R. Viswanathan, India’s leading expert on Latin America, talks to Latin Business Chronicle about his passion for the region.
BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
Rengaraj Viswanathan, India’s ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and his country’s leading expert on Latin America, talks to Latin Business Chronicle about his passion for the region and why he loves living in Buenos Aires.
Latin Business Chronicle: What do you like most about your current position?
Viswanathan: After having worked for four years in Brazil and 3 years in Venezuela and traveled to every country in Latin America, I chose to come to Argentina for two reasons. The first is the quality of life here. I love Buenos Aires city with its cafes, bars, restaurants, bookshops and the active cultural scene. Argentina has the largest number of golf courses in the region and has the best golfers too. This was irresistible for a golf fanatic like me.
Secondly, Argentines puzzle me. Although I come from India, the land of eternal contradictions, I do not understand how Argentina which has so much of natural, agri and mineral resources as well as quality human resources has managed to create poverty out of prosperity. I am still searching for answers, like the many Argentines who do the same sitting in cafes and bars.
What do you like most about Latin America?
The people. I like the Latinos who have mastered the art of enjoying life. This is attractive for Indians who have been brought up in the Indian tradition of karma, sacrifice and simple living and high thinking and the advice to endure suffering for a better reincarnation.
Latinos live for the day as though there is no tomorrow. The culmination of weekday work is the weekend, as this popular Brazilian song goes
Hoje est sexta feira… traga mais cerveza
Today is Friday..bring more beer
Latinos are warm, open and friendly. I feel at home in any part of Latin America whether it is San Salvador or Sao Paulo. Of course, I like salsa and samba, tequila and caipirinha, football and carnival and copacabana and ipanema….
What do you like least?
Latin America and the Latinos come as a package. You have to take the best in them along with their imperfections. I do not like the crime, violence, drug problem, poverty, inequality and some political leaders who give a bad name to the region. Again, I am used to these issues in India, so they don’t bother me much.
What is your proudest achievement in Indian-Latin American business relations?
I think I have contributed to the positive change in the mindset of Indian business and political leaders towards Latin America. Twelve years back, when I started the campaign about the Latin American business opportunities for Indian business, there were very few takers. Today many CEOs and policy makers in the Indian government have realized the potential and future of what I have been calling as the New Latin America. Indian companies and executives are now familiar not only with the big business centers of Sao Paulo and Mexico City, they have ventured even to less familiar countries like Bolivia and Nicaragua.
I was proud when the mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industry called me as Mr Latin America while inviting me to speak at a business-ambassadors meeting in Delhi in August this year in Delhi. And I was proud when Reliance, the number one company of India, called me a few weeks back asking for my political assessment about a country in which they were to decide on investment.
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