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Lokvani Talks To Governor Mitt Romney And Dr. Desh Deshpande

Chitra Parayath

Lokvani had an opportunity recently to chat with Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney when he was at the recently concluded TiEcon 2003, where he delivered the keynote address. While campaigning for governor, Mr. Romney (an ex-Venture Capitalist) had pledged to use his business expertise to lure companies to Massachusetts and encourage entrepreneurship, to create jobs and keep taxes low.
Gov. Romney must have felt right at home at TieCon2003, the largest conference of entrepreneurs in the North East, organized by TiEBoston. Associations like The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) deserve a large share of the credit for the success of Indian-American entrepreneurs in the US. TieBoston has contributed immensely to the South Asian community in the New England areas by providing mentoring and networking infrastructure to young entrepreneurs.
Clearly impressed by the turnout and the energy and enthusiasm of the Attendees, Gov. Romney expressed great admiration and respect for Indian entrepreneurs.

Lokvani: Gov. Romney, what impression are you taking back from this event? How do you think Indian Americans can contribute to the economic well being of the Commonwealth?
Mitt Romney: I love these events. They bring so many different kinds of people from diverse backgrounds with different kinds of skills together. We need to draw on the wide range of skills that exist in this country.
The Indian American community is an enormous source of innovation and technology in our economy. Individuals like Desh Deshpande have contributed tremendously, both as an entrepreneur and a brilliant technologist who understands how markets and products work. That kind of knowledge is vital to the growth and vibrancy of our economy.

Lokvani: As an ex Venture Capitalist yourself, what do you see as the next big thing for the Commonwealth? Do you see a Massachusetts miracle happening anytime soon?
Mitt Romney: The Mass Miracle is already here. It is happening. Because our Institutions of higher learning, colleges, universities and teaching hospitals generate research, new companies grow everyday. When there are tough economic times, we all feel the pain but when we come back, we do particularly well.
This is the place where people enjoy a very high standard of living, where there is excitement from technology and learning, this is the best place to live!

Lokvani: Thank you for talking to us, Governor.

Desh Deshpande needs no introduction to New Englanders. He is the visionary who transformed a once static optical infrastructure into an intelligent and dynamic network foundation for the delivery of new services. The founder and Chairman of Sycamore Networks Inc. is now the Chairman of TiE worldwide.
Dr. Deshpande is also widely respected for his contributions to education and the greater community. He is frequently invited to deliver keynote addresses at business, technology, education, and government conferences.
As a member of the MIT Corporation, his donations have helped set up MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. The Deshpande Center serves as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting research and collaboration among entrepreneurs, young companies, and MIT students, alumni, and faculty.
Lokvani caught up with the dynamic Dr. Deshpande at TiE event. While talking with Dr. Deshpande I am struck by how upbeat he is about the future of the industry.

Lokvani: In these turbulent economic times, how can organizations like TiE, help entrepreneurs?
Dr.Deshpande: It is good to remember that there is opportunity in adversity. When you look at all the innovation in technology and processes that is going on, it is truly mind- boggling. Because we live in such a media rich, connected world, information flows freely all over the world. Our lives will change as much in the next ten years as they did the last 100 years. These changes will be led by, will be brought out by thinkers and innovators, that is the essence of this organization.

Lokvani: You are the Chairman of TiE World wide. How do you see this organization having an impact on the lives of people around the world?

Dr.Deshpande: TiE is a noble organization, it is relevant to the times and it is mainly about helping people. It is based on an idea that will work everywhere, with 40 chapters worldwide it is a premier organization that believes in giving back. Giving back to the community, to young people, to Massachusetts and particularly to the Indus region.
To say that India should and can grow by 10% in one year is an ambitious goal but it can be brought about. That is where entrepreneurs play a great part.
There are a lot of entrepreneurs in India. There entrepreneurship is born often out of necessity. If we can get the entrepreneurs to scale their business up, their efforts up, it will make a huge impact on the economy. That's why I am so excited to be the chairman of this premier organization, because I know that this can be done. In the last 6-7 years TiE Boston has grown so much.

Lokvani: How important is mentorship to entrepreneurs?

Dr.Deshpande: Entrepreneurship is a lonely experience, you are trying to do something that few have done before. It is your conviction and passion that is important. No amount of advice is going to get anybody to take the leap. In reality you are the only one who can make it happen, your conviction is what will carry you through. You can get inspiration and courage from your mentors, you can learn from their mistakes. You can learn a lot from people who have done it before. You have to get good people to help you.

Lokvani : What is your advice to young entrepreneurs looking to enter the market now? Also, what obstacles did you face when you started out and how did you get around them?

Dr.Deshpande: This is a good time to be an entrepreneur. Venture capitalists are looking for good ideas. You need a good plan. If you get funded now, you are going to do well. You still need a good idea. You have to do what you enjoy doing, and leave it to others to keep score. Surround yourself with good people.
If you look at world history, anytime there has been a big change, anytime there has been someone who has made a huge impact on people's life, be it Mahatma Gandhi fighting for freedom or a business man making a successful business, it is something that comes from within. It is natural! It may look like hard work or making sacrifices to the outsider but to the people who are going about making these changes, it is a lot of fun. It is what they enjoy doing. They are happy that they are the lucky few who can wake up in the morning and think, "I'm going to do what I love to do". "I have the opportunity to solve problems to make things happen." Getting into trouble is what the game is all about! You can play it safe but what's the fun in that?

Lokvani: Thank you for talking with us.

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