The Woman Behind the Scenes, Ms Neel Gonuguntla

Just a few years ago, the US India Chamber of Commerce DFW – an organization that has been around for the last 18 years – was not as active and popular in the business community as it is today. Many people saw it as a close-knit group of companies working in close contact with limited access to others. However, due to the fresh vision and approach gained under the esteemed leadership of President, Ms Neel Gonuguntla, the chamber is growing leaps and bounds and offers equal opportunity to all to take advantage of its activities and resources.

Ms Gonuguntla honoured the President position in July 2014 with a fresh vision of growing international trade between the US and India along with a very simple approach to helping local businesses grow and strengthen the economy in North Texas.

Neel belongs to both the worlds equally. She was born to parents of Indian origin in Texas. During her formative years, she traveled to India several times and spent time and effort to understand her background and ethnicity. She also explored various other countries to gain insights into the human kind. Her experiences in both the eastern and the western cultures make her a very real person. She is poised and strategic in her nature and far-sighted in her decision making. Her whole idea of helping the small and medium sized enterprises in the local geographic region is the biggest evidence of her farsightedness.

On June 13, 2017, she was honoured at the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) State Leaders Conference in Washington DC for being an Outstanding State Leader in advancing Chamber Members’ interests including Texas universities and companies interests in India through development and diplomacy. She was honoured for exemplifying the idea that America “Leading Globally Matters Locally”.

Asian Aces met with Ms Neel Gonuguntla, the President at the US India Chamber of Commerce, and talked about the Chamber’s initiatives and activities that can help local business owners in growing and scaling their businesses.

Ms. Neel Gonuguntla receiving the award from the Pacific Pension & Investment Institute President Mr. Lionel C. Johnson at USGLC Summit 2017
Ms Neel Gonuguntla receiving the award from the Pacific Pension & Investment Institute President Mr. Lionel C. Johnson at USGLC Summit 2017

“I feel it is my duty as a concerned citizen who cares deeply about the US’s long term interests to support American interests and American opportunities wherever we can.”

How do you feel about being the President of the US India Chamber of Commerce? What are the biggest challenges in running an organization like this?

It’s an enriching experience. At the Chamber, we get to work with businesses of all sizes and get to be a part of everybody’s journey. It has been a great privilege to work for the benefit of our broader community. As you know, economic development has the ability to increase opportunity for everyone.

Like any organization experiencing growth, we feel the constraints of our resources- growing pains. But we welcome them because we know we must go through them to be an even better organization to serve our community.

With the advent of  various new initiatives and activities, the Chamber seems to be moving in a new direction. What is the new vision that you have for the USICOC?

The Chamber was created by successful Americans of Indian origin, wanting to further encourage and facilitate trade between the United States and India. It was inaugurated by then Minister of Small Scale Industries ‘Vasundhara Raje’ in the year 1999. Since then, the Chamber has been facilitating international trade between both the countries and doing small business development. Generally speaking, this mission won’t change.  

As we move forward, we will continue to enhance the services and initiatives we’ve always promoted. With the growth of the Indian-American business community here locally as well as the incredible growth we’re seeing in India, we have a lot more we can do.  

Who can benefit from the chamber activities and initiatives?

Our chamber serves as a bridge between the Indian-American community and the broader business community and it is equal opportunity. About 50% of our members are Indian-American owned companies and the other 50% or so are Non–Indian- American owned.   

The Chamber strives to support economic growth in the region through both business development and professional development through our events and services. We support everyone from aspiring entrepreneurs to small and medium enterprises to large corporations.  And we work across a wide range of industries.

While some of our event are open to the public, we are a membership based organization.  So individuals or businesses hoping to take advantage of the resources available through our Chamber should look into membership, if they are interested.

How would you describe the business environment for minorities in North Texas? What is your advice to minority owned Business Owners?

Texas is a great place to do business. North Texas, in particular, weathered the recession better than most parts of the country and is a fantastic place to do business!  Our sister organizations like the Dallas Regional Chamber, the Plano, Frisco, Irving and Richardson chambers among others have worked closely with city economic development teams to offer valuable incentives for companies to look at North Texas. All of this means that there are more opportunities for business owners of all backgrounds. Additionally, our partners like DFW Airport, and our corporate partners have created an environment where minority businesses have meaningful opportunities to be included in various bid processes with these organizations.  

For example, recently, AT&T announced a multimillion dollar initiative to create a discovery district next to its headquarters something like an “urban-tech area”, and as a part of that project, they’ve invited minority business participation.

My advice is that proactive participation and engagement can yield fruits, so everyone should try be a part of what’s happening around North Texas. Even if you don’t succeed the first time, keep trying.

Recently, a report suggested that Asian population in Frisco is 4.9%, way higher than the average of 2.5% in Dallas. What does that mean for Indian Businesses?

The fast growing Asian population offers an opportunity for ethnic businesses like ethnic restaurants and grocery stores to thrive.  More importantly, what it also means is that large multinational corporations like Toyota and NTT Data, Ericsson and others can take advantage of the talent that comes along with the Asian-American population- they get access to the quality workforce, which is also one of the reasons as to why a lot of companies are moving here. This in turn creates business opportunities for Asian-American and Indian-American entrepreneurs who may work as a vendor to these MNCs.

This year, the Chamber organized its first Women’s Conference that received a high turnout and very positive feedback. What is the Chamber’s vision for the women entrepreneurs and professionals?

The chamber always had a focus on women business leaders through our Women’s Business Council. This year to raise the profile of women, the Chamber’s women board members and I organized the first Women’s Conference called Power Refined. The idea behind the conference was to help women harness their inherent power to achieve their professional and entrepreneurial dreams through a supportive network. We hope this conference will continue to be a platform where women can thrive.

Congratulations on receiving the  award for being the Outstanding State Leader at the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) State Leaders Conference. We understand that the US Global Leadership Coalition is an influential network of over 500 businesses and NGOs; national security and foreign policy experts; and business, faith-based, academic, military, and community leaders in all 50 states who support strategic foreign investments to elevate development and diplomacy alongside defence to build a better, safer world.  Tell us more about it:

I was honoured to be one of three leaders identified from across the US for my work.  To be honest, I feel it is my duty as a concerned citizen who cares deeply about the US’s long term interests to support American interests and American opportunities wherever we can.  Many U.S. foreign aid programs have had remarkable successes in reducing conflict in the world and growing global consumers for American products and services. There’s still a lot more we can do to improve our programs and outcomes, but I’m just trying to do my part in my own little way.

About the Interviewer:

The Interviewer is the Lead Writer and Founder at Asian Aces.

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