Former India president looks to transform Ky. businesses



By Brian Shlonsky

Sometimes smiling can lead to better business strategies, said one international leader in his visit to Lexington on Friday.

The former president of India spoke to a crowded room at the Lexington Downtown Hilton Hotel as part of an event hosted by UK’s Gatton College of Business and Economics. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India’s 11th president, spoke on the importance of visionary leadership to form deeper business relationships between India and Kentucky.

“We need to join together to create a world that is happy, prosperous and peaceful,” Kalam said.

The conference, “A Global Business Bridge: Linking Kentucky & India,” featured Kalam, two U.S. congressmen, India’s second female ambassador and various business leaders.

“Smiling is a sign of creativity,” Kalam said.  “Everyone in Lexington has been smiling while I’ve been here. The question is, how do we make the smiles permanent?”

Kalam said to make his vision a reality, the world needs leaders with traits of nobility, compassion, innovation, transparency and benevolence.

During his speech, Kalam gave a presentation illustrating leaders and innovators he deemed as having each of these visionary traits. He listed Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, as an innovator that never stopped learning throughout his life, and the importance of Walton’s business model that cut down on transportation costs.

Kalam also said leaders needed to be able to manage their traits for business successes.

“Leaders must have a vision and a passion to transform the vision into action,” Kalam said. “They must know how to manage success and failure, have nobility management and not only work with integrity, but succeed with integrity.”

Some of the audience included Indian-Americans who attended the conference because of the love they have for Kalam and his leadership qualities.

“He’s a great leader who has done wonderful things for India, such as his vision to make India an economically developed nation in the next 13 years,” said Vinnie Venugopal, an Indian-American and general manager of quality for Toyota Motor Company in Kentucky.

“What he’s doing is amazing for the state of Kentucky and their business establishments,” Venugopal said.