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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eisenhower Fellows In Mumbai!

There are several influential Eisenhower Fellows, located in Mumbai, that are providing a strong intellectual and solid home base for the network and the continual building of the Eisenhower program in India.  During this visit, I had the opportunity to meet with a couple of the local Fellows who are in town that helped to provide a better and more informed landscape of India, not only in technology, but in various fields of interest and compliment to my program objectives.

Mr. Saineth traveled on his Eisenhower Fellowship in 2001.  He was apart of that first Eisenhower Fellowship group to travel from India to the USA. Mr. Saineth works for Hindu Times and is the Rural Area expert for the long established publication. 

I have only had a couple of meetings during the entirety of Fellowship where I felt discouraged or uninspired by being in India.  This conversation was one of those times. However, it was one of the best discussions I have had about the harsh realities of rural India compared to the upper and middle classes that I have mostly been associating with and engaging in conversations. In addition, my fellow EF colleague also expressed rightful concerns about what could be done to help and spur the development of these citizens and the poverty rate, on a whole.

Due to his position at the Hindu Times, Mr. Saineth has a firm grasp on the key issues that frame the debate and dialogue in re: helping the underserved communities in rural India.  He has written for the Times for over 15 years and is considered an Authority on the matter. We spoke about the uses of technology and how they could better support rural  farming and voting initiatives.  Mr. Saineth is a bit unimpressed and skeptical of the resources being allocated for the development of technology for rural India when the electricity or lack thereof is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed before technology takes a front seat.  He believes that the government may be in the business of inflating the mobile use numbers and subsequently may publish factually incorrect information about rural India for the purposes of the mobile service provider industry.  He stated that I need to be cautious about whenever any entity publishes information about rural India.  For many years, information has never been accurate.   He did acknowledge that some of the key innovations coming out of the Indian marketplace, could be applied to US underserved communities, and prove to be a better platform and model because all of the missing pieces to make it potentially more successful are accessible within the United States,  ie….electricity, training and content, enhanced assessment of the population , etc…   I felt better about this. 

Abha Narain Lambah
Abha Narain Lambah is a 2001 Eisenhower Fellow from Mumbai. By trade she is a Conservation Architect and Historical Building Consultant.  She is the President of Abha Narain Lambah Associates and is an overall diva!! I loved meeting Abha. As I mentioned earlier in my blogs, I haven’t met too many women during this Fellowship let alone in leadership positions. So it was a breath of fresh air to finally get together with Abha and sit down to talk India, Eisenhower chit chat, and an overall sense of my Fellowship.  

Just another bit of information about Abha, not only is she gorgeous, a mother, and wife, she neglected to tell me that her firm is the organization commissioned to restore the magnificent Taj Mahal!!!! Yes, that building that I “ohhh and ahhd” about just a few backs. Abha gets to go there and work on keeping the building in tip top shape for generations to come, and she gets paid to do it.  WOW!!!!   I had to hear this from a young lady that I met after meeting Abha who mentioned that she wanted to get into architecture.  I congratulated her on a such a wise and creative profession and asked if she knew of Ms. Narain Lambah. She of course, said “Yes”…she is major…” I responded by saying ,”Wow….I just had dinner with her last night….she never told me is a celebrity”.  

I felt so honored to know Abha and have her as my Eisenhower Colleague.  Abha has become my new "I want to be ‘her’ when I grow up” role model.  Thank you Abha for being such a beautiful representative of her organization. Love that the aspect of India that I fell in love with, is something that has ties to our dear Eisenhower Fellowship program. 

Apparently, many of the Eisenhower Fellows in Mumbai associate with each other on a regular basis.  They live near each other and mostly all of them get together frequently during the year for dinners, social events, EF events, etc….  Thus, I wasn’t surprised when Ramon emailed me to ask if I wanted to have dinner with he, his wife, Abha and her husband. I immediately answered YES!!!  Love those dinners and love being to meet Fellows all at the same time. 

Raman Madhok is a 2004 Eisenhower Fellow and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ramon last year prior to my trip during one of the Eisenhower Conferences in 2010.  Glad to have met back with Ramon when I got to Mumbai.  Ramon is currently the Managing Director of Blue River Capital a private hedge fund in Bhandra, Mumbai.  Ramon has the distinct skill set to enter into organizations as the top executive, lead the organization through either a merger, deal, transition, grow their revenue, etc…, and then exit, as if he wasn’t even there.  He has done this multiple times and is apparently very good.  He likes to talk about the fact that he gets bored very easily from being at one place to long. So this kind of ability is very good for him.  Get in, get out, get paid to do it. 

The Mumbai group is a very classy and glamorous kind of crowd.  Many of them live in Bhandra which is considered an affluent coastal town right outside of Mumbai. You might say its comparable to Malibu in California.  

In the end, I admired their close knit and somewhat exclusive demeanors. And I do not mean exclusive in a negative way, but moreso in a proud way. The Eisenhower Program in India is very well revered and they know they are apart of an elite group of Indians and of an elite global network.  I too felt proud and honored right along with them.

Again,  very interesting to see the differences amongst the chapters around India.  It was a great conversation and dinner with Ramon and the EF crew.  As always, EF hits the mark!



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