Prominent Overseas Indian Interview

Q & A with Mr Alimuddin Mohammed, Director National Flour Mills Limited, 
Trinidad and Tobago

“This trip brings back nostalgia galore”

In May, 2012, Mr Alimuddin Mohammed visited India for the 4th time since 1983. He was accompanied by his wife Mrs Lynette Hazra Mohammed. The couple decided to visit the Taj Mahal on the occasion of their 34th wedding anniversary. Each time he has returned to India since 1983, this multi-faceted and talented businessman has witnessed the country of his forefathers grow and take giant strides forward. In a way with each visit, he’s been following on the footsteps of his illustrious father, Dr Kamaluddin Mohammed, who was at one point in time Acting Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and a visitor to India in the 1950s and 1960s. He spoke to India Empire’s Sayantan Chakravarty on a range of issues at a dinner gathering at the residence of Trinidad and Tobago’s High Commissioner to India, H.E. Chandradath Singh.
On his visit…
First of all let me take this opportunity to say how happy I am to be here in India once more. This is my fourth visit since 1983. I was here for the second time in 2003, that year I won a prestigious international award at the SATTE meet attended by tourism industry from all over the world. It was a big moment for us in Trinidad and Tobago. Then I was back in 2011 as part of a delegation led by Tourism Minister, Dr Rupert Griffith. I was at the time a member of the board of the Tourism Development Company Limited. The board was to be dissolved subsequently, and these days I sit on the board of the National Flour Mills. I and my wife visited China before coming to India. I am here to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary. I have been telling her that I won’t be able to build the Taj Mahal for her, but I’d certainly be able to take her to see the Taj, and that’s what we are doing, visiting Agra, Jaipur while in India. For us, it is like fulfilling a long cherished dream.

On his family…
Everything I am is because of the will of God and the undying support I have received from Lynette. She has blessed me with two beautiful children, our daughter Aleema and son Adam. Our family led by my illustrious father Dr Kamaluddin Mohammed has played a great part in promoting Indian art and culture for over six decades. He was a minister in the Government led by the first Prime Minister of independent Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Eric Williams, and acted as Prime Minister in the absence of the PM. He was in India in 1958 and met Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He returned years later to meet his daughter Indira Gandhi, and then to meet Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Indian PM, and also Dr Manmohan Singh. My father, now 85, had been a radio broadcaster for nearly four decades, and our family organized for such musical legends as Kishore Kumar, Hemant Mukherjee and Manna Dey to visit Trinidad and Tobago in the 1960s and after. We also helped bring in stars such as Shah Rukh Khan to our country. We follow Indian entertainment programmes, and some of the soaps are very popular at our home. Our family loves watching Indian programmes every evening, for hours.
(From left): Mrs Lynette Hazra Mohammed, H.E. Mr Chandradath Singh, Stic Group Chairman Mr Subhash Goyal and Mr Alimuddin Mohammed High Commissioner Singh who plays several musical instruments and sings, seen here working on the steel pan

On his profession…
I come from a pioneering family, and built myself as one of the leading insurance agents in Trinidad and Tobago. I have worked very hard to promote tourism, and until last year was on the board of the TDC. I am in regular communication with Minister Griffith, and am always available with my services for my country. I have worked closely with the BWIA (now the Caribbean Airlines) and played a significant role in improving connectivity with India.

On his well-wishers, diplomatic, business and social friends…
I am glad I have been able to connect with you in India because of my very good friend of the last 30 years, Mr Raul Bermudez, back home. Raul and I go back a long way indeed, and he wants to do something with India soon. I have great regard for our High Commissioner, Mr Chandradath Singh, by far and away one of the most talented diplomats that Trinidad and Tobago has ever produced. He had worked with my father when Dr Kamaluddin was Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr Singh is at the right place at the right time. He has engaged very meaningfully between our country and India. I also wish to pay tribute to the Indian High Commissioner in Port of Spain, Mr Malay Mishra. He has done an excellent job for his country, and his dynamism is felt everywhere. I also want to acknowledge another great gentleman and friend, Mr Subhash Goyal of Stic Travels. He was the first Indian agent of the Caribbean Airlines. I accompanied him during his first visit to Trinidad and Tobago, and he started representing BWIA those days. In fact, I am seeing a new dawn. Caribbean Airlines will fly to Gatwick, London from June 14. As bilateral and trade relations between our two nations grow, I see more travel happening. These are exciting times.

Mr Bermudez…good friend Mr Mohammed and his wife, HC Singh and wife Anita Chandradath Singh, and Mr Goyal and his wife (second from left) with guests at Mr Goyal’s house

Views on the political front in Trinidad and Tobago…
Our country is very blessed to have a leader and Prime Minister like Kamla Persad-Bissessar. She has always led from the front, as an attorney general, then as a Senator and Minister for Education, and now as PM. I have been to different places, and they know TnT because of her. She has taken our country to the next level. I can assure you that big things are in store. You can find some big Indian names visiting TnT. She was nominated chief guest at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2012 by the Indian Prime Minister. That trip with well over 150 persons accompanying her, including business leaders and several top ministers, was indeed a historical one. It has set the tone for a new beginning. She was as popular as Brian Charles Lara who accompanied her on the trip. When she visited her native village, it was as though a daughter of Indian indentureship had returned home. It was an emotional moment that has been recorded for posterity.

On the political leadership, overall…
We have some fine and focused leadership. Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Stephen Cadiz, is doing a very commendable job for the country’s diversification drive. Minister for Food Production, Mr Vasant Barath is introducing policies whereby we will be able to cut down on our food import bills. And Foreign Minister, Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, is shaping foreign policies in a way that we are able to get the best from our engagements with large nations like India, China, USA and those within the CARICOM region.

On his impressions on India…
Let me tell you, we’ve had an impact in India. Last year, when I visited with the delegation led by Tourism Minister, Dr Griffith, we received a standing ovation from a very large gathering at the Vibrant Gujarat event soon after our presentation. We made an impact wherever we went, at places like Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai. In fact, Dr Griffith is keen on developing medical and eco tourism, sports tourism and heritage tourism. In the last decade, I’ve travelled to three of the four BRIC countries, which are Brazil, India and China, and I can proudly say to you that what I’ve seen in India gladdens my heart. The growth is tremendous, and to be seen everywhere. The story begins right at the airport, moments after you’ve landed on Indian soil.


May 2012

click here to enlarge

 >> Cover Story
 >> From the Editor