TORONTO: Pranav Patel, who took over as the president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC)in September, is one of the youngest men to hold this office.
And he was also one of the youngest south Asian lawyers to cut his legal teeth in 2011 when he started his own law firm in Toronto East.
Born in Ahmedabad, Pranav came to Canada in 2005 to pursue his equivalency in juris doctor degree at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University.
“I came here after finishing my bachelor of law degree from Gujarat Law Society to enrol at Osgoode Law School’’ says the new president of the ICCC.
In his thirties, Patel has an outstanding reputation in the legal community, as he holds rich experience in the public and private sectors.
He is actively involved with various community forums, professional, business and social service organizations, including the Toronto District School Board, the Law Society of Ontario, and the City of Toronto.
The young ICCC president is also a member of the advisory committee of Canada’s Chief Negotiator on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India.
Patel has been actively associated with several Indo-Canadian organizations because of what he says his strong conviction in the Canadian values of volunteerism and giving back to the community.
He is also the Patron of the Gujarat Public Affairs Council of Canada. Started by him with his core group in 2016, it is an advocacy group recognized by Canadian and Indian governments.
Patel has also served as director of legal affairs for Canada-India Global Forum.
He says he was proud to be an organizing member of the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians which welcomed the two prime ministers – Harper and Modi – when they joined hands together in Canada.
Patel has served on the advisory council of Patidar Group Canada, and the international advisory council of the prestigious Nirma University in India.
“My focus is to create good leaders for the community because we are lacking power. Power comes from unity. And unity can be achieved only by good leaders,’’ says Patel who also sits on one of the development committees of the city of Toronto.
At the ICCC, he tells the Canadian Bazaar, he has clear-cut priorities:
Q: What are the top-most things on your agenda as ICCC president?
The two things on top of my agenda are to increase our community outreach and raise revenues of the ICCC.
Right now, we are mainly focussed on the GTA. Though we have a couple of chapters, we want to be present from coast to coast. In British Columbia in particular, we have a huge potential to grow.
We also want to have permanent presence across India through tie-ups with state and regional chamber and trade bodies.
Q: What new areas do you want to explore as ICCC president?
The areas I want to work on are youth and women empowerment, increased business ties between India and Canada and explore new opportunities to bring the Indian diaspora together.
Q: How will you increase membership — individual and corporate? Why is it important?
Diversity and inclusion are the key to the success of corporates in Canada. Each organization has D&I initiatives needed to increase sponsorships and participation. We want to bring in as many individual and corporate members as possible.
Q: How about balancing ICCC books?
By focussing on sponsorships, increasing memberships – individual and corporate and cutting costs.
Q: What are the areas where the ICCC can do better?
The ICCC can do a lot more in the areas of youth and grassroots business community participation, community outreach and mutually beneficial business delegations to and from Canada.
Export-import businesses and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in Canada need bridges with businesses in India and other countries, and the ICCC can do a lot for them by tying up with chambers of businesses here and in India. We can have MOUs with Italian chamber, Jewish chamber, etc., etc. We will explore all these possibilities.
Q: Any novel ideas that you plan to introduce during your term?
I want to create a special wing for Indian international students who have become a major force in one of the biggest industries in Canada. We want to have presence in various universities by involving Indian international students. That’s how we can help the future entrepreneurs of Canada.
Even if we get 25-30 students involved from each university, it will be a big thing. The ICCC will expand and the students will get mentored.
The second idea to start new forums for SMEs to maximize their outreach. Going to the grassroots in our top priority.
Q: What is your take on the current state of India-Canada trade relations? What is hampering the deepening of these ties?
The current state of our bilateral trade requires more attention, though it has been looking promising in the last decade. Canada needs to join India on its double-digit growth strides accomplished in such a short time.
We at the ICCC need to involve more and more business and professional community people and reach out to policy makers so that trade barriers can be dismantled.
Q: You are a member of the advisory committee on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Do you think the two countries any nearer to signing this accord?
The last round of talks was held in Delhi in August 2017 and the outcome was quite positive. But things might take a backseat due to elections in both the countries in 2019. Let us keep our fingers crossed.
Q: And how about any progress on the proposed Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) between the two countries in the coming year?
I definitely hope for the best.