Indian American Harbir Bhatia has big plans for Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce in 2024

Ritu Jha–

Indian American civic entrepreneur Harbir Bhatia who recently took over as CEO of Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce (SVCCC) has already put plans in place for infusing new vigor into the organization and revitalizing the economy by fostering entrepreneurship. In fact, it is for the first time in SVCCC’s history that both the chairperson (Elnaz Masoom, pictured above right) and the CEO (Bhatia, pictured above left) are women.

On December 17, SVCCC hosted a holiday gala at the Santa Clara Convention Center that brought together members, local businesses and elected officials. Bhatia revealed her 2024 vision to indica on the sidelines of the gala.

“In 2024 we have amazing events coming up, including the Mayors’ Breakfast (where all mayors of Silicon Valley will converge on March 7), the Lunar New Year on February 17, and Vaisakhi in April,” she told indica. “Apart from major events every quarter, SVCCC will also have monthly mixers called Chamber Cheers, and we will recreate a new networking mixer for people working at companies.”

Bhatia says SVCCC’s strength is regional, national, and international growth. “Businesses don’t stop at the border of a city so why should we? When the economy thrives, so do employees, business owners, and consequently cities and societies. It helps create great roads and libraries. The money goes back to the community.”

Most of SVCCC’s members are small- and medium-sized businesses. But there are also large-scale enterprises such as Amazon, Santa Clara Valley Water, and Brain Share. “We also have Elnaz Masoom, the managing attorney and founder of Masoom Law Firm as the chairwoman of the board of directors of SVCCC,” Bhatia told indica.

“Almost 50,000 subscribers across the Valley are part of our ecosystem as our members and subscribers,” Bhatia said. “In 2024, we plan to bring in more relevant programming for our corporations and also start promoting our small businesses to our large customers and members. We will focus on promoting our small businesses to the public.”

There will be renewed focus on diversity, Bhatia said. “We celebrated Diwali in 2023, and we will celebrate Lunar New Year in 2024. Whether it’s Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, Filipino, or Vietnamese, we will all celebrate together.”

This is a first for SVCCC that both the chairperson and the CEO are women, Bhatia said and added women are not just a conversation piece, they deliver in every aspect of life. Anything that women commit to, gets done.
Bhatia has a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a Master’s in Engineering Management. She has led and launched products in online learning and social engagement, digital transformation practices, besides starting social enterprises.

Now she works on pressing issues like the Ukraine humanitarian crisis as well as economic development. At the start of the pandemic, she launched the community coalition to provide COVID relief for the public and frontline workers by creating solution streams through volunteers and putting unemployed people to work. She advocates for increased collaboration between the private and public sectors and for using data and technology to create solutions that improve the quality of life.

For her body of work, Bhatia has received the 2022 Women’s History Month Honoree award, the Santa Clara County Supervisor Medal of Honor for COVID Relief Initiatives, the Community Hero Award, Leadership in Business award, Women’s Empowerment: Inspiring Achievement Award, Distinguished Community Leader, and CA Assembly Recognition for Community Betterment.

Like Bhatia, SVCCC Chairperson Masoom is focused on regaining organization’s relevance. “We are a nonprofit, focused on facilitating networking and connecting people. With our new CEO, we’ve been able to get greater visibility with relevant events. We are aiming to connect with people that are willing to put in the time and make this organization what it used to be. We’ve gone through difficult times, especially the phase when we did not have a CEO. We’re trying to find our footprint again.”

She added: “There are a lot of opportunities. We’re trying to identify one or two items at a time and focus on those to make something happen. This year, our goal was to become more visible in the community and pick up where we left off before the pandemic. I think we’ve done a great job. Diversity has never been more underscored in our area. We need to have representation everywhere, not just at the Chamber level, but at the state and local government level. In 2024 we want to showcase our community’s abilities and strengths,” Masoom said.

Lou Mariani, chair of the government relations committee at SVCCC said, “The Chamber’s mission is to represent the communities before the government. If our members are having issues, particularly government issues, we try to advocate for them, reach out, and connect them with the people who can solve their problems,” he said.

Security issues are top on Mariani’s agenda. “We need to focus on security, housing for employees and customers, and education. The government’s deficit is $68 billion. The pension plans have deficits for the schools and the cities, and the government is going to want to raise taxes. We’d like to represent our community of businesses in such a manner that we keep it equitable, affordable, and economical,” he added.

 “We are shaping the future of Silicon Valley for a thriving community for all,” Bhatia said. “We are aiming to connect with people who are willing to put in the time and make this organization what it used to be.”

 

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