When President Bill Clinton talks, everyone listens.
The former president certainly has the charisma and charm to get pin-drop silence in a room. He was at the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel recently for the American India Foundation Annual Spring Awards Gala and over 400 heavy hitters from the Indian community turned up.
The names of the gala co-chairs show the muscle behind AIF:
Rajat K. Gupta, Senior partner emeritus of Mckinsey & Company; Charles R.Kaye, Co-president Warburg Pincus; Kumar Mahadeva, Managing Parnter of Kubera Partners; Ravi Akhoury of the Akhoury Foundation;
Arun and Asmita Bhatia of the Arun & Asmita Bhatia Family Foundation; Bal G. Das and Valerie Demont; Ted Mathas, president and CEO, NYL Insurance Company; Anil K. Monga, CEO of Victory International; Dinesh Paliwal, Chairman & Ceo of Harmon International; Arvind Raghunathan, MD of Deutsche Bank; Parag Saxena, CEO of New Silk Route and Vedanta Capital; Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon, Chairperson of Tandon Capital Associates, and Arshad Zakaria, president and CEO of New Vernon Capital.
Clinton, who is AIF’s honorary chair since its inception and has been a catalyst for getting so many power players involved, was honored with AIF’s service corps fellowship being named the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service to India. Clinton told the packed hall that he was looking forward to the success of the fellowship “which is helping shape the next generation of leaders to possess a strong passion for India and the innovation to find solutions to the problems we face.”
Since 2001, almost 200 Fellows have worked with over 90 Indian NGOs. Dr. Sanjay Sinho, CEO of AIF, acknowledged Sridhar Iyengar and Ambassador Celeste for their leadership of the Service Corp’s Advisory Council.
The evening honored Henry R. Kravis, founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, and Dr. Anji Reddy, Founder and Chairman, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. AIF has partnered with Dr. Reddy’s Foundation on a vocational training program for unemployed urban youth, training over 8000 in Andhra Pradesh.
“India is a special place for us and we are glad to be able to invest in the growth of India,” said Kravis, whose company has already invested $1.2 billion in India and plans to do more. “Through an organization like AIF, we can ensure that India’s economic growth is inclusive and that even cycle rickshaw drivers are able to share in the rising prosperity.” Sinho announced a program to create micro-loans to enable 25,000 rickshaw drivers to purchase their rickshaws rather than rent them.
Actor Malik Pancholi was the Master of Ceremonies, and Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman of Europe and Asia, was the Master Auctioneer, not so much of art but of pledges for AIF’s projects. The top bid was $100,000 by the Kravis table. The evening raised a whopping $1.5 million for the many programs that AIF supports in India.
The evening had its full quota of glamour with a well-heeled crowd out to support a very good cause. The elegant dinner by the critically acclaimed NY restaurant Amma included a Spring menu of vegetable cutlets with garden fresh vegetables, mint and tamarind chutney with Spinach chaat of sprouted mung bean salad; Entrees included Tandoori Lamb Chops, Achaari Chicken with pickling spices, Kararee Bhindi and Paneer kaaliya. Dessert was a trio of Kulfi – Mango, Strawberry and Pistachio.
The crème de la crème crowd included Consul General Prabhu Dayal and his wife Chandni Dayal, the Chatwals – Sant, Daman and Vikram, Victor and Tara Menezes, Ajit and Tinku Jain, Nishith Desai, Nitin and Leena Doshi, Rajat and Anita Gupta, Ivan and Shibani Menezes, and Deven and Anjali Sharma. Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation, Donald and Shelly Rubin of the Rubin Museum of Art, Madhur Jaffrey and Sanford Allen, and Aasif Mandvi were the other noted names. It all goes to show you can have a super good time while doing super good!
© Lavina Melwani