Summit Broadens Horizons for Indian Associations

Business Operations Associations Now November/December 2014 By: Katie Bascuas

Now in its fourth year, the India Association Congress provides a platform for change as well as international perspective for Indian associations, which are undergoing a bit of a renaissance.

Associations in India are nothing new. The India Science Congress Association, for instance, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. But the association landscape in this Asian nation is undergoing something of a transformation.

"I see a renewed focus, or renewed vigor, with respect to the association movement," says Ambarish Paralikkar, director of international operations and a global lead for the association management practice of CIMGlobal. "There is a conscious attempt by associations to identify opportunities to change their current systems and introduce practices that are more contemporary."

This renaissance is evident in the formation and success of the India Association Congress, of which Paralikkar is an organizer. Marking its fourth installment this year in Jaipur, IAC is an annual gathering of association executives, thinkers, professionals, and service providers dedicated to discussing and sharing best practices in association leadership.

It is "the largest congregation of association leaders and professionals in India and probably the only platform for associations to learn from each other to get some international perspective and best practices," IAC Chairman Prasant Saha said in his opening address at the two-day conference in August.

This year's speakers included association professionals from all over the world, including Arlene Pietranton, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and former ASAE chair, and Susan Sarfati, FASAE, CAE, former association executive and current CEO of High Performance Strategies, LLC.

Sessions delved into topics such as corporate social responsibility, the road ahead for membership, and planning a successful advocacy campaign. "In India, advocacy is at a very, very infant stage," Paralikkar says. "India runs in a very unique manner, and we still have to evolve significantly."

The issue of the future of membership, while significant to associations around the globe, is of particular importance in India. "It's an area where, traditionally, [Indian] associations have not been able to create revenue or reinvent themselves," Paralikkar says.

Historically, many Indian associations have offered lifetime, as opposed to annual, memberships, and this model doesn't bode well for long-term revenue generation. While some associations are beginning to adapt and offer one- or two-year memberships, it's a slow evolution, Paralikkar says.

IAC, meanwhile, provides a forum for Indian association professionals to come together and learn more from one another as well as their counterparts overseas. "It's important to have this congress as there is no other recognized platform in India where association leaders in the region can express themselves and exchange knowledge," Paralikkar says.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Passage to India."]

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is an associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC.