Monday, 26 June 2017

Day 21 of Mentor on Road, USA

“Anything that makes you weak physically, intellectually and spiritually, reject as poison.”
-Swami Vivekananda

New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. It is well known for its distinct French and Spanish Creole architecture, as well as its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage. New Orleans is also famous for its cuisine, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz), and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Mardi Gras, dating to French colonial times. The city is often referred to as the “most unique in the United States”.

New Orleans has one of the largest and busiest ports in the world, and metropolitan New Orleans is a center of maritime industry. The New Orleans region also accounts for a significant portion of the nation's oil refining and petrochemical production, and serves as a white-collar corporate base for onshore and offshore petroleum and natural gas production.

New Orleans is a center for higher learning, with over 50,000 students enrolled in the region's eleven two- and four-year degree granting institutions. A top-50 research university, Tulane University, is located in New Orleans' Uptown neighborhood.

Metropolitan New Orleans is a major regional hub for the health care industry and boasts a small, globally competitive manufacturing sector. The center city possesses a rapidly growing, entrepreneurial creative industries sector, and is renowned for its cultural tourism. Greater New Orleans, Inc. acts as the first point-of-contact for regional economic development, coordinating between Louisiana's Department of Economic Development and the various provincial business development agencies.

New Orleans was developed as a strategically located trading 
transshipment port, and it remains, above all, a crucial transportation hub and distribution center for waterborne commerce. The Port of New Orleans is the 5th-largest port in the United States based on volume of cargo handled and second-largest in the state after the Port of South Louisiana. It is the 12th-largest in the U.S. based on value of cargo. 

The Port of South Louisiana, also based in the New Orleans area, is the world's busiest in terms of bulk tonnage. When combined with the Port of New Orleans, it forms the 4th-largest port system in volume handled. Many shipbuilding, shipping, logistics, freight forwarding and commodity brokerage firms either are based in metropolitan New Orleans or maintain a large local presence.

Companies either headquartered or with significant operations in New Orleans include: Entergy, Pan American Life Insurance, Pool Corp, 
Rolls-Royce, Newpark Resources, AT&T, TurboSquid, iSeatz, IBM, Navtech, Superior Energy Services, Textron Marine & Land Systems, McDermott International, Pellerin Milnor, Lockheed Martin, Imperial Trading, Laitram, Harrah's Entertainment, Stewart Enterprises, Edison Chouest Offshore, Zatarain's, Waldemar S. Nelson & Co., Whitney National Bank, Capital One, Tidewater Marine, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Parsons Brinckerhoff, MWH Global, CH2M HILL, Energy Partners Ltd, The Receivables Exchange, GE Capital, and Smoothie King.

Tourism is another staple of the city's economy. Perhaps more visible than any other sector, New Orleans' tourist and convention industry is a $5.5 billion juggernaut that accounts for 40 percent of New Orleans' tax revenues.

Day 21 of Mentor on Road. USA, started with a great interaction with Indian diaspora in New Orleans. Attended the graduation ceremony of Indian origin children organised by American Association of Indian Professionals (AAIP). It was good to meet kids who were extremely smart and talented. They sure would make their parents and both the countries, India and USA proud one day. 

AAIP was founded in 1984 to create a group dedicated to both the professional development of Indian professionals and help others achieve their professional goals, be they high school graduates or new professionals. Some of the major activities in which AAIP engages are: 
  • Organizes high school functions to honour, motivate, and encourage professional ethics among the graduating students of Indian origin
  • Invites well-known motivational speakers to not only inspire the high school students but also the members  
  • Organizes financial seminars on estate planning, taxation, and investing options
  • Organizes college functions to facilitate professional networking among college students of Indian origin
  • Organizes healthcare seminars by distinguished experts
  • Adopted Hoffman Elementary School to assist them in promoting their mission and help under-privileged students
  • Supports George Washington High School with small funds to promote their needs
  • Provides a small amount of funding to the Tulane School of Medicine to promote research in Urology
  • Organizes cultural programs to raise funds necessary to carry out AAIP’s activities
  • AAIP members provide medical assistance (emergency and non-emergency) to many Indian students enrolled at UNO and Tulane

Mentor on Road presented the developments in New India 3.0 and the adoption program of smart villages. A lot of them had shown their interest to work with India. 

Looking forward to an eventful day tomorrow.

Jai Ho! (Let victory be yours)

Day 20 of Mentor on Road, USA

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”

-Swami Vivekananda

By now from Boston to Tampa to Birmingham we have driven 2200 miles (3640 kilo meters). We are yet to cover 7400 miles (11909 kilo meters) ahead in our journey.

Day 20 of Mentor on Road, USA, is a drive from Birmingham to New Orleans which is going to be the 10th city and 16th state of our tour. Since it’s a Saturday, we decided to take a day off and go for tourism to Red Mountain and Botanical Garden.

Red Mountain
 is a long ridge running southwest-northeast and dividing Jones Valley from Shades Valley south of Birmingham, Alabama. It is part of the Ridge-and-Valley region of the Appalachian Mountains. The Red Mountain Formation of hard Silurian rock strata lies exposed in several long crests, and was named "Red Mountain" because of the rust-stained rock faces and prominent seams of red hematite iron ore.

The mountain was the site of the 
Sloss Mines, which supplied ore to Birmingham's iron furnaces. The best displays of the mountain's geological strata occur at the Twentieth Street cut near the Vulcan statue and at the U.S. Route 31 highway cut leading into the suburb of Homewood. 
Most of Birmingham's television and radio stations have their transmission towers located on Red Mountain. 

Red Mountain is also home to the newly created 
Red Mountain Park, one of the nation's largest urban parks at 1,500 acres (6.1 km2), making it larger than even New York City's Central Park.

We completely enjoyed the Saturday break at the Red Mountain in Birmingham with an 8 miles walk trail in the midst of dense jungle and beautifully flowing water. The atmosphere was delightful with a picturesque sight. They also offer an amazing experience via series of seven exciting zip lines, sky bridges and cable swings across the terrain. 

Then we headed to the Birmingham Botanical Garden. Enjoyed a good family time there.

 Birmingham Botanical Gardens is 67.5 acres of botanical gardens located adjacent to Lane Park at the southern foot of Red Mountain in Birmingham, Alabama. The gardens are home to over 12,000 different types of plants, 25 unique gardens, more than 30 works of original outdoor sculptures, and several miles of walking paths. With more than 350,000 annual visitors, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens qualify as one of Alabama's top free-admittance tourist attractions.

The gardens include a garden center that has a library, auditorium, Linn-Henley Lecture Hall, Blount Education Center, Gerlach Plant Information Center, Alabama Cooperative Extension System office, Arrington Children’s Plant Adventure Zone, and a restaurant.

The Birmingham Botanical Gardens began as an idea prior to 1960. The Birmingham mayor of that time, James W. Morgan, led an effort to establish the gardens on a 69-acre portion of unused city property east of the Birmingham Zoo on the side of Red Mountain. The garden officially opened in 1963. The Birmingham Botanical Society, now known as the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, was established in 1964 with a mission of helping the city to support and improve the garden.

It was time to get the first car service of Mentor on Road, USA - oil change, brakes check, speed check, wiper fluid, tyre pressure check, all systems reboot, vehicle identification number updated. Now we are on our way to New Orleans.

Anticipating an eventful day tomorrow.

Jai Ho! (Let victory be yours)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Day 19 of Mentor on Road, USA

“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”
Swami Vivekananda

Day 19 of Mentor on Road, USA started early as we had an event with Alabama companies at 8 am.

It was a joint event by our partner USCS, Alabama International Trade Centre in partnership with SBDC and Alabama Indian Business Partnership, held at Innovation Depot in University of Alabama. We first had a small gathering with office bearers of these institutions where they shared the strengths of several sectors of Alabama which lies in aerospace, defense equipment, healthcare and many more as a diverse economy.

The Innovation Depot has 100 start-ups housed there.

Further, the event started with an interaction with 35 American companies who participated actively. Mentor on Road presented the developments in New India 3.0 and the opportunities it offers. We were surprised to know that a lot of companies were already doing business with India and many of them were keen to start. The Q&A session held after that was fairly engaging. The event was followed by lunch and lasted till 2 pm. We also had one to one meetings with the companies present.

United States Commercial Service (CS) is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. Commercial Service is a part of the U.S. Foreign Service and its commercial officers are diplomats. The Commercial Service global network of trade professionals helps thousands of U.S. companies to export goods and services worth billions of dollars every year.

In connection to SBDC and the AITC, one rural Alabama company created 40 jobs and over $10 million in export sales
 while working with AITC counselors and SBA’s Export Working Capital Loan.

SBA has at least one office in each U.S. state. In addition, the agency provides grants to support counseling partners, including approximately 900 Small Business Development Centers (often located at colleges and universities), 110 Women's Business Centers, and SCORE, a volunteer mentor corps of retired and experienced business leaders with approximately 350 chapters. These counseling services provide services to over 1 million entrepreneurs and small business owners annually.

In the new global economy, the South East Asian region (specifically Indian region) is emerging as a significant place of economic activity, making compelling business sense to leverage opportunities arising there. Asian Indian American Community living in Alabama due to their ethnic origin or through their business association is in a position to capitalize on these opportunities. Thus AIBP has a unique opportunity to play a part in shaping the global economy.

We would be soon working with USCS on bringing a trade delegation from Alabama to India next year.

Then we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) where Martin Luther King Jr. had success in his Civil Rights Movement. It was impressive to see how the institute conveys its story-telling in a very creative and interactive format.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a large interpretive museum and research center in 
Birmingham, Alabama that depicts the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Institute showcases a walking journey through the "living institution", which displays the lessons of the past as a positive way to chart new directions for the future. The permanent exhibitions are a self-directed journey through Birmingham's contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and human rights struggles. Multimedia exhibitions focus on the history of African-American life and the struggle for civil rights.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is also a community resource for meetings, seminars and workshops. A community meeting room is available to local organizations.

It rained heavily while we were on our way back to our hill top hotel. The scenario looked beautiful from our hotel.

Looking forward to a constructive day tomorrow.

Jai Ho! (Let victory be yours)

Friday, 23 June 2017

Day 18 of Mentor on Road, USA

“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.”
-Swami Vivekananda

Day 18 of Mentor on Road, USA started early morning at 7 am as we had a 9 hour long road drive from Tampa to Birmingham, Alabama.

 is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Alabama and the county seat of Jefferson county. Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post-civil war reconstruction period, through the merger of three pre-existing farm towns, notably, former Elyton. From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the southern United States. Its growth from 1881 through 1920 earned its nicknames as 'The Magic City' and 'The Pittsburgh of the South.'

From Birmingham's early days onward, the steel industry has always played a crucial role in the local economy. Though the steel industry no longer has the same prominence it once held in Birmingham, steel production and processing continue to play a key role in the economy.

In recent years, local steel companies have announced about $100 million worth of investment in expansions and new plants in and around the city. 
Vulcan Materials Company, a major provider of crushed stone, sand, and gravel used in construction, is also based in Birmingham.

Birmingham is the 10th largest banking center in the US as per a recent study. Birmingham is also a powerhouse of construction and engineering companies, including 
BE&K, Brasfield & Gorrie, Robins & Morton, and B.L. Harbert International which routinely are included in the Engineering News-Record
 lists of top design and international construction firms.

The Birmingham metropolitan area has consistently been rated as one of America's best places to work and earn a living based on the area's competitive salary rates and relatively low living expenses.

Mentor on Road, USA has entered the 15th state of USA, Alabama. We started driving on 4th June and have covered the following states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. We are yet to cover 30 more states in our journey ahead.

We stopped at Tallahassee for a delightful Indian lunch and then continued the journey to Birmingham. The weather was really nice and we enjoyed some light rains on our way.

Reached Birmingham at 8 pm and checked-in in a beautiful hill top hotel.

Tomorrow we have several events lined up from 8 am to 2 pm organised by our partner USCS, with Alabama International Trade Center affiliated with SBDC (Small Business Development Center), Alabama India Business partnership (AIBP) and Innovation Depot.

We look forward to an interactive session with Indo-US Chamber of Commerce and take the trade relations to a higher level. Currently the trade between India and US amounts to $100 billion. It has a potential of reaching $500 billion in future.

Alabama International Trade Center was established in 1979, by Dr. William R. Bennett, Emeritus Professor of Marketing and International Business at The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration. In his honor upon retirement, the Center was designated as the William R. Bennett Alabama International Trade Center.
It operates as a federal-state partnership program between the University of Alabama and the U.S. Small Business Administration, promoting SBA’s export financing programs in Alabama.

AIBP affiliates with parallel domestic and international organizations, develops governmental contacts in the US and India to bridge an access to business communities in Alabama and India, arranges business workshops and seminars on trade between US and India and organizes meetings for those looking for business opportunities to enter into joint ventures, or to invest in Alabama or India.

Innovation Depot is a combined facility for the City of Birmingham's Entrepreneurial Center and UAB's Office for the Advancement of Developing Industries (OADI). The two centers have worked together under the Entrepreneurial Center's management since 2001. The name "Innovation Depot" was chosen to reflect its proximity to Birmingham's Railroad Reservation, the "incubator" of industrial development in the late 19th century. The 145,000 square-foot facility is designed to house as many as 75 small businesses and employ as many as 500 workers.

We hope the journey ahead stays as exciting and effective as it has been till now. 

Jai Ho! (Let victory be yours)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Day 17 of Mentor on Road, USA

“As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in the sea, so different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God.”
-Swami Vivekananda

Day 17 of Mentor on Road, USA, started with a good interaction at Tampa Bay Wave incubation center. We came across about 45 companies which are incubating and we would be working with some of them soon. They have an accurate and systematic process of documentation.

Founded in 2008, Tampa Bay Wave, Inc. is a ‘by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs’ non-profit organisation that helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into growing tech businesses in Tampa Bay. They support over 150 tech start-ups and over 250 entrepreneurs and other crazy talented techies that call Tampa Bay home.

Tampa Bay Wave launched its nationally recognized First Wave Venture Center and tech business accelerator program in March 2013. First Wave has been incredibly successful in connecting high-growth start-ups with mentorship, early stage capital and other critical resources to foster an innovation-driven economy for the region. To date, First Wave has supported over 125 local start-ups which collectively have created and retained over 500 jobs, and contributed to over $20 million in outside investment capital, making it one of the critical economic drivers for the Tampa Bay, Florida region.

In the afternoon we headed to an interactive session with the American companies in Tampa Bay at Small Business Development Center organised by our partner USCS and the SBA on “Innovative approaches of doing business with India”.
Around 30 companies were present in the event and each one of them was equally participating. Some practical and relevant questions were raised about the steps that would be taken ahead. We presented about the positive features of New India 3.0. Many good business leads came forward to which we would be connecting to India. 

The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to new global markets.

Small Business Administration (SBA) is a United States government agency that provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. The mission of the Small Business Administration is to maintain and strengthen the nation's economy by enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses and by assisting in the economic recovery of communities after disasters. The agency's activities are summarized as the "3 Cs" of capital, contracts and counselling.

SBA helps lead the federal government's efforts to deliver 23 percent of prime federal contracts to small businesses. Small business contracting programs include efforts to ensure that certain federal contracts reach woman-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

Finally we headed towards the last event of the day which was with Indo US Chamber of Commerce in Tampa Bay. Mentor on Road presented about the small village program and the developments in New India 3.0. There was a positive vibe in the event because the participants present were very lively and enthusiastic. We were glad to note that a lot of them came forward for adopting villages across India. We would be working with them soon. We are thankful to Kamplesh C Darji, Amit Patel, Srinivas Vadlamani, Paresh Bhai, Dilip Bhai and lastly, Jal Irani for putting up a wonderful reception and arrangements.

Indo-US Chamber of Commerce was founded on the principle that one learns the most from those who share similar experiences. A rapidly expanding Indo-US Chamber membership includes individuals from every size and type of business. Members here are able to exchange business ideas, obtain referrals and in general have access to a dynamic network of their peers.

Indo-US Chamber of Commerce is an ultimate medium 
for exchange of idea. Often described as the single most important benefit, this involves groups of members, usually from a similar profession or business who meet regularly to discuss personal and professional topics. With guidance of an experienced member and moderator, the meetings provide a safe environment for maximum interaction and open discussion. 

Indo-US Chamber of Commerce was selected as a finalist for  the Diversity & Inclusion Award by 
Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Expecting an eventful day tomorrow.

Jai Ho! (Let victory be yours)