Allahabad-born IIT-Kanpur alumnus Shantanu Srivastava's name figures on the list of "Vietnam's three best Indian friends" published by the communist government in 2006. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi are the other two.
Srivastava was here after 32 years on the way to his alma mater (IIT-K) where he was conferred the 'Distinguished Alumnus Award' on Saturday.
It was in 1982 that Shantanu reached Hanoi, Vietnam, on deputation to the Indian Embassy as second secretary. He went for a six-month stint but stayed on for six years, becoming an entrepreneur.
"Vietnam was war-devastated when I reached there. But the amount of progress the country made thereafter was incredible. I identified the growth prospects and in 1988 I resigned and established Ishant International Private Ltd," he told Hindustan Times.
Srivastava began commodity trading with a capital of $ 1,000. In 20 years, mthe company's direct export and business generated for other companies crossed $ 25 million.
It was not easy, though. "Those who used to dine with me (as diplomats) were reluctant to even give appointments. This is what they feel about Indians - good friends but not good businessmen," he said.
Srivastava said he has been trying to get India and Vietnam closer to each other. "To mobilise the business community, I set up the Indian Business Chambers in Vietnam in 1998. Bilateral trade then was $ 100 million. It has now crossed $ 1.6 billion." He is currently working on setting up the Vietnam Business Center in New Delhi.
He has several plans for Uttar Pradesh too. "Our tannery industry is very primitive and we can import technology from Vietnam. The Vietnamese are in love with Taj Mahal. So, Taj tourism and the Buddhist circuit can be promoted there," he said.