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Vedanta pill for US crisis

Houston, Feb. 4: The second fastest growing county in America, Harris County of Texas, is offering downturn-affected US corporations a model that combines Indian spiritualism and business.

A trade delegation from the Greater Houston area that visited India recently began its mission with an unusual weekend at the Vedanta Academy in the picturesque hills of Malavali, 108km from Mumbai.

Stress among CEOs and other business leaders has been identified in recent months as a fallout of the financial crisis that is threatening US businesses even as doctors and counsellors across America have reported a steep rise in their corporate clientele.

Ed Emmett, the Harris County judge, who led the Houston area delegation to India, said members of the team found it a unique experience to begin their business dealings in India after two days in Malavali attending vedanta classes.

Other members of the delegation said they felt soothed and refreshed after meditation, spiritual discourses and a rare break from calculating the bottom lines of their enterprises.

Nearly 500 companies in the Houston area trade in goods and services with India. Six Indian conglomerates have offices in Houston and 33 companies in this city have subsidiaries in India.

They are not giving up on India because of the downturn that is hurting America. On the contrary, these companies plan to step up their engagement with India.

Emmett hit upon the idea of taking business leaders from his county to spiritual classes in Maharashtra after his son, Joseph, was attracted to vedanta upon listening to Swami Parthasarathy, founder of the academy in Malavali, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, more than a decade ago.

Joseph, then a student, gave up his American way of life and enrolled at Swami Parthasarathy’s academy, much to the consternation of his parents, both of whom are elders in the Presbyterian church.

But in the end, everything has turned out well. Joseph now divides his time between India and the US and has set up a company with an Indian partner to promote Houston in India and vice-versa.

The senior Emmett and Houston mayor Bill White were honoured by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston with awards for their leadership of the community during the weekend.

Harris County has a population that is many times more than that of some states in the US and if this county had been a state, Emmett, as its top-most elected official, would have been the equivalent of a chief minister in India.

Emmett said that apart from the opportunity offered by Indian spiritualism in Malavali to recharge the batteries of US businessmen, he would recommend a combination of business and something similar to the time he spent at the academy as a way of understanding India.

“It was clear to me during my visits to India, the first of which was in 1995, that in India, you have to do business in a certain way that is different from what Americans are used to,” Emmett told The Telegraph in his Houston office. “Understanding the bedrock of Indian philosophy is important to this effort. Not everyone is well-versed in the Gita or similar things Indian. We found it very useful.”

He thinks there may be a temporary slowdown in actual business with India because of the current economic climate, but “the future of the US and India are so tied together”.

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