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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.

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