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Dream of helping the underprivileged leads Tibetan businessman to Global Village

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not the only globetrotting, accomplished Tibetan who will spend time at Lehigh University this summer.

Among the record 106 budding entrepreneurs participating at this summer’s Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry, is 34-year-old Kalden Dorjee, the owner of Auka Design, a line of contemporary clothing and accessories based in New Delhi, India.

Global Village is a six-week program that prepares future business leaders to succeed in the international market through lectures, courses, trips, projects and discussions. Dorjee, the first Tibetan ever to be part of the program, will join his fellow Global Village interns, as they’re known, in living, eating and learning together on Lehigh’s campus. The program, presented by the university’s Iacocca Institute, is in its 12th year; this summer’s version, which opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 9, will feature representatives from 51 countries.

Tapping the global market

A fashion designer with a businessman’s savvy, Dorjee first heard of the Global Village through his membership in the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce of New Delhi. He comes to the program with both short- and long-term goals, as well as some personal objectives he hopes to meet.

In the short run, Dorjee believes his time as a Global Village intern will impart a better understanding of international business practices and of “how I can best market my products to a much bigger and wider global market.”

Further down the road, he dreams of opening a vocational craft training center for underprivileged rural people in northern India.

“The products from this craft center I wish to bring to a wider global market so that people can earn their livelihoods through these crafts and the skills that they have acquired from the center,” Dorjee says. “Everything that I learn from Global Village will help me at different stages—setting up the craft center, planning, building a team, delegating responsibilities, marketing the products in the global marketplace and so on.”

The Global Village’s four main areas of focus—business and industry knowledge, leadership and entrepreneurial skills, networking and multicultural understanding, and career development—should prove ideal for Dorjee, says Dick Brandt, director of Global Lehigh and of the Iacocca Institute.

“If you think about the specific things he's asking to do, he can not only do that in the classroom here and on his project team, but also in the dormitory,” Brandt says. “More of the learning happens in the dorm than anyplace else. If you think about the diversity of this group, in terms of age and background and geography and culture, someone who’s thinking of going global is going to find some of his partners among his Global Villagers or the door to some partners in different parts of the world.”

Dorjee’s fluency in Hindi and other local Indian dialects has helped him overcome challenges. At the same time, he says, his origins have been a benefit in dealing with his business partners outside India, whose background has strong roots in the fair-trade movement.

“My being a Tibetan has helped me gain confidence in them of fair and ethical business practice,” Dorjee says. “But in the end, it’s all about the quality of my products and the price and delivery of shipments which have kept my international clients working with me.”

--Tom Durso

Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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