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Daryl Rand is flanked on left by Consul General Prabhu Dayal. From left to right, Connie Claman, CFO of Liberty Science Center; Meme Omogbai, COO of the Newark Museum; New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon; Poonam Khubani, president and CEO of Telebrands International. Courtesy HarrisonRand Advertising

Daryl Rand first learned about Children’s Hope India in 2000, when she was organizing an event for the New York chapter of the International Advertising Association.

Inspired by her longtime friend and fellow business executive Rafael Benaroya to highlight the charity at the group’s India program, she learned not only of its work but about the history of Indian Jews.

“The Sindhi’s, who are called the Jews of India, are active in this [organization],” she said, explaining that as she got to know more about this community, she was inspired to visit Jewish sites in India, such as the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin.

“It’s been enlightening to learn that the Jews have been there for centuries,” she said, “going back to the Silk Route.” And while most of India’s Jews left after 1948 and the founding of the State of Israel, “There are still vestiges of the original Jewish population.”

Spurred by Benaroya to learn more about India, Rand – president of HarrisonRand Advertising in Guttenberg, and a vice chair of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce – made her first trip there in 2003.

Now, having traveled to India nine additional times, the Englewood Cliffs resident says her ongoing missions to South Asia have brought together several strands of her life, combining her business knowledge with her strong desire to advance the position of women and help needy children.

“In my 10 years on the board of the International Advertising Association, I didn’t see many women entrepreneurs,” she said, noting that she had an opportunity to travel throughout the world as part of that group. “Women in corporate organizations didn’t get an opportunity to participate at the level they should.”

In 2005, she decided to “start a dialogue,” bringing together women from the United States and India. The idea, she said, was to match women based on their interests and areas of expertise.

In choosing her first group, she sought out “people who were global citizens at heart and who would blend well together; people who wanted to become embedded in the culture and the experience from the inside out.”

Among the 20 women selected was Angelica Berrie.

“The trip was so successful and had such good feedback that we repeated it with 26 women two years later,” she said.

The most recent trip, Feb. 3-13, marked the fourth time Rand brought a Friends of India group to Mumbai. According to the organizer, the 17-member mission included a large number of women from northern New Jersey’s business community, representing industries from publishing to energy consultation.

“Many of the delegates…have participated in previous missions, which has resulted in significant business exchanges and opportunities for both the host and visiting delegations,” she said. Also key to each mission is support for Children’s Hope, a non-profit organization founded to foster the education and welfare of children throughout India.

In recognition of these efforts, Rand and her husband, Dr. Melvin Rand, were invited by Indian Consul General Prabhu Dayal to a gathering at the consulate on March 5, where Friends of India was honored.

“The work we’re doing is being recognized in India,” she said, noting that people from Namaste America, a business/cultural organization in Mumbai, “came out to meet us at the consulate.”

Rand, who calls herself “the product of two old Jewish families” from Hudson County, said Friends of India includes “unofficial groups of women…with no bylaws and no president.” She chairs the missions, which each take about a year to plan.

“Our goal is to build alliances and linkages between the two countries and the women entrepreneurs,” she said. So far, the group has been able to showcase Indian arts and crafts in the United States, bring over a large photography exhibit, and host 25 business students, with the American women providing the faculty for their immersion course in business skills.

“We also try to bring at least two or three young women” on the missions, said Rand, “because they never get the opportunity to be in close contact with such seasoned business women for this kind of exchange, or to participate in such things as briefings with senior staff at the embassy in Delhi or the U.S. consulate in Mumbai. It’s important that women get a jump-start.”

Rand has been with the “family business” since1972. She said the advertising company is now in its third generation, with her two sons, Jason and David, joining the firm several years ago.

The business executive is clearly pleased with what Friends of India has been able to accomplish. She noted that in bringing some 86 professional and business women from the United States together with their counterparts in India, “We have achieved significant accomplishments. We have facilitated exchanges between HR College [part of the University of Mumbai] and New Jersey City University, hosted students as mentors, provided scholarships for needy students, showcased the ambitious agenda of Children’s Hope India, and built a sustainable cultural and business exchange.”