Highly skilled Indians in the Netherlands

Industry - Academia Meet and Panel Discussion
On September 12, the University of Twente in the city of Enschede, the Netherlands, was graced by the presence of a bevy of dignitaries from academia, industry and governmental as well as non-governmental organisations. The reason behind their visit was the Industry-academia meet and panel discussion organised by the Indian community in this university, under the guidance of Professor Vinod Subramaniam of Biophysical Engineering. This meet was supported by a host of organisations viz. the Indian Students Association at the University of Twente, An Association for the Development of Health and Academic Awareness in Rural India (AADHAAR), the Netherlands-India Chamber of Commerce and Trade (NICCT), the Foundation for Critical Choices for India (FCCI), Kennispark Twente and the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands.

The main objective of this event was to instigate thoughts and actions leading to entrepreneurial awareness among the Indian students and researchers in the Netherlands. To this end, the four invited speakers shed light on the various facets of entrepreneurship as well as on the business practices in India and the Netherlands. The first speaker, Dr. Pramod Agrawal (University of Twente and President, AADHAAR), took it upon himself to provide detailed information on highly skilled Indians in the Netherlands and their areas of expertise. 'Individuals who have completed or working towards their post-graduation or PhD are classified as highly skilled', said Dr. Agrawal. This set the tone for the other speakers and the event as a whole, as the audience got a clear idea about the meaning of the term 'highly skilled' and the target group was unambiguously defined in the beginning itself.

Mr. Ram Lakhina (Executive President, NICCT) put forth his... crystal-clear views on why an emerging economy like India is important for European countries, especially the Netherlands. According to him, the Netherlands is in need of skilled manpower, and India is in a position to meet this demand. He also spoke in depth about the attributes of an entrepreneur. 'Taking risks is an important attribute of an entrepreneur and this is something one is born with', stressed Mr. Lakhina. According to Dr. Kees Eijkel (Director, Kennispark Twente), ambition and risk-taking skills are indispensable for an entrepreneur. He emphasized on properly worked-out business plans, so that it is less cumbersome for budding entrepreneurs to get the backing of venture funds, banks and the like. He also enlightened the audience about the activities of Kennispark Twente, and its role in nurturing young entrepreneurs. It would not be an overstatement to state that he was the ideal choice to talk about how to commercialise scientific knowledge.

Dr. Bob Hoekstra (Director, Opportunity India Consulting), a veteran entrepreneur who has extensive experience in running organisations in India as well as the Netherlands, opined that the shift of economic power towards the east coupled with India's surplus working population will result in the future of the European countries being highly dependent on how India performs. However, he pointed out that a vast majority of Indian graduates are not good enough to be employed by multinational companies, due to poor education models that do not aid smooth transition from academia to industry. He recommended the Indian educational institutions to learn from the highly successful Dutch models. Armed with slides that were both funny and thought-provoking, Dr. Hoekstra told the audience that Indians have great experience with creating and dealing with bureaucracy, and for this reason, it should not be hard for them to be good entrepreneurs. He quoted the example of the success of Indian entrepreneurs in the United States, to drive home his point. However, he cautioned the potential entrepreneurs about the differences in business practices between Europe and the United States.

The Chief Guests, Rector Magnificus Prof. Henk Zijm and the Indian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Ms Neelam Sabharwal traced the long-standing commercial and cultural relations between India and the Netherlands. They also stressed the importance of the continuation of this cooperation.

The closing panel discussion was equally informative, with the audience hearing straight from the horses' mouth the government's role in providing financial support to new business ventures. It also brought forth details of Global Indian Network of Knowledge (GINK). Ms Riva Das Ganguly, the first minister at the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands, informed the audience about the inauguration of this network during the Diaspora international meeting scheduled in Chennai, India, early next year. This platform will enable Indians all over the world to share their knowledge and expertise on various fields, to guide India towards a brighter future. Among other things, it came to light that several liberalised measures by the Dutch government that will aid the highly skilled Indian migrants are on the cards. This is good news indeed for the aspirants.

During his closing address, Prof. Zijm expressed his hope that events such as this will instigate business initiatives by highly skilled Indians in the Netherlands, leading to more spin-off companies in India as well as the Netherlands. At the end of it all, positive vibes could be felt among the audience, as a result of the very informative sessions as well as the dinner interaction, making it a red-letter day for the Indian community at the University of Twente.
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