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The Kochi-edition of the New Global Indian Excellence Awards for Global Leadership turned out to be a melting pot of achievers from across the globe.

When a businessman from South Africa and an eminent journalist from Bahrain met with a stand-up comedian and a business leader from the US in Kochi, they had one thing in common – the pride of being Indian and retaining the true essence of their culture and shared heritage even as they lived as citizens of another country.

The third edition of the NGI Excellence Awards organised by the NGI Foundation in Kochi at the Dream Hotel honoured nine people of Indian origin for their contribution and achievements across various industries – business, communication, finance, entrepreneurship and social responsibility. Awardees had converged in Kochi ahead of the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas from across the globe – from the United States of America, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Each had a unique story of beating the odds and emerging victorious to share and the NGI platform proved to be an ideal one where they connected, interacted and enlightened and inspired the audience with their experiences and achievements. Equally distinguished were the Chief Guests for the evening – former Additional Secretary of Tamil Nadu and GOPIO Kochi Chapter President, PC Cyriac and former Minister of Tourism and Energy of Mauritius, Mahen Utchanah. Sharing the stage for the traditional lighting of the lamp with the chief guests were NGI Managing Editor Ujjwal K Chowdhury, the editor of Dhanam, Kerala’s own business magazine, Kurien Magazine and the Sales Chief of Malayala Manorama, Anand Mathew. That Kochi, fondly referred to as God’s Own Country was to play host to the eleventh annual Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas between 7-9 January 2013 added to the the mood and the tone for the evening dedicated to honouring the achievements of Indians globally.

The first winner of the evening was the South African businessman Ishwaar Ramlutchman, whose humble demeanour and earnest words won quite a few hearts. His zeal to improve the lot of disadvantaged communities by improving water and sanitation services in rural areas won him the NGI Excellence Award for Community Leadership. Ramlutchman has worked with the tallest leaders and bureaucrats of South Africa and has been one of the young leaders of the Indian Diaspora keen to promote Indo-SA relations. While dedicating his award to his guru, Ramlutchman reiterated his commitment to carrying forward his charitable work across South Africa and taking the message of peace and harmony between all communities.

The Award for Community Outreach and Women Empowerment went to the Chairperson of the Women’s Council of GOPIO International, Suman Kapoor, who proudly displayed the award calling it the first ever in her distinguished career. Incidentally, the memento presented to Ms.Kapoor and the rest of the awardees was specially designed by the Bangalore-based Mithilasmita Arts incorporating the ancient art-form of Madhubani painting into the commemoration plaque along with the certificate of excellence. Another woman achiever felicitated for her contribution to promoting Indo-US business ties was entrepreneur Purnima Voria, the founder and CEO of the National US India Chamber of Commerce. Ms.Voria has been instrumental in securing business deals worth millions for Indian companies and US based industries and create an environment of trust, which is essential for forging and maintaining business relations. Her guest at the award function, US politician and former US Ambassador to Bahrain, Sam Zekhem proved to be an enthusiastic speaker, regaling the audience with his insights on the enterprising nature of Indian Diaspora. Though his presence at the function was a surprise appearance, the warm bonds that he shared with two of the awardees, Ms.Purnima Voria and Soman Baby, the Managing editor of the Daily Tribune proved to be a heartwarming reunion.

Mr.Soman Baby, a journalist held in high esteem not just by the Non-Resident Indians of Bahrain but also the Bahraini Royal Family once again reiterated the role that the Indian Diaspora can play in helping other Indians, away from their homeland. His sterling work in journalism has made Mr.Baby a trusted advisor to the Bahraini government in matters relating to migrant workers especially from India. The Chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust in the Gulf, KV Shamsudheen was the other Indian based in the Gulf to be awarded the NGI Excellence Award for Indian Diaspora Leadership. In his acceptance speech, Shamsudheen spoke about the need for financial planning among NRIs and their families to assure a secured future in these troubled economic times.

Another winner of the evening, Mr.Manoj Soma, the CEO of Choice International delivered a touching speech about turning his disability and disadvantages into his strengths while struggling to carve a career for himself in the UK and championing the cause for equality for the differently abled at the work place. And bringing the evening to a witty end was the stand-up comedian from LA of the ‘Make Chai Not War’ fame, Rajiv Satyal, who was awarded for excellence in Communication Leadership. In a twenty minute long stand up act at the end of the evening, Rajiv had the audience in splits, proving yet again that messages can be effectively conveyed through laughter and jokes too!

The NGI Awards for Excellence ended on a happy note, with the winners posing for a memorable photograph – one for the albums. The winners sharing the platform were a wonderful mix of the young and the experienced – all proud achievers and global Indians!

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Somanjana Chatterjee

Somanjan Chatterjee is San Francisco based consulting editor