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Future leaders of India at King's

Posted on 11/11/2014

Chevening Gurukul fellows - Amba Salelkar, Suman Sahoo, Inoshi Sharma and Jayshree Venkatesan at an alumni event at King's.

Professionals from all walks of life have been developing their leadership skills on a respected Indian-UK exchange programme hosted by King’s College London.

The three-month Chevening Gurukul Programme is the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s flagship fellowship scheme for India and it is aimed at mid-career and high-flying young professionals from diverse backgrounds with strong leadership potential.

This year’s group has included professionals from the rail industry, start-up businesses, banking and finance, law and disability rights, sustainable energy, healthcare and policing.

The group of 14 Gurukul fellows are each given ‘mentors’ at King’s, can join lectures and also are given a packed and varied programme which has already seen them meet with major figures in UK business, government and the public sector.

Prince Charles & Camilla

Their visits have included meeting representatives at the House of Lords, the South Bank Centre, the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation in Geneva and a visit to Scottish Parliament shortly after the Independence Referendum where they met MSP and Minister for International Development, Humza Yousaf. They even saw Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performance as part of a South Bank Centre visit.

Police officer Suman Sahoo is currently Joint Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation – the ‘Interpol of India.’ A twice decorated officer, she has worked on major investigations on crimes against women and children, trafficking, drugs and corruption, fraud and organised crime syndicates.

She said the fellowship programme had been great, giving a real insight into how policy and best practice are applied to different professional areas in the UK and connect with issues back in India.

‘A younger colleague of mine actually spotted it and said I should apply. I said ‘I’m 51, I’m not a young up and coming leader!But he convinced me to apply and I was delighted to have been chosen. It’s an amazing opportunity and a real honour to have been selected.’

 'Deeper insight'

Dr Anil Sharma of the Reserve Bank of India has Economics Professor George Chortareas of King’s Department of Management as his guide, who he said has been ‘excellent.’

Dr Sharma said the programme had given him a huge amount, in particular a deeper insight into trade relations between India and the UK and India's role at the World Trade Organisation as well as great access to vital databases. He also said spending time with such a diverse group of people inside and within the fellowship group, had extra benefits.

‘It has given me a good perception of how we, the central bank of the country, are perceived in banking, but from the other side, which is really interesting,’ he said.

Lawyer and disability rights activist Amba Salelkar said joining weekly lectures and having Professor Genevra Richardson from The Dickson Poon School of Law as her academic lead had been a highlight.

‘To have someone who is so greatly respected in mental health and law in the UK and beyond is really prestigious for me and it has been such a great opportunity.

‘The UK and India actually have a very similar legal tradition and foundations –the difference being that in the UK things have changed, but in India we are still stuck back in that era, especially in areas of gender and disability. So, it’s been very interesting. I need to encourage more lawyers to apply for this programme!’

Common challenges

Financial inclusion consultant Jayshree Venkatesan said there was a lot of commonality in the challenges India and the UK are both facing in public healthcare, economy and other areas.

‘It has given an opportunity to look at India through a different lens. What’s great is that you seldom, if ever, get so many opportunities to sit across a table from someone and ask so many open, almost irreverent questions of people – that just wouldn’t happen in India.’

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