Cultural Diversity is the make up of NSW – Nihal Gupta
It is not usual to see Nihal Gupta talking, but when he talks you realize the powerful brain he is. It is often when Premier Barry O’ Farrell talks about Multiculturalism, he refers to Nihal Gupta. During the Multicultural March, when the Premier spoke at the press conference with Ethnic Media, he spoke of the work done by Nihal Gupta. When the Premier and Minister Victor Dominello spoke during Multicultural Dinner, attended by over 600 guests from various communities they both mentioned Nihal Gupta and his work as Chairman of Multicultural Business Advisory Panel on several occasions.
And on all these occasions, Nihal was sitting inconspicuously, trying to avoid both attention and sometimes-even eye contact. He is someone who is on the Premier’s mind and as head of the powerful Multicultural Business Advisory Panel created by the NSW Government, he is working overtime to craft and weave the multicultural fabric of the society in NSW. What is more important that Nihal Gupta is the first person of Indian origin that has been given such a role by any NSW Government ever.
Working behind-the-scenes, Nihal Gupta is a first generation Indian origin and a successful businessman and is devoting a lot of his time for the honourary role Chairman of NSW Multicultural Business Advisory Panel and member of Ministerial Consultative Committee.
Q) We never had a Premier in the history of this country that has made a commitment of visiting India every year. He is so fond of India. How did this happen?
Nihal Gupta: The amazing thing is when we went to India and China in 2010 before Barry O’Farrell was a Premier, we visited Shanghai and Mumbai and in both places there was a NSW Trade and Investment office. Both offices were new and at that time there was a bit of change in the NSW Government with Nathan Rees as Premier and no one was able to go and open theses offices. Barry O’Farrell was the first Parliamentarian to walk in the Indian Trade office, which I think, was a bit of omen.
I was encouraged by his enthusiasm and the commitment he made at that time. He said he would not only maintain these offices but continue to expand them across all our key markets. The whole world is important and we should never understate the importance of USA and UK in terms of trade and security ties. We also can’t ignore the importance of Japan and Korea to both NSW and Australia. However we need to look at the geography of where we are and harness the opportunities of being soso fortunate to be in world’s fastest growing and strongest economic region. There is no doubt that the two star players of the region are none other than India and China.
Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was not really global. Certainly throughout the crisis, India and China have both been reporting positive GDP growth rates even through those hard times. So the GFC seems to have been exempt of the fastest growing emerging markets in the Asian region.
It is pleasing that the Premier and the Government, really recognize the importance of these ties. The big difference is that there is a very strategic focus on developing relationships, which comes down to people to people links as are the key to the foundation of any relationship. They will enable relationships to grow and trade and investment usually start with people to people linkage.
The actions of the Premier and on his return from his first trip reinforces his commitment towards the relationship with India. Firstly he has committed to visit every year, which I think is just magnificent. He also appointed a Parliamentary Secretary for Asia, Mr Paul Toole, Member of Bathurst which shows the importance of the region to the NSW Government. He then established the Multicultural Business Advisory Panel, which I am very honoured to chair. This panel is designed to develop and harness people to people links and be a conduit for trade and investment as well as to add to cultural and tourism initiatives. Really we have a wonderful and unique role. However, it is important to note that it is no way a replacement of the important NSW Trade and Investment department. We work hand in hand with the Department as well as Minister Dominello’s Citizenship and Communities Department.
The panel has excellent members who all have got commercial links and connections to enhance the state and our overseas initiatives.
The India trip has been very successful. The Premier established by way of personal commitment not only relationships but a willingness and a clear message that NSW was open to business and wanted to engage with India. His message was very well received and valued. As we all know particularly in Asia you certainly can’t fly in and fly out on one visit and expect things to happen.
You need a continuity of visits, which will each time build stronger relationships.
Q) What things will you do to promote Multiculturalism in NSW?
Nihal Gupta: NSW is roughly 30% of GDP of Australia. The state of NSW represents the most culturally diverse state in whole of this Nation and we have such a wonderful fabric that makes up our state.
There are some 200 languages and nationalities and cultures that exist here. Just imagine the percentage of people who have 1 or 2 parents born outside Australia. For instance, 1 in 4 speaks a language at home apart from English. This cultural diversity is very much the make up of NSW and gives us a very unique asset. This cultural diversity is a dividend for NSW.
Multiculturalism is a whole topic in itself. However our role is to enhance the cultural diversity and harness the opportunities that result from this.
Multiculturalism means several things to lots of people. However so far as I see it in this state it is all about recognizing and sharing the diversity of cultures, whilst always recognizing that we all fit into the framework of the Australian legal, social and cultural environment.
Look at the wonderful food we have in Sydney, which represents the richness of the diversity and is part of these important linkages.
Q) Can you speak of a few initiatives planned jointly between NSW and India?
Nihal Gupta: For NSW there are initiatives in resources, education, ICT and financial services. There is also an establishment of a MOU between the Indian state of Maharashtra and NSW. This has yet to be formalized but I am sure it will happen shortly. It is great to see that NSW has taken a state to state approach with Maharashtra as we can also feature the advantages and opportunities that exist in regional NSW.
If you look at composition of both states they are both the leading states of their respective countries. They both house the prime commercial cities of their countries, which incorporate the major corporate business of both countries.
With Mumbai and Sydney you have two of the world’s iconic tourist destinations – whether it be Sydney’s Opera House or Mumbai’s Gateway of India. The other similarities between the states are that both cities house their respective Reserve Banks and Stock exchanges. Both also have huge cultural and film industries. As you can see there are a lot of similarities between Maharashtra and NSW which gives us a good platform to work from and lots of scope to develop.
This MOU association is quite visionary and shows how serious NSW is about engagement with India. As we all know, India and Australia share so many things and had the same colonial rule, same law and same democracies.
Part of this engagement is also the Maharashtra and NSW Cricket Cup, a tournament where the respective Premier’s/Chief Minister’s provide a cricket team to play each other. An MOU has been signed by NSW Cricket and the Mumbai Cricket Club. Apart from the game, there is a wonderful exchange in player training and development. The first game will be hosted in Sydney at the end of October.
As you know, there is the huge global and ICT show, CeBIT which will be in Sydney between 22nd to 24th of May. And it was the Premier’s initiative to choose India as the partner country, which again demonstrates the intent of the relationship and the willingness to develop it. As a result we have 70 firms coming from India.
Indian ICT Minister, Sachin Pilot is coming and there will be a good opportunity for discussion and engagement not only from the Premier and the Indian government officials but importantly from NSW businesses and education institutions.
I know that the Premier is looking forward to welcoming the Indian delegation and being able to showcase NSW being open to business.
Q) Who is the real Nihal Gupta? Not many people know you. What can you tell us about yourself?
Nihal Gupta: I was born in Australia and have lived here my whole life. I am from Indian origin. I feel very lucky. I come from one of the oldest and best cultures of the world. But I am also fortunate to have lived and studied in the best country in the world. So far as I am concerned the matching of India and Australia has just been perfect for me.
My family business is in consumer electronics and after my studies I went straight into this business. The business involves importing and distributing consumer electronic products and appliances to retailers across Australia. This involved trading with Asia as all the imports came from the region.
I have been called in the past to represent Australia and help with the development of relationships between Australia and overseas markets.
I was appointed back in the days of Mr Philip Ruddock, when he was Immigration Minister in the Howard Government as an Ambassador for Immigration. I have also played a role in the trade and investment area with Asia and have participated in trade missions both at the Federal and the State level with previous ministers.
Because of my own trading background and commercial experience, I have been of the view that there is so much to be gained for NSW with active engagement with the Asian region. And a clear advantage starts with the all-important people to people linkages.
When the new Government came into power, I was honoured to be appointed by the Deputy Premier, the Hon Andrew Stoner MP to be chair of the NSW Multicultural Business Advisory Panel. The Deputy Premier is also the Trade and Investment Minister for the State and as such is a very enthusiastic and focused minister on the very important trade and investment opportunities for NSW. One of the Deputy Premier’s goals is to enhance the international opportunities to regional NSW.
It was not only an honour for me but an exciting opportunity to further develop the visionary views and ideas that the Premier had discussed with me earlier. It is also significant that the panel formally reports to the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, the Hon Victor Dominello, which reinforces the importance of the Multicultural aspect to the panel’s role and the state’s diversity.
Q) Tell us about your experiences of growing up. How have you seen this state change?
Nihal Gupta: When I was growing up I did not see a lot of Indian kids around. At school there was diversity but there were lot of European families mainly Italians and Greeks. Towards the end of my schooling, however more people were coming from Asia and particularly of Chinese background.
I have now seen a more diverse community in NSW. It is wonderful to see that this diversity and the blending of different cultures is very successful in Australia compared to some other countries. I think this is mainly due to the Australian understanding and easy going lifestyle. Australians are basically a very tolerant and accepting society. They are also very welcoming and friendly.
I am very proud to say that I have never had an occasion where I have been made to feel any different from anyone else. Australia has come a long way when you think in 1950s, Australia had a white Australia policy and now look at the tolerance and the wonderful society we live in that embraces so many nationalities. Australia is a lucky country – not with what we have under the ground but importantly what we have above the ground – namely all our people.
Q) Multiculturalism is both sided and both Government and communities have responsibilities. What is expected of ethnic communities?
Nihal Gupta: I think all ethnic communities have an expectation to be accepted and to be respected by the people and the environment of where they live and that respect and acceptance is a two way street. No one wants to tell people of how to live their life. However everyone in Australia wants to live together with tolerance. The essential importance is to respect every individual but for every individual to respect the law of the land and the Australian cultural environment. Australia is a very just and fair society. If you put the hard work in you will get the rewards irrespective of your cultural background.
Q) Because of the way politics is conducted in India. Lot of Indians in Australia want to join politics. What is your advice for such people?
Nihal Gupta: I think we all can make a difference and it is a wonderful thing to serve your community, state or country by way of politics. Not only Indians but anyone and everyone can make a difference. Australia is a very fair society and there is no restriction to your race, colour or religious beliefs to be able to join politics. Everyone can have their say and it is all about the contribution that people want to make and how they can add to the society to make a difference.
I do not believe in tokenism and therefore am against having people from certain backgrounds or groups just to make up the numbers or to balance the representation in politics. However I do agree with you that there definitely should be some people from the Indian community and indeed from other major Asian communities because of the multicultural diversity of Australia.
I can see for sure in the future that there will be many more people standing for politics from culturally diverse backgrounds and this is a good thing. The diversity is our DNA and who we are and I encourage all people irrespective of background to stand for politics and be judged on their individual merit, ability and contribution.
And representing your community doesn’t necessary mean you become an instant minister, there are several opportunities to be an effective representative at a local government or grass roots level. And I will encourage a lot of people to start there.
Q) Last few words on the future ahead?
Nihal Gupta: As I have said I am honoured with the role I have been given and I know that our panel is focused on achieving results for the state. I can also tell you that we are fortunate to have the Premier, the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Communities and Citizenship who all share a great passion in this area and who have all actively demonstrated a strong engagement and willingness to succeed. We look forward to working with ethnic communities of NSW and build a stronger multicultural society in NSW, which will result in growing the state’s economy and making NSW No 1 again.