Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Day Two: Enterprise Dubai 2014

Day Two of Enterprise Dubai started with the lighting of the lamp by two more Parsi stalwarts who joined the event today. Nadir Godrej and Ronnie Screwala lit the lamp along with Fali Nariman to begin the days proceedings.

Proceedings from Day One covered here

Minoo Shroff, Corporate Counselor & International President, World Zarathushti Chamber of Commerce spoke of staying ahead of economic currents and building enterprises during uncertainties

Nadir Godrej took the stage and blew away the audience with another fantastic poetry that was his speech too. He is a man of many talents, and the poet in him goes underrated. He ran through Godrej’s history from the founder Ardeshir Godrej to today, and how they business house navigated the challenges of the time and worked through the license raj years.

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Ronnie Screwala took the stage after Nadir and gave another fantastic talk about his journey over the last 20 years and what he plans to do over the next 20. Ronnie spoke about the initial struggles in setting up the media giant, and how at every point they would disrupt the “norm” and bring about change socially. He gave an example of how a candlelight march in a movie in the early 90’s was the first time such a thing was shown in a movie. And a month later when tragedy struck, the public embarked on a candlelight march for the very first time, and has now become the norm. He also spoke about his current involvement with the Swades Foundation that he set up with his wife Zarina. The foundation aims to go into rural areas and look at the various problems that affect them holistically and offer aid and solutions, such that when when they exit the area, the problems are gone and the people are empowered permanently. The foundations aim is to serve 1 million people every 5 years.

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The speech by the Indian Consul General was a big let down after the two morning speakers. He reiterated the same tired briefing points with no acknowledgement of the unique subset in the audience. And of course came extremely late and delayed the entire proceedings of day two.

The talk on Dubai Tourism was very well presented by the CEO of Dubai Corporation of Tourism. He elicited on the steps taken towards Dubai 2020 World Expo and other advances in infrastructure etc, to service the tourism industry.

An award ceremony was held where business families were presented with the Zoroastrian Ratna Awards, and nine individuals from all spheres of Zoroastrian life were presented with awards for their services to the community. They included among others, Ex-Air Force Chief Fali Major, FEZANA President Katayun Kapadia and FEZANA stalwart Roshan Rivetna.

The panel on Parsi Doctors was fantastically put together. The doctors on the panel included Dr. Cyrus Mehta – Eye Surgeon, Dr. Keki Turel – Neurologist, Dr. Rustom Soonawala – Gynecologist, Dr. Sabrena Noria – Gastro intestinal surgery and Dr. Zubin Nalladaru – Heart Surgeon.

They each ran us through their areas of medical expertise and also spoke of tips that would help keep the individuals healthy in ageing life.

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‘Is women power just a pie in the sky’ was discussed by another illustrious panel, this one chaired by Bachi Karkaria, and featured Zarina Screwvala, Meenal Baghel, Meera Sanyal and Bikram Vohra.

Later in the evening there was a cricket quiz, followed by a Master Home Chef Cook off where 4 teams of 3 participants each cooked up some tasty dishes. The winning team was awarded a Rs 50,000 prize.

The evening dinner and Gala began with a series of Thank You’s to the various members of the organizing team who did a fantastic job.

A coffee table book titled “Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Daughters” authored by Meher Bhesania was launched at the function by Nadir Godrej.

After dinner, the amazing Parsi Theater Group led by Sam Kerawalla and including the crazy funny Danesh Irani as Aflatoon presented “Faramji Ni Film Utri”.

That brought about the end of the formal proceedings of Enterprise Dubai 2014. Day Three was devoted to sightseeing and taking in the sounds and sights of Dubai City and its surroundings.

 

Some candid observations from Day Two and overall:

  • As much as bringing in government dignitaries and politicians can sometimes become a compulsion, it is not necessarily the best idea. Not one has been known to show up on time. This was the case with the Consul General of India too. The day’s proceedings were supposed to start at 9:00 AM but did not begin till 10:30 because the dignitary was not on time. And this affected the entire program. The amazing natak, surely a highlight of the event started at 11 PM with at least 1/3 rd of the attendees having left. This brings about a point I raised yesterday too. Events need to be run on time. It is disrespectful to those attendees who show up on time.
  • Two days events land up being pretty packed, and therefore the program needs to be given enough thought. On Day two after Mr. Shroff, Mr. Godrej and Mr. Screwala spoke, the audience was on a high at the intellectual thought provoking talks. And then the Indian Consul General let the momentum go with a banal talk.
  • Again the endorsement of Dubai and the virtues of the city went on too long. I think not one person in the audience doubted Dubai’s potential or calibre as a regional power. The fact remains though that Dubai’s biggest draw is tourism. In the early 2000’s it did position itself as a global financial center, and we all know how that went. What would have been really interesting is to know the specifics of actually starting a business, and not just a sales pitch on starting one in Dubai.
  • Organizers of events also need to be realistic in how much is packed into a program. The daily shopping trips to Dubai Mall seemed unnecessary, and maybe a distraction especially since it was a two day event, and nothing was running on time.
  • The food at the event got better as the meals went by. It was great to see sev and dahi at breakfast and chicken farcha and patra ni macchi for lunch and dinner. Nice touch Smile

All in all, a great event, and one I am glad I went to. Initially because of the proximity to the North American Congress in Los Angeles next week, we were going to give this a skip. However with Shirin Kumaana-Wadia winning the WZCC Award, and the presentation ceremony in Dubai, a day before the event, we made a trip out of this.

Meher Bhesania is truly a powerhouse and her dedication and never say never spirit was written and evident all over. Every speaker spoke of her tenacity and steadfast determination in getting an impressive speaker list to the event. Her team of mostly young dedicated volunteers went out of their way to make the event a success.

We take this opportunity to thank Meher personally and her entire team in general for a job well done.