THIS 2023 - CEO's Speech

Good morning, everyone. 

I'm Nirad Tewarie, the CEO of AMCHAM Trinidad and Tobago and I'm really happy to be here. 

This year we're seeing the development of the ecosystem. 

We're seeing people from different industries and different types of businesses, which is a big part of what we wanted to create at THIS. And so, it's growing. But then there's also work that is going on in the background. So, all the people who make THIS happen, our sponsors, our collaborators, our Digital Transformation Committee, but especially the team at AMCHAM T&T, instead of ending with a vote of thanks, from the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

So, there's a lot to be said. I remember when we started THIS five years ago, we said we could come here and have another conference, another event, and talk about all the things that we didn't do, all the things that we were wrong in the country, all the reasons why we are not as far forward as we are in technology, or anything else and we can complain about. But we are not doing that with THIS because THIS is about solutions. This is about building an ecosystem. This is about getting stuff done. 

So, there are a lot of things that I want to say, but I do want to talk about FEAR. It feels like all over the world there's a fear: a fear of the unknown, a fear of talking. And when we talk, are you just going to share some platitudes and say nothing? Or if you try to engage in a difficult conversation, are people going to pick at the margins and not really listen and engage? And therefore, it becomes a shouting match and everybody's a demon, and we get distracted by issues we support. 

We spend all our time doing that instead of focusing on the issues at all. And that's why we don’t listen. We need to take the time… everybody in this room is a leader, everybody in the room has a network, and everybody in the room is connected. So, we need to take the time to LISTEN to one another. 

When I teach communications, there’s this fundamental thing about communication that we often feel we need to say, and we will say it eloquently, take the time, have it written, and be specific.. but that is not communication because we then have to ask ourselves, did the other person hear, or receive the message that we want them to receive?
So, we take the time to collaborate, to listen, to build momentum around the common things that we all want, that we all think are important, and that we all think will make our circumstances and the circumstance of those around us and in our system, better. 
So, let me ask you a question what does this image represent to you? 

Anything else? 
Change? Innovation? Beauty?

It represents all those things, but somebody can see this and say we're going down saying an LGBTQ agenda, or something like that, right? So, what do people see and say? This is actually the image when I Googled “Creative Cities”. Because I think and believe that T&T should seek to be a creative city-state. And that means that we have to listen, we have to collaborate, and we have to create spaces for innovation, and collaboration, deliberately. 
Kaihan wrote a brilliant blog the other day on why Messi chose Inter-Miami. 

He talked about how the ecosystem that is being created in Miami would make somebody like Messi give up two, three, $4 billion over three years in a league in Saudi Arabia, right? And if you look at what is happening to football in the Arab world and in Saudi Arabia in particular, but in the World Cup in Qatar you see how they treat trying to create the context and imagery for inclusion, for people to want to be in the space that will stimulate the development of industries, of things in other ways, to create the environment to make the economy dynamic, to make the city, to make the state dynamic. And that's kind of what we have to do here. 

This is a slide from 2019. 

As I said back then when the theme was the fourth industrial revolution, and what we were trying to do with tech, we are afraid, and some of us were afraid about what tech would do for jobs, what tech would do in terms of disruption in our lives. But what we're trying to do is move the jobs of say, the CEPEP workers to jobs faster in other things, into many things. And that's what we're trying to do when we say we want to build a tech industry in T&T. 

At the moment we are on that journey and we’re going to stick to that journey. We do not know how in the sense that we don't have a roadmap, we don't have a specific plan but what you do have is a committed group of people who are doing things step by step.

On Saturday, it will be nine years that I am at AMCHAM, and almost nine years to the day Kaihan, our featured speaker, and I met. One of the first things I had to do when I joined AMCHAM was to go to the AACCLA Conference in Panama, where Kaihan was the speaker. We just started chatting. And I was trying to find a way to work together. 

Nine years later and so when an idea is stuck or seems like a whim, we can make it happen. We complain about the system but who is the system? We are all nodes in the system. And so, if we all do something, if we all move something, then the system itself moves more than change. So, we need to commit to that individually. 

And so, as we do that, we have to get more accustomed to saying yes than no. 

I understand in Estonia it takes two to say no, but one to say yes. Think about that point. You have to get two people to say something is a bad idea or it can't be done, for it to not be done. But only one person to say, “why we are doing this for?” and only one person to say “We don’t have to do that”.

When we internalize this it’s really a revolutionary concept in the context of T&T and how we have been taught to operate.

Two to say “NO” and One to say “Yes”. That's fantastic. So which one are we? Are we the little bobcat or are we the big dog who sees themselves as a puppy? Because if we want to change the system and if we want to be those nodes that will make a difference, whatever we think we are, we have to see ourselves as the agent of change and as being able and powerful enough to effect that change so that we can, in fact, build the Trinidad and Tobago, and I would argue the Caribbean, that we want.

Thank you very much.

Interview with Toni Sirju-Ramnarine