Businessman, philanthropist K.V. Kumar on helping small business, healthcare, U.S.-India relations

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K.V. Kumar, entrepreneur and philanthropist speaking during an interview on ITV Gold with host Nidhi Kathuria. Photo: videograb from ITV Gold interview of May 19, 2022.

President and CEO of the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce, IAICC, K.V. Kumar, in an interview May 19, 2022, with ITV Gold host Nidhi Kathuria, addressed challenges for small businesses in the U.S. and his role in U.S.-India relations.

Kumar is Chairman of KMF Investment Group, a company that invests in start-ups, small businesses in nano-technology, healthcare and other fields.

‘KV’ as he is more popularly known, has been engaged in volunteer and mentoring for more than 16 years working with small businesses, entrepreneurs, people with brain injury, youth and community organizations. He has served 6 U.S. Presidents in important positions in their administrations.

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Kumar said the pandemic hit small businesses very hard since March 2020. His own IAICC, he said would be much larger today were it not for COVID-19. He said he has traveled thousands of miles to help small businesses apply for loans to keep their livelihoods. “They are all suffering greatly,” he told ITV Gold, especially the mom-and-pop stores and restaurants, who need help.

Knowing which businesses to invest in is a “tough call” involving risks. The individual involved has to show a commitment and their knowledge of the business, their work ethic, etc.

“You have to be concerned about everything, and have knowledge of a little bit of macroeconomics, and how to cut costs,” he said. “The right niche, right approach, and hard work,” are what pay off, he indicated.

“Business is not easy, but you need to have determination, a good plan, a good implementation plan, and you go after that and don’t back off if you are sure of what you are doing,” Kumar advised. Even if many things are right, one might fail, but that means analysing what is wrong and working on that.

Currently, irrespective of what the President does, there is a limit to its effect, because of the many exogenous factors, like the energy constraints etc. caused by global conflicts, Kumar said, adding that all U.S. Administrations usually work with “good intentions.”

All presidents are faithful to the United States of America, despite the criticism they may hurl at each other, Kumar noted. At the same time there has to be a humanitarian approach which should also include the financial support aspect. Small businesses account for 60 percent of employment in the country, Kumar said, so governments need to pay attention to them.

Leaders should be engaged with the grassroots rather than with big organizations, he said.

In 1992, Kumar suffered an automobile accident, and had to undergo rehabilitation for a decade. He did not sue anyone, he noted, but he did get involved in the passing of the 1996 Traumatic Brain Injury Act.

His Indian tradition and philosophy he felt was what kept him from suing anyone. These ways of thinking are what should be spread more in the U.S., Kumar opined.

Various India-U.S. pacts over the years Kumar noted, got a “main thrust” under the George W. Bush administration. “I was a little bit closer to George W. Bush because he and I worked on his father’s transition team,” he recalled.

He was also against the steps taken to impeach President Bill Clinton, who appointed Kumar to the Selective Service Board.

“I liked all the Presidents,” Kumar said, though he was not as close to President Barack Obama even though he (Obama) appointed Kumar to the California State Appeals Board.

Kumar first met President Joe Biden when many years ago when he was a Senator.

Kumar said he initially supported President Donald Trump and was on the Asian American Advisory Council during the transition, and a delegate for Trump from California. “ …Trump did some good things,” but then ultimately, “he destroyed himself,” Kumar said.

The annual convention of IAICC was to be held two years ago with a meeting with a White House briefing attended by the President and Vice President, and a reception on Capitol Hill. It was postponed and is scheduled to be held in October 17, 18, and 19, in Washington, D.C., at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Kumar said. Kumar is set to meet India’s Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu in relation to that meeting. Ambassador I thifnk is a man who does things and talks less. He has done good things for India and the U.S. and has been very good for Indian-Americans. He is representing India at a difficult time. I support him one hundred percent,” Kumar said.

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