In Hyderabad, Indian Entrepreneurs Size Up Ivanka Trump

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Ivanka Trump was in India this week promoting women entrepreneurs. She led the U.S. delegation for a global business summit in the city of Hyderabad. So how did her message go over in India? Well, it depends on who you ask, as NPR's Julie McCarthy found out.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Polished and splendidly attired, Ivanka Trump packed a cavernous auditorium this week in the IT hub city of Hyderabad.

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IVANKA TRUMP: I'm proud to say that for the first time ever, women make up the majority of the 1,500 entrepreneurs selected to attend this summit.

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MCCARTHY: Applause burst out each time she rattled off a statistic about economic benefits of women entrepreneurs. Brains, beauty and decorousness made Trump a draw at this global mash-up of innovators and entrepreneurs now in its eighth year. A-listers vied for an invite to the lavish dinner Prime Minister Narendra Modi held in Trump's honor. Some put the gushing down to Indian love of celebrities. Others to Trump's access to the Oval Office. Deepanwita Chattopadhyay, CEO of Knowledge Park, an incubator for startups, said...

DEEPANWITA CHATTOPADHYAY: It was a kind of novelty. She also, probably, made sense because she was an entrepreneur.

MCCARTHY: Ivanka Trump's clothing brand is sourced from factories mostly in China, where women workers dominate the low-wage industry. Allegations of labor abuse involving Trump's supply chain have surfaced. In a letter, some 23 labor and human rights groups told Trump it makes a mockery of President Trump's America First mandate and urged her to publicly disclose locations of the factories making Trump-branded products.

Many delegates declined to say whether such alleged business practices contradicted the theme of the summit - the empowerment of women. But Harish Hande, CEO of a social enterprise that promotes sustainable energy for the poor, said there's no question.

HARISH HANDE: Yes, I see a complete contradiction because what are we pushing for - inclusivity in the business, right?

MCCARTHY: India alone needs to pull 600 million poor into better living conditions, Hande says, and exploiting poverty is no solution.

HANDE: And you don't hire poor just because you get cheap labor.

MCCARTHY: Anu Acharya, founder of the medical-diagnosis venture Mapmygenome, says many delegates told her they were interested in Trump mostly as a fashion icon.

ANU ACHARYA: Which is unfortunate. I think, for me, what mattered more is the fact that she had been - she's been an entrepreneur, and also the fact that she is an adviser to the president of the U.S.

MCCARTHY: Acharya and others said it would have been better to put the spotlight on a woman entrepreneur who had struggled more than Ivanka Trump, who had a privileged start. But 31-year-old Shveta Raina, who heads her own start-up, said Trump surprised her.

SHVETA RAINA: She was poised and was able to answer questions that were seemingly off script. I think she is young and represents young women. So I think she was the right choice.

MCCARTHY: Indian delegates were enthused to see Trump co-hosting the event with Prime Minister Modi - a signal of strengthening ties with Washington. Shveta Raina says India's lavish hospitality will pay off.

RAINA: This kind of soft diplomacy works.

MCCARTHY: Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Hyderabad, India.

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