIFA Global Business Forum on April 24.

  Consul General of India-Atlanta Ajit Kumar, FICCI Vice President Harshavardhan Neotia, U.S. India Business Council Acting President Diane Farrell, FICCI Secretary General A. Didar Singh, and Tampa Bay Trade & Protocol Council Executive Director Deborah Wilkinson (counter-clockwise) sign a memorandum of understanding to promote business connectivity in Tampa Bay on April 24.