If there’s just one word to describe Mukesh Aghi, it would have to be ‘suave.’ Coiffed hair, immaculate suit, polite, utterly pleasant; he listens quietly to questions and answers with a rare fluidity, reeling off numbers and deftly stepping away from potential minefields. He doesn’t spin and doesn’t offer a word more than needed. His speech also rarely ever recourses to the personal “I,” instead, it’s always the expansive “we.” You are left wondering if that is because he identifies so closely with the organization he leads, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, or if it’s quite simply the reverse.

Whatever the case, there is little doubt that Aghi is determined to make a difference in U.S.-India relations. The Indian American president and CEO of USISPF has cast his sights farther than mere trade, and is on record as saying the ties between the two nations can and should extend to sustainability, security and innovation. He has told the media that U.S. universities should focus on India for students as well as for exchange programs.

Aghi’s ability to go beyond what meets the eye laces his career and might be a key to his success. Early on, he displayed this streak heading off to get a B.A. in Beirut instead of the usual U.S. or UK. He went on to get an MBA in international marketing from Andrews University and then a Ph.D. in international relations from Claremont Graduate University. These qualifications combined with heading companies and sitting on boards of others had USIBC come calling. He went on to helm it, chucking his job as co-CEO of L&T Infotech.

The organization was coasting along nicely, but his arrival there was to prove explosive. Rubbing shoulders with the mighty, he set dizzying goals and charged ahead. Appreciated by some and not so much by others, Aghi made an acrimonious exit from the USIBC group.

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