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Fostering bilateral relationships between India and Australia through a shared love of cricket

A legendary cricketer, an award-winning businesswoman, a popular media personality and a Small Business Minister came together under the aegis of the Australia India Business Council Victoria (AIBC) recently to discuss all things Indian at the Annual Australia India Address, this year held at the InterContinental Melbourne at the Rialto.

AIBC.Indian Link
The dinner event attracted a select audience comprising Victorian businesses, Government representatives, stakeholders and other dignitaries.

The evening provided some though-provoking ideas thanks to the eclectic list of speakers.

The charming Del Irani from the ABC, compered the proceedings and managed some semblance of control over the timing.

Presenter, co- creator and producer of ABCs social media talk show Talk About It, Irani is a well-respected Australian journalist with a part Indian and part Iranian heritage.

The formal part of the evening commenced with a brief introduction by Sheba Nandkeolyar, the National Vice Chair of AIBC.

Nandkeolyar briefly outlined AIBC’s role in promoting and facilitating culture, trade, investment and fostering bilateral relationships between India and Australia.

The first speaker for the night was Philip Dalidakis MP, recently appointed Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade in Victoria, who emphasised the significance of opportunities created through personal and business relationships.

“It is important to acknowledge the power of sportspeople that play at the highest level both in Australia and India, and to use that opportunity to then progress both at a social and economic level,” said the Minister, whilst acknowledging the presence of cricketer Merv Hughes and Cricket Victoria’s CEO Tony Dodemaide.

The Minister paid tribute to athletes for their contribution to society, saying sportspeople have always proved to be at the forefront of social change.

He provided an example of the issues experienced by Indian students in Australia a few years ago and praised Cricket Australia for taking the lead in combating the anti-social behavior that was being experienced at that time.

Dipen Rughani, National Chairman of AIBC then took over, telling the audience about AIBC’s role in creating the people-to-people connectivity for the numerous trade delegations between Australia and India.

“AIBC is the glue or conduit that helps promote ongoing relationships between the two countries, as we know many people at the State and Federal Minister level in India,” said Rughani.

The chairman’s address was followed by a Q and A session between Del Irani and Rohini Kappadath, Director of Cross Border Business at Pitcher Partners consulting.

At the time of the AIBC event, Rohini was nominated as one of the finalists for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2015. She won the prestigious award the following day.

“Australian businesses invest more in New Zealand than all of Asia,” Kappadath said. “We are conservative, risk averse and perhaps a bit complacent when it comes to investing in India or Asia.”

Kappadath suggested that Australians have almost ‘missed the boat’ as far as investing in India is concerned.

Using a sporting analogy she said that Australians are literally throwing the game away and not capitalising on the opportunities, abundant talent and unique propositions that India has to offer.

Kappadath emphasised the need to have a new game plan for the current times, the need to be very sharp and to know with whom one needs to play and how to play the market.

According to her, India may be a difficult place to do business but it is a fun place once you get over the obstacles.

“When dealing with India, Australian businesses need to ensure that they are ahead of the curve,” she said, with characteristic passion.

The final speaker for the night proved to be the most entertaining.

His famous handlebar moustache wriggled with amusement as Australian cricketer Merv Hughes spoke in conversation with Senior Manager, Community Engagement for Cricket Australia, Sam Almaliki.

With self-deprecating humour, Hughes spoke about his experiences playing in India and facing Indian cricketing greats such as Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar.

From his rookie days to his recent appearance on the reality show I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here Hughes provided some interesting snippets from his career.

The evening typically ended with fans lining up to take photos with the celebrity.

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Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.