Abbott in India: Governor meets with executives of India’s largest private firm


MUMBAI, India —The Dallas Morning News is traveling with Gov. Greg Abbott on a nine-day trade mission to India, where he’ll tout Texas’ business climate and workforce as he visits corporate executives.

Abbott left Thursday and will return March 30. He’ll visit Mumbai, Bengaluru (also called Bangalore), Agra and New Delhi.

This story will be updated with brief reports throughout the trip.

No. 5: Abbott meets with execs of India’s largest private company

Gov. Greg Abbott met privately in Mumbai for two hours Saturday with two executives of Reliance Industries Ltd.

Afterward, Abbott said the huge, Mumbai-based conglomerate is not expected to unveil any new moves affecting Texas during his trip.

However, Abbott described the huddle as “a great start” to his nine-day jaunt to India. It was about deepening a relationship that could pay big dividends for the state, he said.

“This is one of the largest companies in the entire world and the largest private company in India,” Abbott said. “They are involved in almost every business sector that exists.”

Much of the meeting concerned Reliance’s desire to import more Texas crude oil and liquefied natural gas, and a need to ease certain bottlenecks holding that up, he said.

Since a 1970s era U.S. ban on oil exports ended last year, Texas has been shipping crude to foreign countries, including India. Abbott said the state must expand ports in Beaumont, Houston and Corpus Christi to accommodate larger tankers that now cross the Panama Canal.

Gov. Greg Abbott debriefs TV pool reporter Pooja Lodhia of Houston’s KTRK-TV about his Saturday meeting in Mumbai, India, with executives Reliance Industries Ltd. (Staff Writer/Robert T. Garrett)

Texas has announced construction of two liquefied natural gas shipping terminals, in Freeport and Corpus Christi. For now, though, it must ship LNG through Houston-based Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. It’s “a nine-iron chip shot” east of the Texas-Louisiana line, Abbott said.

Reliance board member Hital R. Meswani said “they want to buy a lot more [oil] products from the state of Texas,” Abbott said.

Speaking of Meswani, Abbott said, “He was fascinated to learn that two of our universities in Texas are run by Indian Americans.”

Renu Khator is chancellor of the University of Houston system. Vistasp Karbhari is president of the University of Texas at Arlington.

From investments in “Bollywood,” the Indian film industry, to cell phones to cancer-treatment technology, Reliance has “amazing” reach, Abbott said. Texas is courting it big-time, he said.

“This is a relationship where you could tell as we parted today, Texas was a place that they want to invest even more in, in the future,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s final scheduled event of the day, a “country briefing” from officials of the U.S. consulate in Mumbai, is being billed as private. On Sunday, he’s expected to visit Mahindra & Mahindra, another conglomerate known in Texas for its tractors; and speak to a civic club in Mumbai.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott discusses energy exports and other topics of interest to Reliance Industries board member Hital R. Meswani, seated to Abbott’s left, and other officials Saturday in Mumbai, India. At left in red tie is Dallas textiles entrepreneur Agar Agarwal. (Office of the Governor/Cody Kloster )
No. 4 Abbott meets with Indian executives

A recharged Gov. Greg Abbott began meeting with Indian business executives at his Mumbai, India, hotel on Saturday.

Abbott, who logged a 17-hour flight from Austin that stretched from Thursday into Friday, said that after one night’s rest in Mumbai, “I felt back to normal.”

Wheeling himself into a formal conference room overlooking South Mumbai, Abbott told Dallas textiles entrepreneur Arun Agarwal he felt great.

“Just one night, and I’m on India time right now,” the Republican governor told Agarwal, a close friend of Abbott’s who helped arrange his trip.

Abbott greeted Hital R. Meswani, executive director and board member of Reliance Industries Ltd., a Mumbai-based conglomerate that is India’s largest petrochemical firm.

A second Reliance official at the meeting — who identified himself as “T. Srinivas” and said he’s the chief operating officer – told your pooler that the firm also has interests in telecom and “retail, in India.”

Reliance is one of India’s largest companies, accounting for 14 percent of the country’s total exports and four percent of its total market capitalization. In Texas, the firm has a 20-person Houston office. In India, it’s a major refiner and also has textile manufacturing plants.

Meswani, the Reliance board member, said in an interview that earlier this month, he attended the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston.

Abbott told Meswani there’s plenty of oil in West Texas’ Permian Basin. The governor referred to recent news accounts about how vast amounts of recoverable oil and gas have been verified in the region that stretches north and west of Midland-Odessa.

Reliance Holdings USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Reliance, has interests in Texas’ shale fields, according to the governor’s office.

Later Saturday, Abbott and his entourage were expected to receive a briefing about India from officials of the U.S. consulate in Mumbai.

On Saturday night, Abbott will have a private dinner with his “Texas delegation,” a group of Texans of Indian ancestry. With their aides, several of them will hop aboard the governor’s plane and join him for portions of his nine-day trip.

So far, the group includes Agarwal and Ajay Raj Singh, an India-based executive of Agarwal’s Nextt. It’s a subsidiary of Alok Manufacturing. Also on hand is Steve DeLuca, a government affairs executive of Richmond, Va.-based Capital One Financial Corp.

Sanjiv Yajnik of Dallas, Capital One’s president for financial services, is expected to join Abbott’s entourage in Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore) on Monday. Yajnik is board chairman of the nonprofit Texas Economic Development Corp., which is paying for Abbott’s India trip. (Staff Writer/Robert T. Garrett)

On Saturday, he is expected to receive from U.S. diplomatic personnel a briefing on India before plunging into a whirlwind week of business and governmental meetings and social events.

No. 2: A stop in Shannon

Abbott’s 15-person party from Texas landed about 11:10 p.m. local time (6:10 p.m. Dallas time) in Shannon, Ireland, for refueling.

Abbott spent early portions of the flight studying briefing papers about India, watching Fox Business News and chatting with his aides and the three Texas journalists serving as poolers.

At considerable length, Abbott quizzed reporter Pooja Lodhia of KTRK-TV in Houston about her mother’s childhood in Mumbai. Lodhia said the city is India’s equivalent to New York City. Abbott explained that he’s highly curious about India.

Traveling with the governor are his wife, Cecilia; two security personnel; the three press poolers and these eight aides:

Matt Hirsch, deputy chief of staff and communications director

David Whitley, deputy chief of staff (a former Abbott advance man)

Robert Allen, president and chief executive of the Texas Economic Development Corp. (a former Abbott deputy chief of staff)

Bryan Daniel, director of the Office of the Governor’s division of economic development and tourism (a former Agriculture Department official)

Jackie Merrick, events manager at the Texas Economic Development Corp.

Chelsea Holden, senior adviser to the first lady

Cody Kloster, media director/photographer

Jim Dwyer, executive aide

Next stop: Mumbai, India.

No. 1: Abbott leaves Austin

It was wheels up at 10:14 a.m. as Gov. Greg Abbott departed Austin Bergstrom International Airport on a crisp spring morning for a nine-day jaunt to India. Abbott said he’s eager to develop personal relationships with corporate executives of leading Indian companies that already do business in Texas.

“But it’s also my first opportunity to visit India. So it expands my horizons, my perspectives of the entire world,” he said. “And that can do nothing but benefit the governor of Texas.”

Abbott said he’s interested in strengthening Texas’ cultural and economic ties to India. He said he hopes to finalize some business recruitment deals during his trip, which ends March 30.

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