Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Interviewing Sir Richard Branson for Forbes India

It was such a pleasure to talk to Sir Richard Branson, his daughter Holly and his son-in-law Freddie Andrews for the third anniversary edition of Forbes India.

I was given as much time as I needed by Sir Richard's fabulous head of communications, Nick Fox, for the subject of being good in business. Sir Richard answered everything I asked with a lovely smile and was frank and direct. He was upfront if he found a question made him think- it appeared that several of them did!

The articles in this issue are in "as told to" format rather than with a conventional narrative by the writer, so they come out as long sets of uninterrupted thoughts. They give good insight into the minds of leading business thinkers.

Holly and Freddie were politeness personified, willing and able to talk and seemingly thrilled with their recent visit to India with one of Virgin Atlantic's charities, Free the Children.

I'm reading Sir Richard's blogs regularly to follow what he is doing - it seems that we only scratched the surface in my 2,200 words!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

BBC Radio Interview tomorrow 2pm GMT for Asia House Book Event

Previewing our book event May 22 Tuesday with a live interactive studio discussion chaired by Nihal at BBC TV Centre for the Asian Network 2pm GMT. You can listen live on the internet. Listeners will be emailing and texting in. One of the other panellists, Mukulika Banerjee, will be in the studio alongside Adrienne Loftus Parkins, our dynamic Canadian organiser and probably the queen of Pan-Asian literature events in the UK.

Former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy for Forbes India; Why Values Matter in Business

I really enjoyed interviewing Sir Terry Leahy, the former CEO of Tesco, for Forbes India. He is one of the UK's leading business thinkers and is credited with transforming the supermarket chain into a global giant.

His style was laid back, his tone moderated, and he answered all my questions with ease. I like the fact that Sir Terry is a private person, and that there are few public photos of his family.

Forbes India has a terrific theme for its third anniversary issue which was published last week. The theme this year is business as a force for good, and the magazine contains interviews with some of the planet's foremost opinion formers. Steve Forbes is apparently pleased as punch with his Indian brand, visits the Mumbai team regularly and promotes Forbes India in the US.

My editors in Mumbai are enthusiastic and engaged, and I enjoy talking to them. They are taking business and looking at its intersection with all areas of life; sport, the arts, science and technology, etc. Creating a different model to other magazines in the business space, which is why Forbes India is growing.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Coming Up; Festival of Asian Literature at Asia House, London

I'm looking forward to the panel on Power, Women and Politics on May 22nd, 2012 at the lovely Asia House in London. Festival Director Adrienne Loftus Parkins has carefully curated a wonderful season of book-related events which is the foremost festival of its kind in the UK and attracts a lot of attention. This preview article in The National highlights the fact that of the 50 speakers at the 2012 festival, 30 of us are women!

Jane Macartney of the Times will be moderating our talk; I will be appearing alongside  Peter Popham, who has written a recent biography of Aung San Suu Kyi and the LSE's Mukulika Banerjee.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

India Business Forum at the London Business School

The MBAs who worked with me were earnest and pulled off a good event on April 26th, 2012. Above all, they were respectful of the fact that I had mentored them so that we were in contact with a number of high profile guest speakers, eventually getting a prominent member of the House of Lords for the day's keynote.

The theme was India-Africa and I had plenty of material from my research on the Sonia Gandhi biography to talk about. I focussed on Mahatma Gandhi's 20 years in South Africa, where he developed his philosophy of non-violent resistance later used to great effect in India to free that country from the British and was acknowledged by Nelson Mandela as being inspirational to him. Jawaharlal Nehru always fought for Africa in international arenas, seeing the continent as a valued neighbour, and Indira Gandhi gave support to the Africa National Congress office in Delhi, providing it with diplomatic status.
Rajiv Gandhi used all his powers to speak out against apartheid-particularly going head to head with Britain's Margaret Thatcher- and when Mandela went to India in 1995 to give a Rajiv Gandhi Foundation lecture, he referred movingly to his late friend's support.
Sonia Gandhi visited South Africa and Mandela 100 years after the Mahatma's peaceful resistance movement was born, squaring the circle.

I chose to invite my colleague Matthew Jamison, Indophile and Consultant Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, to share the platform with me rather than give a keynote myself and he was a mine of information about London being a great business hub for India and for India-Africa relations. As he reeled out some astonishing stats everyone listened open-mouthed. He researched hard to get his talk ready within a matter of days and I was very pleased. We work well together.

China versus India in Africa was a theme of several questions, and I pointed to TLG Capital's good work in Africa using Indian expertise. TLG founder Zain Latif, another standout speaker of the day, easily and convincingly covered that side.

I really liked Robert Appelbaum, Partner with Webber Wentzel and Head of the South Asia Group. He was funny and snappy-in contrast to some of the other speakers and questioners - and emphasized the importance of seeing African countries as very different entities.

My friends Mark Pillans, MD of Mimir Communications and Ashutosh Shastri, MD of Enerstrat Consulting were also able to join us for the day.

Good to have supported the London Business School again this year.