By Shruti Kothari
In light of the recent India-Thai Chamber of Commerce (ITCC) elections, Masala interviews the new members of the Executive Board to discover their desire for the betterment of the community, as well as their strategies to reach their goals.
Established in 1974, the India-Thai Chamber of Commerce aims to act as a catalyst to bring its members new, exciting opportunities with which to enhance their business ventures and capabilities. They work in conjunction with various government bodies to facilitate their members to further their scope. Following the recent elections, Masala meets the new Executive Board to hear their perspectives, and to discover their plans for the future.
What motivated you to run for President of ITCC?
I was a director in the previous committee, and from that position I could see the changes I wished to implement to lift the existing ITCC onto an international platform. I felt we needed to focus on technological shifts to stay relevant
in this new digital era.
There was a lot more campaigning this year than in previous ones. What do you think about this? Is this a trend that will continue?
Yes, there was a lot of campaigning this year. I don’t think that’s a great thing, but the competition was heavy this time, and my opposition wanted to play full-on, so we also tried our best. I doubt it will continue to this extent, though.
In accordance with the by-laws, the leadership were chosen from both campaigning parties. How do you ensure cohesion in this new, mixed team? Do your goals align?
All of the chosen candidates are definitely aligned in our goals. See, the fact is that none of us are strangers—we’ve known each other for over 40 years in some cases, so we have a strong desire to work together. Moreover, we are all aiming to help our community, so it really isn’t a mixed team, as we are united.
What are the current problems facing the ITCC? How do you hope to overcome them?
The first one is that while each Indian community is tight-knit, we need to bring them together as a cohesive whole. The second thing is to do with membership—we would love to have younger members, for fresh perspective and energy, so we are trying our best to expand our reach to the youth. We are arranging seminars by motivational speakers from India and elsewhere, and planning networking events with similar chambers from other countries, to try and spark their interest.
How do you envision the future of our community?
My dream is that we come together, despite our regions, religions, or political beliefs. We are Indians and there is strength in that. Ultimately, we can understand each other better and achieve more if we are united.
Will you be changing any policies, and if so, which ones?
Yes, absolutely. We’ve already changed two! Firstly, any member who had decided to leave us, and then wanted to return to the chamber, had to pay entrance fees again. This seemed unfair, so now when an entrance fee is paid, it is for life. We are looking to encourage, and not discourage, membership.
Another one is that many past Presidents had their pictures on the walls of the ITCC, and many did not. In fact, some had specifically paid to have their portraits hung. So, as a new policy, every President will have their photograph on the walls; we have already put up the missing ones of our previous leaders. Moreover, anyone who paid for this service in the past has had their money returned to them.
Looking to the future, we want to motivate not just the members, but also their spouses and children, to contribute their ideas for any new start-ups they might like to pitch, or for the IT centre. They are welcome to join in our discussions; we want to provide them with opportunities and tools to facilitate their concepts, whether it’s through funding, advice, rental spaces or manpower.
How do you plan to strengthen ties between Thailand and India?
That’s a great question. From what I saw in the past, there was minimal interaction between ITCC members and the local Thai community. I’ve been trying to attend more of their meetings and events; for example, yesterday I went to a meeting with the Board of Trade, and they were incredibly welcoming and delighted that our community is getting involved. I have many more similar meetings planned in the near future, with the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturing Association of Thailand, and so on.
We are also in the process of inviting some members of the Thai community into the fold by offering honorary memberships, for further integration and more networking opportunities.
What activities have you planned to ensure that the ITCC is accessible and relevant for a large audience?
We want to plan at least one big event on an international level, perhaps at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC) or in Muang Thong Thani. We are pitching this to the Indian Embassy, so we hope to put together something exciting very soon.
Meet the Executive Board
“I will do my utmost to work for the benefit of the ITCC. I bring my experience as Vice President of the Tourism Council of Thailand for five terms, and as the head of my company, S.S. Travel Service, which has been the general sales agent of Air India in Thailand for 39 years. I have confidence in my ability to handle my role and to serve the members of this chamber. With the progressive Executive Board team, the future looks bright.
Jay Shankar Mukherjee
Joint Honorary Secretary
Sushil Kumar Dhanuka
“I am a firm believer in the concept of karmayog, where you can worship God through work. There is not a single day where I can forget the chamber, because my position keeps me on my toes. Moreover, I am trying to blend my job with an IT-oriented role; luckily, each member of the Executive Board is highly qualified in various fields, and together we work as a rock-solid, dynamic, decisive team. We need to work hard and transparently, and we have to yield value to our members. We are all working towards the same goal.”
Joint Honorary Treasurer
“I was chosen for my position because of my wealth of experience. I would like to use this experience and my network of contacts to help members to improve their businesses. I don’t foresee any difficulties, as our present team, under the guidance of Mr. Sehgal, is very dynamic and energetic. We have team members from all sectors with very good conduct, and every one of them wants to contribute to society.”
Joint Honorary Secretary
“I want the IT Startup Centre to be beneficial to members and their families. Just like in Shark Tank, I want people to pitch ideas and find investors within our community, creating a win-win situation for all. It’s important that members understand that they aren’t just parting with know-how, but fostering a beneficial situation which will help the community as a whole progress. To this end, I would like to invite speakers and those with broad mindsets to come forward and help develop and explain this concept.”
Joint Honorary Treasurer and Chairman of Memberships
“As a people person, I enjoy my roles because they allow me to interact with new members and encourage participation. As treasurer, I conserve, preserve and allocate funds to maximise benefits for the chamber and its members. My efforts are geared towards business interaction among members and with other chambers through networking events, seminars and business events. This is the key to overall business development among members, as well as increasing membership numbers. As we say, unity is strength, division is weakness. Our team is young and energetic, with experienced professionals and business leaders upholding the core value of selfless service. I’m honoured to be a part of it.”
“Directors work to promote and strengthen our Bangkok communities by building a healthy economy. We plan, organise and oversee many events for our members. I want to see their businesses prosper and grow, and I also want the Indian-Thai communities brought closer together, and closer to all the ministries and government authorities. In addition, coordinating with the Joint Foreign Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade will really help us. I’m proud to be part of such an active, committed team serving under the leadership of Mr. Sehgal.”
Danny (Deepak) Sajnani
“Our aim is to strengthen our relationship with the Thai government and trade agencies, thus enhancing business prospects for both countries. I don’t foresee any difficulties, because where there’s a will, there’s a way. There is a strong level of trust and understanding between the team members, so with our collective effort, the opinions of our members, and the supervision of our President, we are well equipped to overcome any obstacles. Moreover, because we have a clear understanding of our mission, open communication, and great respect for one another, progress is inevitable.”
“This is my third term with the ITCC, and my ultimate vision is to start a Business Centre in the chamber. I also envision organising seminars, training programmes, and mini workshops every Friday. To make ourselves more effective, it’s important to establish ties with government agencies like the Revenue Department, and Immigration and Customs. As it stands, the team’s biggest strength is that each one of us has our own ideas for the betterment of our members, and we’ve already begun to work on them together.”
“I am here to contribute to society and add value to the commercial trade between India and Thailand. With my business exposure in both of these countries, and commercial ties in more than one association, I am confident in my ability to help. Moreover, the necessary support from governmental bodies will only boost our success and get rid of any potential difficulties.”