IACCGH Distinguished Lecture Series with Secretary of State Nandita Berry
Article by: Manu Shah
Photography by : Bijay Dixit, Unique Photo Images
The Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) facilitated a private meeting with the area heads of Chambers of Commerce, economic development agencies and organizations like ALF (American Leadership Forum) TiE and India House on 28th August at the Hess Club.
The represented organizations had the opportunity to meet with Texas Secretary of State, Ms. Berry in an intimate setting and present an “elevator pitch” about their organization. Chambers present also included the Asian Chamber, British American Business Council, the East End Chamber, the Columbian Chamber and the Fort Bend Chamber. Since one of Ms. Berry’s responsibilities as Secretary of State is to accelerate the economic engine of Texas, both sides appreciated the meeting.
IACCGH President, Sanjay Ramabhadran welcomed the gathering and emphasized that the organizations in the room must continue to share our “best practices” and help each other continue to serve the community. He also commended Ms. Berry on being the first Asian to be appointed to this post and believed that “it is a matter of great pride for the Indo American community.”
In her address, Ms. Berry was astounded by the “growth, diversity and inclusiveness of the Chamber.” Commending Executive Director, Jagdip Ahluwalia for being the “force in ensuring that members have the weight” in the Chamber, she also recognized the efforts of the Chamber’s leadership for their vision and efforts despite their busy schedules. Dr. Khator was also present and according to Ms. Berry was a Chancellor who “over delivered on her promises” and made UH a Tier 1 university.
Dr. Khator also saluted Ms. Berry and described her as a “phenomenal inspiration.” She expressed her pride at the “800 students in petroleum engineering who graduated with 2 jobs in hand from UH” but found it unacceptable that many students quit halfway. This prompted her to motivate students to sign a “Contract UH in 4” where they pledged to graduate in four years.
After the private meeting, Ms. Berry delivered the Distinguished Lecture Series organized by IACCGH and sponsored by Shell. Welcoming the packed gathering of about 150 members and guests, President Sanjay Ramabhadran remarked that there is a whopping $6 billion trade existing between the US and India. What’s more, it’s “not a one way street” as India is also investing heavily in the US. Stressing the fact that the organization helped businesses connect from a one man operation to global corporations like Shell, he remarked that IACCGH had on several occasions been proud to say –“mission accomplished.”
Introducing the Secretary of State to the gathering, Joya Shukla stated that she was “in awe of those who came from another country and achieved so much.” She also described Nandita Berry as a role model for women in the society.
In an eagerly awaited address, Ms. Berry remarked that despite the fact that her name was not Jones, Smith or Austin but Nandita Venkateshwaran Berry, she had the honor of using the same office and sitting at the same desk as did the father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin. According to her, this can happen only in Texas and because of people like Dr. Suresh and Renu Khator, Koshy Thomas, Attorney George Willy, Nat Krishnamurthy as well as the Chamber which “played a vital part in getting to know people and helped inculcate the skills and confidence to go out and look for opportunities.”
Describing Texas “as the Number 1 state for business,” she stated that Texas has created 37% of the jobs in the country and led the country in trade for the last 12 years in a row. It is the top technology exporting state and leads the way in startup businesses with about 80,000 new businesses formed since the beginning of the year.
According to Ms. Berry, our economy is helped by the no-personal-tax structure in Texas, “smart and effective” regulations, a skilled workforce and the strong infrastructure.
In response to a question about the difference between her and the rest of the gathering, she credited her success to hard work and the ability “to take risks as it brings out the best in you.”
Sponsor of the Distinguished Lecture Series, Shell’s VP Fred Whipple expressed that he was proud to work with the Chamber and appreciated Ms. Berry’s speech “from the heart” and her distinguished law career. In a lighter vein, he suggested that she may want to consider a talk show next.