The AIBC is committed to re-defining and re-asserting its position, avers new President Raja Venkateswar
By KARTIK MOHANDAS
The Australia India Business Council (AIBC) is the peak national, non-governmental, body promoting bi-lateral trade between India and Australia. It has state chapters and industry chapters that work in their respective regions and professional fields to foster deeper economic ties. Every year, new members are elected to each state’s chapter, managing committee and presidency. This year, the elections saw a bigger change in the management committee; and newly elected President Raja Venkateswar spoke to The Indian Telegraph about where AIBC stands, what it intends to achieve in the coming year and the state of affairs between Indo-Australian trade.
TIT: What prompted you to throw your hat in the ring for the NSW presidency?
Raja Venkateswar: I have been a supporter of AIBC’s efforts and an active member. With a 4-5 year involvement and background with the Council, I saw tremendous potential that could be harnessed owing to the immense intellectual property that the members brought to the body. Add to this the feedback from some inspirational people around me who kept prompting me to take a more pro-active role, is what made me step up to the plate.
TIT: How would you rate the work done by AIBC?
RV: Given our constraints, the facilitation work done by the body to enable setting up various businesses and helping governmental departments interact with each other and foster greater interaction between business bodies, is sterling. Members have been deeply engaged in influencing policy. The quality of work we carry out is extremely good.
TIT: AIBC has done some tremendous work over the last 3-5 years but there has been criticism from some quarters that this is merely a social club for professionals. What’s your view?
RV: One has only to go to our website or follow our activities to understand that the AIBC is much more than a social club. What we don’t do, is social and cultural stuff. We are a business body. We work towards bringing better commercial outcomes for business. We’ve have had heads of state, premiers, leading industrialists and highly successful professionals who have endorsed us or are part of the council. People of such intellect and success will not be wasting their time if they did not see the value in AIBC. No one is perfect, but you must realise the constraints under which the body functions. Members are contributing on a pro bono basis. I respect their passion and commitment. This underlying force contributes hugely towards the success the organisation enjoys.
TIT: What would you change in the workings of the body?
RV: There have been some really good things done in the past. There are some things that have not been followed well. We need to re-assess and make sure we adopt the paths that make sense. We need to challenge the paradigm all the time to improve, to innovate, to grow. I think we have a good mix of the old and the new in AIBC. This gives us the experience and drive to take AIBC to new heights.
TIT: What is your vision for AIBC’s NSW Chapter?
RV: NSW is the largest and most active chapter by miles. It has the largest number of verticals and industry chapters as well. This also helps us incubate ideas that can be cross pollinated to other regions and within chapters in the region. I see my role as that of a facilitator. We need to empower our verticals and chapters so that they go out there and make the connections and build the brand. As part of a renewed initiative, I am hopeful that AIBC will help with policy decisions as well. The AIBC brand is well recognised and highly respected. But we need to build further on the brand equity. We need to re-define and re-assert our positioning.
TIT: How do you intend to further build AIBC’s brand equity?
RV: By leveraging our connections and contacts. There needs to be cross border engagement at various levels of business. We need to work for and be part of projects that ultimately fosters ties and employment in two countries. There is strong need to empower and enable chapters who are the key conduits in engaging with industry. Another important part of our curriculum is industry events. The ICT chapter that I headed did 6 events last year. There is great benefit in having regular events that engage, educate and help business people network. We need to increase this during this year. This is crucial in our endeavour to build the AIBC brand. Once we get the brand equity right we will see exponential growth.
TIT: What’s you take on the Australian economy?
RV: The next 18 months will be stable. I see the Aussie dollar dropping further, even to the early 60’s vis-à-vis the USD, in the coming months, making exports more competitive. Leaving Sydney out, prices across the country are depressed. I am absolutely bullish on my outlook for the Aussie economy in the long term, but more bearish in the short term.
TIT: What are your views on the GST increase?
RV: I believe in lowering the cost of doing business, rather than increasing it. Promote entrepreneurship and you will find wonders are possible. In the early 90s, the Indian economy opened up. Today we can see what that has done for the economy. Australia, relatively, is still a very closed economy. We have to only look at the banking sector, airlines, shopping centres, broadband, etc. to witness this. Open up the economy and lower the cost of doing business. This will be the biggest driver of growth.
TIT: What challenges does the Indian economy face?
RV: Indian media has a propensity to highlight the negatives more than the positives. But media must also look at the achievements and the great potential India has. India will become, without a doubt, the fastest growing market in the next 4-6 years. This news needs to be communicated to people. There are huge opportunities waiting to be exploited. Have faith and position yourself to take advantage of this. What I am hoping for is that we double our trade every 4-6 years. A signed and sealed FTA will be key to this.
Building Business And Brand : AIBC