The Indian-Jewish relationship goes back more than 2,500 years. When Jews were being persecuted all over the world, many turned to India for refuge.
In modern society, the relationship has been strengthened by technology.
The Indian Professionals Network, ACCESS Atlanta and American Jewish Committee Atlanta held a dinner and discussion Thursday, Feb. 16, to celebrate those ancient ties and 25 years of modern diplomatic relations between Israel and India, two nations founded out of British rule after World War II.
The panel, moderated by Matt Pearl of WXIA-TV, included Conexx President Guy Tessler, Indian Consul General Nagesh Singh and Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall. The panelists discussed the business contributions both communities have made to the city of Atlanta.
In 2016, Atlanta launched Atlanta Tech Gateway to Americas, an export portal. The initiative helps international companies navigate Atlanta’s business sector. The first two countries chosen for the program were India and Israel.
Israelis and Indians are leaders in rapid investment in innovation, Hall said. “Both communities embrace entrepreneurship, and Atlanta is the new startup hub that sprung up, and both communities have helped put us on the map.”
Tessler said the two countries have much to offer and receive from Atlanta’s startup culture. He said Atlanta’s strength lies in persuading companies to move to the South.
“The fact that they chose Israel and India as the low-hanging fruit where success is imminent says a lot about how the region perceives these two countries,” said Tessler, whose organization, Conexx, builds business relations between American and Israeli companies.
Israel is the No. 1 country for startups per capita, and India is No. 3. India has the fastest-growing economy in the world, overtaking China.
Israel’s production is on the rise, driving a need to export and, Singh said, creating the perfect environment for a business relationship.
“Israel can only prosper if they export 70 percent of their products. We have a booming economy,” Singh said. “Israel has contributed to India’s defense sector and agriculture. Israel has also set up production for dairy farms and water treatment that benefit the Indian economy.”
Tessler attributed much of Israel’s technological advances to the necessities of survival. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Israel experienced an influx of Russian Jews in just over three years that was equivalent to the entire population of France moving to the United States. To find creative solutions, Israel leveraged the intellectual property of doctors, scientists and researchers who were eager to solve the population boom.
“People from this community visited Israel and saw what was happening, and they figured out, if we could find outlets for Israeli companies and enterprises, we would flourish,” Tessler said.
Whether it’s the financial sector or IT companies, there are strong connections between Israel and India, Singh said. People from both countries have launched businesses in Atlanta, and now they are focused on creating a bigger footprint in the city and the South.
“It’s the perfect market because there are multifaceted linkages in terms of finding markets in India or importing resources,” Singh said. “What we want to see now in our city is a similar kind of progress where Indian-American communities can contribute more to the city of Atlanta socially, economically and politically — and how these two communities can work together.”
Hall said Atlanta’s unique business environment, with its concentration of Fortune 500 companies, provides resources that startups can’t easily harness in places such as Silicon Valley and New York.
“People come here and feel welcome and see someone who looks like them and land their first Fortune 500 client like Coca-Cola,” Hall said. “Moving forward, we should model that ecosystem.”
Atlanta-area startups have created a cooperative culture that leads to stronger collaboration, Tessler said. Amid competition, there is an underlying climate of cohesiveness that makes the Atlanta business environment special.
“We all know we need to work together because we know we don’t have the amount of investment money of Silicon Valley or the allure of New York,” Tessler said. “So we need to prove ourselves. If we do it by ourselves, we’ll not be able to succeed, and that’s why there’s a need and mentality of cooperation.”