Karthik Tallam, a fifth-generation entrepreneur of the widely known Tallam family has now donned a new role in the form of Honorary Consul for Cambodia. But, within a very short period in the honorary position, his accomplishments are astounding by any measure. In an interaction, he takes a look back at the incidents which have ultimately led him so far enabling him to have a beautiful journey further.
Here are the excerpts of the conversation:
Q: How did your journey with Cambodia as an Honorary Consul start with?
Karthik Tallam: In fact, I did a lot of things even before formally taking over as the Honorary Consul. I am pretty well networked with the diplomatic circle and at one of the parties in New Delhi, happened to meet the 12-13 Ambassadors including that of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. When I met the Ambassador of Cambodia, he was very much impressed at the way I carried myself, the content of what I spoke to him and my lineage also. We had a lengthy discussion over several topics in the very first meeting about two years ago and two years of efforts have become fruitful.
How Bengaluru did come into focus for your new role as an Honorary Consul?
Karthik Tallam: The first tangible meeting made way for immediate subsequent meetings wherein the Cambodian Ambassador explained to me the necessity of having an Honorary Consul in India. It was at this stage, I explained to him the significance of Bengaluru, it being an IT city and well located in South India, easily connected to Chennai, Hyderabad, and Cochin. I also told him of representing the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. So, Cambodian citizens residing in these eight states facing any issues will be referred to me.
How did your journey with Cambodia start much before the formal assignment?
Karthik Tallam: Recently, even before I took up the role of an Honorary Consul, there was a small assignment during the Covid-19 pandemic days. There were few Cambodian people struck here during the pandemic for having no flights to return. The problem was not that of finance but they were depressed, so it was more a psychological thing. In order to overcome the issue, I met them five times and took them around and made them feel comfortable. They were not getting flights to go back to Cambodia. So, we took care of them by introducing close people in their locality to feel better and started teaching them how to play cricket. They were two people and fortunately, their employer was a very kind man and he organized tickets for them while I did the coordination to check with the air bubble flight.
Q: What else you did do during the Covid-19 Pandemic period to help the Cambodians?
Karthik Tallam: There was another incident when the Cambodian Ambassador reached out to me to inform me that a Cambodian woman with cancer is in Bengaluru in HCG hospital. She was also going through a lot of mental trauma rather than cancer-related woes. She had not eaten Cambodian food for two months and it was peak Covid-19 pandemic time and she used to cry everyday craving Cambodian food. I have a dear friend owning a Cambodian restaurant. So, I called him and he got the kitchen opened and asked the chef to start working there even during the lockdown food was sent from the restaurant to the hospital. In fact, every single day the food was served for 14 days and the lady from a very elite family in Cambodia was too happy about the humanitarian gesture extended to her. Even people from other countries seek our help in knowing the exit permits and things like that. In a way, yeah, it has been an interesting journey so far.
Q: What are the benefits of being an Honorary Consul?
Karthik Tallam: About the role of an Honorary Consul I would like to say a few things. The role of the Honorary Consul is basically an honorary job where one is not paid for anything but it gives a lot of other privileges where we meet a lot of accomplished people. We get into the diplomatic circle and meet a lot of credible people. We also get to meet a lot of bureaucrats who look up to us and they are always ready to talk to us and discuss a lot of things. And, we can also represent a lot of things people want to.
Q: What have been your recent activities to help out Cambodia?
Karthik Tallam: Students coming from Cambodia have been in constant touch with me regarding their needs and queries. One of the recent activities we did was, we went to Christ University and met the Vice-Chancellor. In fact, I had also taken our Ambassador to Christ University and we had a lengthy discussion as to how we can collaborate. Christ University would be very happy to have international students coming from Cambodia while in turn, Christ University would welcome teachers and professors from Cambodia coming to their campus. Their accommodation, food and other such expenses would be taken care of and apart from training the teaching community to the next level. It would be like a student and faculty exchange program as Cambodia has also evinced interest in receiving Christ University students desirous of having international education.
Q: How about Bengaluru-headquartered IT companies’ role and scope in Cambodia?
Karthik Tallam: Apart from that recently, I had taken our Ambassador to Infosys. Cambodia being a new country doesn’t have too much Information Technology (IT) related infrastructure. So, Infosys would be the most ideal company to go there and do things in a very big way. We are also in talks with the TCS. As you know very well that the entire Passport issuing-related operations are taken care of by it in a very professional way, and we want them to have their presence in a big way with the Government of Cambodia.
Q: Have you planned any events in Cambodia to benefit the business community?
Karthik Tallam: Apart from that, I am also planning a large event for which we intend to take 200 business delegates from India to Cambodia. The event is scheduled from 08-10 December 2022. The main objective of the event is to commemorate 70 years of diplomatic relations between India and Cambodia and it also happens to be Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsava year.
Q: Is there any plan to honour the accomplished businessmen in the event?
Karthik Tallam: In commemoration of both these developments we are planning a mega event over there. The three days event will have three and a half-hour deliberations in the evening followed by cultural shows while 75 accomplishers will be receiving awards from various Ministries. The Prime Minister will grace the occasion on the final day to be present in the concluding ceremony.
Q: Are there any plans to rope in people other than industrialists?
Karthik Tallam: Amongst the 200 delegates we are taking, most of them happen to be the Fortune 500 Indian companies that want to expand their activities in other countries. We are also planning to take four royal families from South India while we are receiving positive inquiries from two more royal families from North India willing to come and meet the King. The King of Cambodia eventually happens to be the last king of Cambodia for not having any offspring. He continues to remain so for a lifetime and until then the country shall remain a kingdom. Later on, the Prime Minister will be taking over the regime paving way for a Democratic country.
Q: What about reciprocation gestures from the Cambodian side?
Karthik Tallam: Incidentally, we have the youngest MP of Cambodia Hun Many, son of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Hun Many has visited India several times. He loves our country and thanks to his close friendly relations with the nation, he has been bestowed with the Rashtrapati Puraskar by the President of India. So, in a way, it is a proud moment for us. And, apart from that, we have a very very able Dr Devyani Khobragade, Indian Ambassador to Cambodia who has been doing a lot of networking. Two Union Ministers of state visited Cambodia, the Vice president visited Cambodia.
Q: Apart from this event, are there any plans to hold similar big events in the near future?
Karthik Tallam: In the coming November, a big event called the Association of South Asian Nations (ASEAN) is happening. In fact, it has been chaired by Cambodia this year and our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also visiting Cambodia this year for ASEAN. In a way, 2022 is turning out to be a momentous year for us for actively being associated with several activities further boosting the ties between the two countries.
Q: What about representation from the states across the country?
Karthik Tallam: We are also in talks with The Indian Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (INCHAM), Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), who are all, offering their wholehearted support. Apart from these organizations, we have identified 25 Chambers of Commerce across India that will be sending some of the delegates to receive their awards.
Q: How is India perceived from the Cambodian point of perspective?
Karthik Tallam: The objective behind all these efforts is to ensure that qualitative people are going out of the country and representing India. These delegates have already been alerted about the dress code and things that, they need to adhere to while on their trip to Cambodia. The basic idea is to present ourselves in a better way because Cambodia looks like India is a developed country. They have a lot of regard for us. So, it is our duty to behave the way they expect us to.