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South America can help in India’s energy and food security

Argentina is the size of India but has a population of just 40 million-about that of Odisha. Of this, 20 million live in Buenos Aires. Driving miles through the interior you find mostly cattle and no humans!

THE LAND IS so fertile: you drop any seed; it sprouts and grows lush in quick time. Argentina leads in several aspects of agriculture technology. Their no-drill-till technology and highly mechanised state of agriculture contribute to very high productivity, nearly four times India’s.

This is from Dr Vinod Surana, Partner and CEO of the leading law firm, Surana & Surana International Attorneys. I know Vinod, who took his PhD in Law from Cornell Law School, as an attorney advising several MNCs; but over the last five years he has also been a one-man army projecting the opportunities for trade and cultural relations with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Trade promotion office for San Luis...

Last year he brought a delegation from Uruguay on a personal visit. In May this year, he did this for San Luis, a province of Argentina. Just think of a 62 member delegation led by the province’s Governor Claudio Javier Poggi spending time in Chennai as a guest not of the nation, not of the state and not of industry, but as guests of the Suranas! The Suranas have provided office space for the province of San Luis to promote ties between San Luis and India/Chennai.

Vinod took the initiative to line up a meeting between Governor Poggi and Tamil Nadu Governor, K Rosaiah at the Raj Bhavan. Rosaiah participated at a reception hosted for Poggi. The normally reticent Rosaiah who headed Andhra Pradesh as Chief Minister and who in the past has handled a wide range of portfolios, broke tradition and informally spent time with delegates and locals.

The 177 year old Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry joined hands with the Suranas to present Governor Poggi. President MCCI, T Shivaraman, outlined the potential offered by India and, Tamil Nadu in particular, for larger business collaboration.

Attorney as a ‘diplomat’...

Vinod’s interest in Latin America as described by him, is destiny; “in 2008, I was part of a CII delegation to South America. While on the flight about to land, I was requested to lead the delegation. I modified my speech as a lawyer to that of a diplomat! I prepared my notes on the Indian economy and Indian businesses. I outlined the advantages of doing business with India. In particular, I focused on the strong judiciary and the rule of law that guarantees the sanctity of contracts,” said Vinod. The trips became more frequent. Vinod travelled extensively across Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay… and familiarised himself with the strengths and opportunities. He gained knowledge of the immense potential for trade. Over these five years bilateral trade has tripled.

Spanish and Portuguese are the languages in Latin America and it takes long flights, of over 30 hours, to reach these countries.  Are not distance and language serious barriers?

Vinod points to distance as a mindset and language not an issue. “If you can do business in Africa with multitude of dialects, why can’t we do it with Latin America? Culturally they are close to India. They are emotional; family-oriented and are very friendly,”he said. Vinod’s attorney firm Surana and Surana has signed MoUs with top law firms in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and produced, in Spanish and English, pamphlets on doing business with India for Latin Americans and doing business with Argentina and Brazil for Indian business men.

Vinod goes poetic: “Uruguay is like the Switzerland of South America in regard to banking and South American countries are like New Zealand with more cattle than men! Uruguay has the largest harbour in South America and these countries offer land at such low prices! China is making rich use of these; why can’t India do this?”

Hardly three decades ago, Vinod’s father, P S Surana shifted from Rajasthan to Chennai. By dint of sheer work, he built Surana and Surana as the largest law firm in South India. He got his wife educated in law. Vinod’s wife also qualified as a lawyer after her marriage into the family! Deeply religious the Suranas are silent ambassadors to Latin America and the Caribbean, promoting Chennai and Tamil Nadu with so much passion. 
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