Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

WZCC Global AGM And Awards Gala 2019 in Orlando

The week of May 1-5, 2019 became ground zero in the Zoroastrian world as three major events coincided in Orlando, Florida. The Central Florida Zoroastrian Community played host to the multi-day World Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce (WZCC) Global AGM, followed by the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (FEZANA) Annual General Meeting and lastly the periodic meeting of the Global Working Group, the premier coordinating body of the Zoroastrian diaspora.

IMG_20190501_141954

Over 125 Zarathushtis started arriving in Orlando early in the week. On May 01, 2019; the lobby of the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel, owned by Dinyar Mehta, felt like the Rustom Baug Clubhouse as people were registering for the WZCC AGM begining that afternoon. Old friends meeting up and new friends being introduced was the norm that morning. After lunch the formal part of the WZCC AGM began. Ervad Soli Dastur led the benediction that started the AGM. Afsaan Kermani the host Chapter Chair welcomed all the attendees. Global President Edul Daver gave a state of the WZCC Union, world over. Updates from every chapter were provided and the Global Treasurer Katayun Kapadia presented the fiscal report of WZCC. New International directors were appointed and the winners of the WZCC Awards were announced.

After the formal part of the AGM was over, the fantastic two day program of panels and speakers began. The first panel on Zoroastrian Entrepreneurship was moderated by Xerxes Dastur, WZCC India Director and BPP Trustee. The panel consisted of

  • Dr.Zubin Sethna of the United Kingdom Associate Prof. Regents Univ. London ; Researcher on Zoroastrian Entrepreneurship.
  • Ervad Arda Minocherhomjee-USA. Founder & Managing Partner, Chicago Growth Partners; President of NA Mobeds Council.
  • Dr. Daryush D. Mehta, PhD – USA. Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School; Educational Entrepreneur; Zoroastrian Chaplain at Harvard & MIT
  • Anne Khademian – USA. Presidential Fellow & Professor with Virginia Tech.; President of Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington (ZAMWI) and Avesta Class Teacher.

IMG_20190501_163233

The panelists discussed the challenges of entrepreneurship in general, with a focus on Zoroastrian teachings and philosophy.

The evening speaker was Dr. Rashna Writer. Based in France; Rashna is a lecturer, author and political analyst. Her talk was titled “ Predicting the Zarathushti Entrepreneurship Future by Creating It”. Rashna made a very compelling case for Zarathushti entrepreneurship as a part of our DNA and how it could manifest in various ways for a collective better future.

The evening ended with a lovely entertainment program put together by the hosts. The dinner was a fantastically tasty meal catered by the local community volunteers. What became apparent over the next 5 days is that every single meal was catered by volunteers of the local community, in true Zarathushti spirit and gusto.

The second day started with an excellent talk by Danny Khursigara. Pakistan born and Hong Kong based Danny is the founder of Freedom One International, specializing in executive coaching and business transformation. Danny is also the author of various bestseller books. In his very captivating talk Danny spoke about methods, ways and means that one can pursue towards success, be it personal or professional or entrepreneurial.

IMG_20190502_092738

Dr. Zubin Sethna was the next speaker and spoke of Daena: The Psychology Behind Entrepreneurial Marketing. Zubin is an associate profession at Regents University in London, and through his own life examples presented a case for the need of an entrepreneurial sprit in the global Zarathushti world.

IMG_20190502_112446

Dr. Chuchi Arevalo, Founder of the Spark Academy shared his experiences running workshops teaching kids as young as 5 to be entrepreneurs.

The afternoon session began with the Young Adult Entrepreneurship Panel moderated by Dr. Behram Pastakia of Washington D.C. Behram serves as Chair of FEZANA Zarathushti Youth without Borders; Chair of the Information Receiving and
Dissemination Committee and Co-Chair of the UN-NGO committee. The panel consisted of:

  • Mr.Dustyn Shroff – USA. Founder/Owner Shroff Insurance Agency, Coconut Creek, FL
  • Dr.Jennifer Silva – USA. Director, Pediatric Electrophysiology, Washington Univ. St. Louis; Co-Founder/Chief Medical Officer of SentiAR – ‘Software as a medical device’
  • Dr. Jeannie Kenkare-USA. Osteopathic Medicine; Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of PhysicianOne Urgent Care with 17 centers in 3 states.
  • Ms. Khush Italia – USA. Co-Founder/Managing Partner, LCI Partners LLC., Clearwater,FL. Buy/Flip/Sell House Experts.

In a very interesting discussion the panelists shared various ways in which they dealt with similar challenges. The panelists also spoke about some of the broader youth engagement initiatives that could be put into place at the local, regional and global levels.

After the break Professor Mahzarin Banaji enthralled the audience with a fantastic talk. Titled “ An Emerging Science of Good & Bad – A participatory session to
reveal mental Blind Spots that impact our decision making” Dr. Mahzarin Banaji spoke about the biases we all have and how it manifests in all we do and don’t. Dr. Banaji grew up in Secunderabad and is currently Chair; Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics,  at Harvard University in Cambridge MA, USA. She is also the author of the Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People.

The evening session had Afreed Mistry speak about Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology and Smart Contracts, and how these technologies are changing the world. Afreed works as a Network infrastructure specialist at the Bank of Montreal and lives in Toronto, Canada. She is also the FEZANA Co-Chair on the UN-NGO Committee.

On Saturday May 04, 2019 at a glittering Gala WZCC welcomed Ajay Banga, the CEO of Mastercard who participated in a fireside chat with Dinyar Devitre retired CFO of Altria Group. In a free ranging discussion touching upon finance, business, politics, current affairs, identity and the challenge of being an immigrant at the top echelon of the corporate ladder, Ajay Banga enthralled the crowd with his experiences and stories.

IMG_20190504_185852

IMG_20190504_192847

The much awaited WZCC Gala Awards presentation followed. Zarine Commissariat introduced the awardees and they were presented their awards by Guest of Honour Ritu Banga.

Perzen Patel aka Bawi Bride of Mumbai India; was awarded the Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In her acceptance speech Perzen spoke of her journey in starting a wildly successful Parsi catering business and her own initiatives in reviving Parsi cuisine in Mumbai India. More about Perzen here.

MVIMG_20190504_193924

Jennifer Avari Silva of St. Louis USA; was awarded the Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In her acceptance speech Jennifer spoke about the challenges and triumphs in co-founding SentiAR and how it is making a difference in the life of small babies who have pediatric issues at birth. More about Jennifer here.

IMG_20190504_194822

Spenta Kandawalla of Karachi Pakistan; was awarded the Outstanding Professional of the Year Award. In her acceptance speech Spenta spoke about the discipline and the can do attitude growing up in Karachi Pakistan and rising to the top of her family business, and later taking up leadership roles in the corporate world, in many an instance being the only woman at the table.  More about Spenta here.

IMG_20190504_195238

Roshan Bharucha of Quetta Pakistan; awarded the Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Roshan could not be present to receive the award. In an acceptance speech that was read out, Roshan thanked the jury for selecting her for the award and thus highlighting the social causes that she has spearheaded over the years. More about Roshan here.

IMG_20190504_201051

Dinyar Devitre was also bestowed the Honoray WZCC Member Award, that is bestowed upon individuals who have contributed to business or profession at the highest level over a sustained period of time.

MVIMG_20190504_201504

An entertainment program followed by an elaborately catered dinner and dancing brought the WZCC AGM to a close.

Having attended over a half dozen WZCC AGM’s in the past; I have to say that in terms of content this has to be the best one so far. Under the leadership of Edul Daver, and a fantastic local chapter team led by Afsaan Kermani, the Global AGM raised the bar in terms of content, dialogue and organization.

The next WZCC Global AGM shall be held in Lonavala from January 3rd to 5th, 2020.