A Maharashtra Mandal France (MMF) has been set up here to look after the cultural and business interests of the small but growing community.
Pune's real estate developer DS Kulkarni launched the forum. MMF will act not only as a cultural group but explore and promote business links between Maharashtra, Maharashtrians and France, the office bearers said.
"MMF is being established not just for cultural and educational exchanges. Globalisation has opened up new vistas for business relations," says Rajendra Shende, its vice president.
Shende, who works as head of the Ozonaction Unit of the UN Environment Programme here, added: "For example, wine making regions in Maharashtra like Nasik and Baramati are seeking collaboration with the regions of Bordeaux and Bourgogne."
He says the first major task of the forum will be to organise the European Marathi convention next year in Paris. This will be the largest meeting of Maharashtrians living in Europe. This is the first time Paris will host the meeting.
"This is the seventh such meeting and will be held in the famous Chateau de Versailles," says Shende. "We expect about 300 people from 15 countries including Russia and the US to participate."
Key figures attending the convention will include India's Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit and Nationalist Congress Party leader Supriya Sule.
Besides cultural events, there will also be a business meet for young entrepreneurs and IT education.
"In 2008, we intend to organise a wine summit called 'Baramati to Bordeaux' (B2B) as well as IT Business meet in Paris. In the long term we would like to establish a Franco-Marathi Cooperative Programme," says Shende.
Launching the forum, Kulkarni urged the Marathi youth to become more entrepreneurial and offered opportunities in his own company.
"You don't have to invest anything except your mind and hard work. I will bear all financial risks, but I want total commitment from you. You will then see that you can launch your independent careers and businesses in a span of five years," he told the gathering.