It really is no wonder that so many senior figures in the business world hail from the foreign service. After all amongst their jobs as Chairmen, Vice Chairmen and Board Members of large financial institutions and FTSE 100 firms, champagne drinking and hob-nobbing are as much part of their jobs as is holding the executive to account, which is why a career is the FCO is a great way to learn how to work a room.
So at the Foreign Secretary’s Christmas reception this evening, I bumped into Sir Thomas Harris, Vice Chair of Standard Chartered (and former FCO diplomat) and probed him about India; which unsurprisingly, he told me he has been visiting since 1973 – a time when his first trip took him to Calcutta, as it was known then. He spoke with such fondness of India, that I asked him what he felt was India’s biggest attribute – its economic might, her military strength, its nuclear programme, its market potential… to which he echoed what Shashi Tharoor recently said at TED India (http://www.ted.com/talks/shashi_tharoor.html) , that her ‘soft power’ is her biggest and most attractive feature.
Lo and behold, Stephen Green – Chairman of HSBC came along and reiterated what Tom Harris had said, and spoke volumes about his personal affection, beyond economics, for India and the sub-continent.
Just maybe at times, we need to sit back and really reflect on the lure of India. These two gents I spoke with today, had no reason to say what they did, but it does strike me that India’s soft power needs to be given more prominence and airtime, which I hope to do when I speak about my forthcoming book.
This is one of the main reasons I’ve selected Subhash Chandra, Chairman of Zee TV and Kishore Lulla, CEO of Eros Entertainment – as they’ve probably done more to push the Indian agenda internationally than most other conglomerates in India.