Sharing Similarities, Respecting Differences: AIMA-UC Santa Cruz’s US-India Conference opens avenues for collaboration

Ritu Jha–

With the theme Sharing Similarities, Respecting Differences the 6th US-India Conference, co-hosted by the All India Management Association (AIMA) and the University of California Santa Cruz held October 4 at UC Santa Cruz, Silicon Valley Campus.

The event not only highlighted the similarities between the two largest and oldest democracies of the world but also explored existing differences.

“US and India have a lot in common and the Indian diaspora binds us together,” AIMA Director General Rekha Sethi (Centre, above picture) told indica. She was part of the AIMA delegation that consisted of 12 CEOs from India.

“The US sees India as an ally especially since it is looking for an alternative to China. While there is a lot going for the US-India relationship, there are a lot of differences, too. India has come of age enough to say that we stand by what we feel and what we think. But both countries need each other, they need to work with each other and navigate through the differences.”

This year’s delegation also included two young CEOs. “Young people have their own way of thinking, they want to do things their way and we have to give them freedom. AIMA formed the Young Leaders Council so that we could give freedom to them to run the association of that group or that council the way they want to,” Sethi said.

Chancellor Cynthia Larive

Cynthia Larive, chancellor, UC Santa Cruz said that when a delegation from AIMA came to the US, “We invited them to visit our campus to explore collaboration possibilities and we started working together on the idea of hosting the next US India Conference. I went with a contingent to India in March to solidify collaborations with Indian universities and to explore other partnership opportunities. We went to IIT Kanpur and signed an agreement with them. We visited IIT Delhi, IIIT Delhi, Ashoka University, and Jamia Millia Islamia University, where we signed an MoU.”

The UC Santa Cruz delegation also went to Bangalore to the Indian Institute for Astrophysics and IISC Bangalore. “Some others in our party went to Mumbai and Hyderabad. Our visit was aimed at expanding our relationships with Indian universities and companies in a bilateral manner.”

She added, “We also have a new Center for South Asian Studies and there are a lot of opportunities there for collaboration. We think there are a lot of cultural opportunities also for us to capitalize on.”

Larive said the the US has to do more to make it easier for people to get visas. “Visas are a big challenge for Indian students to come to the US.”

“There is a lot of talent in India, and there’s a need for talent here in the US, especially in the semiconductor sector. There’s a massive restructuring of the global supply chain for semiconductors. However, India needs to upgrade this technology in many areas. There’s a lot of room for collaboration, and research in education, but generally in people infrastructure to find opportunities,” said PK Agarwal, Dean of UC Santa Cruz Extension in Silicon Valley.

Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman, Hero Enterprise

Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman of Hero Enterprise and one of the key movers behind AIMA said, “While these are both large and growing economies, India is expected to become the third largest pretty soon and per capita infrastructure is still very low. There are a large number of Indians who live on the margin. Therefore, our focus and attention must also go to rural development, where a lot of the poverty comes from.”

“India is doing a fantastic job of building both physical and digital infrastructure. India has the most evolved public digital infrastructure on the planet. We are the only country in the world where you can transfer money instantly at zero cost. We built something called the India Stack. It’s an amazing collaborative initiative by Indian Americans living in Silicon Valley, and their counterparts in India. It enables you to write education, payment, and healthcare services on an open platform with complete security,” Munjal added.

Munjal said that India is at the cusp of big change, “but we need to make it happen.” He said, “We would appreciate any form of partnership. Any exchange of this nature offers us a platform to bring people and ideas together.”

Prof Raja GuhaThakurta, Chair, Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, UC Santa Cruz, was particularly excited
about the partnership between UC Santa Cruz and Ashoka University. “Ashoka University is a private university that really has a lot of parallels with liberal arts colleges in the US. Santa Cruz has very much a liberal arts ethos to its undergraduate education. I think it’s a very good match.”

Prof Raja Guha Thakurta

Prof Guha Thakurta believes that astrophysics will also help generate critical thinking in the youth. “It’s a highly technical subject. It has a lot of mathematics, physics, and statistics. When a student goes through that training, they learn critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning. Our world could use more of that today. The politics of the world are being ripped apart by the lack of critical thinking, and evidence-based reasoning. Today’s youth have to learn how to think critically in order to survive. I think astrophysics has a big role to play there.”

Kartik Sharma, Director, Agnitio, told indica he invests in early-stage Indian companies. He has invested in over 20 companies thus far. “I have come for inspiration,” Sharma said. “I see a lot of trends [startups] are around cyber security here, but not so many in India. Therefore, it’s a good learning opportunity,” Sharma said.

Vineet Agarwal, Managing Director, Transport Corporation of India Ltd, said, “It’s a continuous learning process. The complexity in India in terms of delivery is really high and hence the national logistics ecosystem. There are challenges but things are getting better. In the next 10 years, India is going to boom.”

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