Pune, India joins Columbus’ international family

The city of Columbus welcomed a 16-member delegation of city and business officials from its newest international sibling, Pune, India, on Friday.

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop and Pune Madame Mayor Mukta Tilak formalized a sister city relationship last fall during Lienhoop’s trip to the country with Jason Hester, Greater Economic Development Corp. president.

Lienhoop and Hester spent parts of four days in Pune, including a Nov. 1 meeting with Tilak when the mayors signed a memorandum of understanding, initiating a relationship focused on promoting cultural, business, education and governmental exchanges.

During their one-night stay in the Hoosier state’s architectural hub, the delegation, made up of Pune City Council members, business representatives and Tilak herself, indulged in all the city has to offer.

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The visit included a guided architecture tour through the city, meetings with city and business leaders and a touch-a-truck event where the delegates could see and experience Columbus’ own public works and safety vehicles.

“A sister city relationship is like that two cities should come together and work for citizens, humanity, art, culture, heritage and should exchange such type of activities or should exchange technology and infrastructure so that there would be a remarkable, monumental relationship between the two cities,” Tilak said.

“We have come here to know more about your city — how the planning is done, how development is done, especially in the field of water treatment, waste water, solid waste management and environment.”

Tilak is the mayor of the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra and the ninth most populous city in India, with an estimated population of more than 3.37 million persons in 2018. That’s only 3.23 million more than Columbus’ population of 47,000 persons. But the two cities do share a significant presence by Cummins Inc. along with other Indian firms with local operations.

Hester said in an earlier Republic interview that Columbus explored a relationship with Pune a few years ago, thinking it made sense because Cummins has had operations there since the 1960s, but a trip to the Indian city was never able to be scheduled.

“Cummins India operations are headquartered in Pune, and local Indian firms KPIT, Birlasoft and Axiscades have operations there as well,” Hester said. “We’ve considered for years whether or not we might pursue foreign direct investment opportunities from India, and with our city’s shared strengths in engineering, we felt like last year was the right time to reach out to Pune.”

Columbus also has sister city relationships with Löhne, Germany; Miyoshi, Japan; and Xiangyang, China. The Löhne relationship was fostered by local residents with ancestors from northern Germany and student exchanges, while business ties played into the Miyoshi and Xiangyang relationships.

Tilak said she was especially interested in a relationship with Columbus because of its deep roots and traditions in architecture and engineering. Even more important to her was the city’s diverse population, many of whom are from India.

“We come from the state of Maharashtra and many more people are Indians here,” Tilak said. “These people also should have some other kind of recognition in the city and that is why the sister city relationship is being made.”

Raju Chinthala is the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s senior adviser for India, and he works to bring people from India to Indiana and vice versa. He said Pune and Columbus were a perfect match based on their shared presence by Columbus-based Cummins.

“It’s their first time coming to Columbus, even though Cummins has been in Pune for nearly 60 years,” Chinthala said. “This is a historical visit for them to learn from each other. They know Cummins everywhere. If I stay in a hotel, I come out and see a green box and there’s a C on it. Cummins! You drive around the market along streets and you see three-wheeler taxis and a C on the engine. It’s a Cummins!”

He said forging relationships with cities such as Pune help double up both cities’ economies while exchanging ideas and cultures.

“Ultimately our goal is how do we get our companies from India to Indiana and Indiana companies doing business in India?” Chinthala said. “We need this strong bridge between Indiana and India so we have a lot of people coming and going and eventually how do the companies come and create the jobs.”

Cummins has had a presence in India that dates back to 1962, when Cummins and Kirloskar Oil Engines Limited established a joint venture. Today, Cummins India encompasses nine entities across 200 in-country locations, employing more than 10,000 individuals.

“Cummins isn’t just creating the jobs; they’re creating the community to double up both cities,” Chinthala said. “That relationship is important so we can exchange other ideas, students, education, culture.”

India-based companies including KPIT and Axiscades found a home in Columbus as early as 2002 — now with hundreds of people employed locally.

Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development for Columbus, said the visit is an early step in the new relationship with the sister city.

“We look forward to what the future may bring,” Ferdon said.

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Pune, India, is the ninth most populous city in India with an estimated population of more than 3.37 million persons in 2018. It is the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

Pune is located near the country’s western coast and is known for its institutions of education and information technology.

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Columbus has international sister city relations with:

  • Löhne, Germany
  • Miyoshi, Japan
  • Xiangyang, China
  • Pune, India