The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian Chamber ready for image makeover

Calcutta, Nov. 11: Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), eager to remove the perception of being a Calcutta-based trade body with influence limited to the east, wants to rope in a helmsman who can widen its canvas.

The man it has zeroed in on is Vikram Thapar, a scion of the Delhi-based Thapar family. If he finally makes the cut, it would be the first time in 22 years that the chamber would have a president not based in Bengal. JK Industries’ B. H. Singhania was the last, in 1979.

Vikram Thapar, the son of I. M. Thapar, controls Karam Chand Thapar Coal Sales, Water Base and India City Properties. He was the joint-managing director of Ballarpur Industries before he stepped down in the aftermath of a business split in the Thapar family.

Sources say Thapar has emerged as the candidate who most ICC members want as their head. “Over the past year, he spent a lot of time in Calcutta and could emerge a long-term player in this part of the country,” sources added.

What appears to have tilted the scales in his favour is Thapar’s prominence in Delhi and Calcutta. “He has easy access, whether it is in political circles or in corporate corridors. An industrialist from Calcutta will not have such an advantage. Therefore, the chamber will have a more focused approach,” sources said.

In a break with the past, ICC has decided to bring in professionals as vice-president to make sure there is more professionalism in the chamber’s activities. Y.C. Deveshwar, Vijay Lamba and J. N. Sapru were the few who filled that slot earlier. “Henceforth, the vice-president’s post will be filled by professionals only,” sources added.

Like most chambers in the country, 90 per cent of ICC’s members are owners and 10 per cent professionals. However, it has resolved to give professionals a larger role in all committees, and in drawing up the agenda. “Professionals will have a bigger say in future, providing them a platform,” sources said.

Another departure from tradition is that the vice-president will not become president — A. V. Lodha is in that position now — this year. Present vice-president H.V. Kanoria will, instead, look after ICC’s activities in the north-east.

ICC, which gets 25 per cent of its revenues from membership fee, wants to be a major player in the eastern and north-east, where is intends to open three more offices soon. Its range of services — generating 75 per cent of revenues for the chamber — will also be expanded.

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