by Manu Shah
Towards the end of 2018, IACCGH’s Board of Directors called for a special meeting to amend the bylaws that would enable the present President to continue for one more year. This change would make Swapan Dhairyawan the first President in the history of the Chamber to have a two year term. This extension, Swapan believes, offered greater continuity and more time “to sow the seeds” in the planning and execution of programs.
Swapan, a business owner who heads his own Certified Public Accountancy firm – MD & Associates LLP, has been associated with the Chamber since 2004 when he took up a friend’s invitation to attend a Chamber networking event. The potential made him renew his membership every year. In 2012, he joined the Board and became Treasurer. For five years, Swapan oversaw the books and in 2017, was voted unanimously as President for the year 2018.
On December 31, 2019, he completed his term and describes the experience as “gratifying and incredibly rewarding.” During these two years, the Chamber put out 71 events that ran the gamut from Women’s initiatives, entrepreneurship and trade delegations. Having worked closely with Swapan all these years, Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia says his ability to “think beyond the possibilities and build on a program is one of the many traits that make him a true leader.”
Apart from empowering small businesses, one of Swapan’s goals was to reach out to different communities and work with other organizations like the Jamatkhana, the Indian Doctors Association, TiE, IIT Alumni, Vadtal Dham and the Meenakshi Temple to see how the Chamber could help their members. Events were organized with them including several others which connected businesses that had been impacted by Hurricane Harvey to access interest free loans and other business resources.
Speaking of the Howdy Modi event where he was drafted into the Special Invitations Committee, he says that not only did the event put Houston on the world map 50 years after the landing on the moon, (remember “Houston, we have a problem”) but the chemistry between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump bode well for US-India relations. Swapan was also part of the Trade Mission to India led by Mayor Turner in 2018 that comprised of three big partners – the Chamber, the Greater Houston Partnership and Visit Houston. As of May 2019, India was ranked as Houston’s 4th largest trading partner and such trade missions – Swapan believes, strengthen ties with Indian businesses, investors and government officials.
Under Swapan’s watch, there were two new entrants to the Chamber’s list of events. The Generational Transition panel discussion which invited a parent and child of Indo American business families to weigh in on the business transition plan and the Open Forum Radio Talk Show featuring a live interview with one member of the Chamber every month. The former, unsurprisingly, elicited a great deal of interest and discussion while the latter brought some high visibility to Chamber members.
What does he consider the highlights of his term? Considering his answer carefully, Swapan lists three: having Governor Greg Abbott and the US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster as Keynote Speakers at the Annual Galas, joining the Mayor’s trade delegation to India and being featured in the Houston Business Journal’s Business page. All three, he believes, were possible because of the continuous contributions of the Chamber to Houston’s economy over the last 20 years.
As he leaves his unique footprint on the Chamber’s activities, Swapan intends to remain closely involved with the Chamber and continue his championing of small businesses – a cause that’s closest to his heart.
by Manu Shah