“Desired: People who inspire and get inspired”

SHInsight in an exclusive interview with Maximilian von Laer and Dr. Vishnu Ramdeo on the objectives and perspectives of the “Indo-German Young Leaders Forum”

The appreciation came last May from the very top, when Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially gave their “blessings” during the fourth Indo-German government consultations. The launch of the “Indo-German Young Leaders Forum” initiative was already held in the Indian Embassy in Berlin last December, with more than 170 guests from business, politics, culture and society.

SHInsight: Mr. von Laer, Mr. Ramdeo, there are so many Indo-German initiatives, events and round tables. Why do we still need the “Indo-German Young Leaders Forum”?

Maximilian von Laer: The question marks precisely the point. Most Indo-German initiatives focus either on business networking or on cultural aspects. However, we do not want to be another occasional platform where well established business people make “quick deals” or hold poetry readings, even though these activities are also important. Nevertheless, we are building long-term relations at all levels of human interaction, in order to understand each other, to learn from each other, and to combine both countries and their people more intensively with a long term perspective. If this creates a “deal”, it is a nice side effect, but not our main objective. Our approach is a holistic one: In order to get along with each other, one must understand the mentality of the individual counterpart and, if necessary, respect that he or she is different.

Can you name a few examples?

Dr. Vishnu Ramdeo: For instance, take the topic education and training which moves Germans and Indians reciprocally – not only with a view to the growing deficit of skilled and qualified workers in Germany or the very slow development of vocational training in India. Another example is the exchange among health professionals – how can they help each other and learn from each other, for example in the field of hygiene in hospitals. In addition to this education, specifically for women, is another topic. By the way, “exchange” does not only mean exchange of thoughts but also personal interaction and mutual visit in order to get a better picture of how other people deal in specific situation.

What motivated you to the formation of IGYLF?

von Laer: First of all, our biography connects us to the respective countries. Vishnu spent a year as a scholarship holder in Germany. I partly grew up in India, for example, I have completed my civilian service in New Delhi. We both met finally in 2015 in the Russian city of Kazan during the “German-Russian Young Leaders Conference”.

Dr. Ramdeo: During this conference we agreed very quickly: a similar initiative has to be developed between India and Germany. Of course, there is a big difference between the two countries but there are also a lot of similarities – a potentiality which must be shared.

von Laer: Everything went very quickly. We spoke to potential supporters, especially established senior leaders, who support us as a board of trustees with words and deeds. We have built a team of like-minded people, and at the same time founded a non-profit organization in Germany. The fact that we were able to present our initiative to the public at the Indian Embassy in Berlin showed everyone that we are serious about our commitment. That all would never have been possible without the support of our team.

Who is a “Young Leader”?

von Laer: We target people in the age between 25 and 35 years. But age is not the only criterion. More important is our interpretation of the “Leadership” attribute. We mean people who can inspire others – professionally, politically, socially, mentally. People who are open and curious, who can inspire and get inspired. People with a real leadership mentality and not only business interests or even being interested in the two countries in general. In our circle, friendships are welcomed, which will last for the next 50 years. It is all about the exchange on all aspects of the German and Indian society in order to develop strength for the global challenges in the future.

What specific activities are you planning?

Dr. Ramdeo: The core of this initiative is a yearly with about 50 participants, alternately in India and Germany. Last May it took place the first time in Berlin. Then in September there was the opening event at the German Embassy in New Delhi. There even the resources have hardly been enough to offer a seat to all interested participants. In November, the first alumni meeting took place in Berlin. In February 2018 there will be the next conference in New Delhi. In bigger cities local groups have been formed and will organize smaller events to exchange on specific topics. So, we are gradually expanding our activities. We see ourselves as a platform that inspires further initiatives. Of course, we will try to support the ideas of our participants.

In Germany, people are less aware that over the last 20 years India has developed into a highly technological and innovative country with well-trained young specialists and executives. Can the IGYLF help to increase this awareness?

von Laer: Of course, but let’s be modest. We will not be able to reach all minds and influence them with our initiatives. We aim above all at those who do not yet know the other country and perhaps have not even come up with the idea of coming to know it – but who are inspired by us to try it out. We see ourselves as ambassadors of the people in the respective nations and as promoters of their potentiality.

How do you finance your activities, and who supports you?

Dr. Ramdeo: First of all, there are fees for attending conferences. However, we can count on the support of the governments of both countries, such as their embassies – for example, the provision of premises or the facilitation of visas. In addition, there are sponsors who support us ideally and financially. Finally, we have prominent advisory boards, who support us through their networks and with their experience.