14,000 attend Telugu meet in US
Over 14,000 people attended the Telugus' conference in Washington DC, July 5-7, addressed by former President Bill Clinton, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
The 16th biennial conference was organised by Telugu Association of North America (TANA) representing 2,50,000 Telugus in the US and Canada.
It was attended by Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy's emissary, Heavy Industries Minister J Geeta Reddy, and the Union minister of state for HRD, Daggupati Purandhareshwari, besides business leaders and film stars.
Clinton, in his keynote address at the conference opening, referred to talk in the US about outsourcing to India. "What about in-sourcing?" he asked, referring to the Indians settled here who contributed significantly to the US economy.
Clinton's remark, a TANA spokesperson said, was "an electrifying moment for the Indian community."
Clinton added that India was becoming more and more important in the world. He cited the example of an AIDS medicine whose prices US manufacturers had to cut drastically because of competition from Indian pharma companies.
Clinton's presence at the conference was made possible by K Krishna Prasad, a Detroit businessman, who presented a $1 million check to the Bill Clinton Foundation. Prasad, also a conference sponsor, has been encouraging Telugus to make their presence felt in US politics.
Telugus held a separate fundraiser for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in the city on July 5. The final sum raised was not available but it was said to be more than the $1 million they had pledged.
In his message to TANA, Chief Minister Reddy asked NRI Telugus to set up businesses back home, assuring them that their proposals would be cleared within a fortnight from a 'single window'.
Naidu too looked for more NRI involvement in the state. "They should pool resources, adopt villages and develop them," he said.
He also announced that he had raised $1 million for NTR Trust, which will use the funds for uplift of the poor. He is its managing trustee. The trust was set up in the memory of NT Rama Rao, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Naidu's father-in-law.
The business forum themes at the convention included biotech/pharma, IT, entrepreneurship/venture capital and real estate. They drew Telugu business and technology leaders from India and abroad.
Prominent among the people at the forum were Vikram Akula, founder-chief of SKS Microfinance named Time magazine's 100 most influential people; KI Varaprasad Reddy, MD of Shantha Biotech; and Ramachandra Naidu Galla, chairman of Amararaja Batteries.
Addressing the business forum, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living founder, said: "India had a tradition of entrepreneurship before the British Raj turned us into babus. That tradition has been revived now and needs to be encouraged."
The conference theme was the promotion of the Telugu language, following concerns that it is being edged out by English.
N Balakrishna, leading Telugu film star and NTR's son, directed and played the lead role in Telugu Vijayam, a stage production about Krishnadevaraya, the 16th century king of the Vijayanagara empire, coming to earth and inquiring about the plight of the Telugu language today.
Other celebrities at the convention included film heroine Illeana, comedian Sunil, dancer Shobha Naidu and thespian Gummadi. Actor Mahesh Babu dropped out at the last minute.
The convention also attracted second generation Telugu professionals. Three hundred of them had pre-registered for matchmaking. A tenth of them reportedly succeeded in finding suitable matches.
Yadla Hema Prasad was the conference convenor. At the conference, presidentship of TANA passed from Bandla Hanumiaiah to Prabhakar Chowdhury, who runs an accounting firm in Houston.
The next TANA conference will be held in 2009 in Orlando, Florida.