Dr Rajan Natarajan, 51, is a leading entrepreneur, who has created history in
Maryland, USA, by becoming the first Indian American to be appointed to a sub- cabinet level position in the state administration.
14 months ago, Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley appointed
Natarajan as his deputy secretary of state for policy and external affairs, which
is the highest administrative office held by any Indian American far in Maryland’s history.
Natarajan’s responsibilities include representing the governor or secretary
of state at designated public and community outreach events, advising the
secretary on external affairs, planning and strategies, fostering and promoting
international diplomatic relationships, building private community and industry partnerships, overseeing and advancing international sister-state programmes,coordinating the legislative and executive branches of government with the governor’s office and overseeing the Maryland International Consortium.
Dr Natarajan was born in Pudukkottai district, Tamil Nadu, and came to the US in 1989 to pursue post-doctoral research at the Michigan State University after completing his doctoral degree in bioscience at the University of Madras. After completing his MBA in 1999 at Michigan, he became a technology entrepreneur and business leader.
Currently on a visit to India, Dr Natarajan aims to promote better ties in several fronts between the state of Maryland and those in India.
What is the purpose of your current visit to India?
My aim is to promote and foster diplomatic ties between Maryland and states of India. Basically we want to inculcate what is known as a ‘sister state’ relationship, whereby Maryland and some states in India, will have mutually beneficial relations and growth. In the past, Maryland has had such sister state relations with states in China, Korea, Japan and Brazil. After I assumed office, being an Indian and seeing India’s vast potential of growth, I proposed that we do the same for India. The suggestion was met with warm enthusiasm by my Governor.
So, with this in mind, we aim to promote diplomatic ties and get to know each other, promote trade and educational exchange programmes. We thus have a three pronged approach. To further this aim, we had sent proposals and feelers to several states in India and visited six of them earlier. In fact a giant 110 member delegation with the Governor of Maryland, Mr O Malley, also made a historic trip to India some time ago, before my current visit. In this current visit of mine, I have visited AP, UP and Pondicherry who have been very responsive. I have had meetings with the heads of state there and its been
very encouraging and productive.
What were the issues discussed?
Each state has its own areas marked for growth and areas in which they specialize. We have so far had discussions on energy, health and infrastructural growth with the UP CM Mr Akhilesh Yadav recently. He has assumed office recently and has shown great interest in promotimg mutual relations of growth. In Pondicherry, we discussed issues like tourism and infrastructure. Overall I have had fruitful discussions in all three states relating to matters of health, education,sports aviation and pharma to name a few.
What are some of the advantages Maryland has that can be of help?
Maryland is among the affluent states in the US and has vast majority of educated and skilled citizens with a lot to contribute to society in several spheres. Apart from a rich touristic value, it has several leading educational institutions and is geographically close to Washington DC.
What is the growth potential you see in India, and particulary in TN, your home state?
For instance, in Coimbatore we see a lot of potential for development in the medical area. In TN, education is another area of growth. You see, India is a vast country and has a tremendous potential in so many spheres! Where US is called a ‘land of opportunity’ I would call India, ‘ a land of talent’. And the coming together of these two, ie, opportunity and talent, will lead to more prospects of growth.
To give you an example, in the next 20 years, India will need 50,000 more educational institutions to meet the rising demands. So you can see for yourself…!
You are a scientist and a businessman. How did you get interested in politics?
I call myself a ‘busitician’ which is combination of business and politics, for better growth of society. I am basically a diplomat and happy to be a channel of growth for others through my work. In this regard, I must say that I am proud to be an ‘Indian born’ American to reach this position of office and serve humanity.
Do you have any special interest in promoting the growth of TN, since you were born and educated here?
Yes definitely! I have family here and I visit when I can. We have requested for a meeting with the TN CM and am awaiting a response. Apart from that, I have met several heads of institutions and business leaders in TN to discuss the issues mentioned. I hope for a positive response soon! In have 2 ½ years left in office and I hope to do as much as I can before the end of my current term!