TAMPA — The International Indian Film Academy got down to business — the economic kind — on Thursday during a forum to promote ties between the United States and India.
More than 250 people gathered for the Global Business Forum at the Tampa Convention Center to discuss ways to strengthen the countries' trade and business relationship.
"The United States and India are the largest functioning democracies in the world, and it's important we lead the way," said Bharat Desai, chairman and co-founder of Syntel Inc., a multinational provider of integrated technology and business services.
India presents a "jackpot" of opportunity for U.S. companies, he said. The country's young population — 500 million people under the age of 25 — guarantees both a future workforce and customer base for goods and services. Two-way trade between the countries reached $63 billion in 2013, though it was still less than 2 percent of the United States' overall foreign trade, according to U.S. Census figures.
Didar Singh, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or FICCI, urged U.S. investors to focus on three fast-growing sectors in India: defense, energy and education. The Indian economy is the 10th largest in the world and is projected to become one of the top five global economies by 2050.
Presented by the film academy and FICCI, the forum coincided with other IIFA events leading up to the awards show Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
Now is a pivotal time for India, speakers said. The country is spending $1 trillion on much-needed infrastructure, which will increase accessibility to jobs and create more demand for vehicles.
Officials also said they hoped results of India's election, to be announced May 16, will bring more confidence in the Indian economy.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he anticipated the four-day event would lead to a four-decade-long relationship between businesses in the Tampa Bay area and India. An estimated 30,000 visitors are expected to attend.
This is the first time in the event's 15-year history that it has been held in the United States.