Obama Nominates Arun Kumar to Key Int’l Trade Post

Arun Kumar is shown hosting a discussion at TiE’s annual conference in 2012. (Sameer Yagnik photo)

President Barack Obama Oct. 4 announced the nomination of Arun M. Kumar, who in September retired as a partner and member of the board at KPMG LLP in the San Francisco Bay Area, to the post of assistant secretary and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.

Kumar is well known in the Indian American community for his smooth and articulate hosting and moderating of India-related and finance-focused forums and panels. A charter member of The Indus Entrepreneurs, he led KPMG’s West Coast finance management consulting practice from 2005 until his retirement and headed the firm’s U.S.-India practice from 2007-2013.

In announcing Kumar’s appointment along with other nominations, Obama said, “The extraordinary dedication these men and women bring to their new roles will greatly serve the American people. I am grateful they have agreed to serve in this administration and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

The USFCS in Commerce’s International Trade Administration is a global network of trade specialists with offices across the U.S. and in more than 70 countries worldwide. The organization’s job is to help connect U.S. companies seeking to sell products overseas to foreign buyers.

The erudite and urbane Kumar told India-West in a brief interview Oct. 8, while on holiday with his family that about a year ago he attended two White House events where he expressed an interest in public service as he approached his expected retirement.

He said he is “excited for this great opportunity” to serve in the government.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Kumar would not be the first Indian American to hold the director general position.

Suresh Kumar, the former president and managing partner at Princeton, N.J.-based management advisory firm KaiZen Innovation, held the post from February 2010 to February 2012.

Arun Kumar joined KPMG in 1995 as a finance management leader. Before that, he was founder and CEO of software company Planning & Logic from 1993-95; co-founder and chief financial officer of Netlabs from 1991-93; CFO of Elite Microelectronics from 1990-91; director of planning and management information at Silicon Graphics from 1989-90; co-founder, CFO, and vice president of operations for mini-superconductor firm Cydrome from 1984-88, and controller of Elxsi from 1980-84.

The Indian American executive has a B.S. in physics from the University of Kerala and a degree in management from the Sloan School of Management at MIT.

Born in Mavelikkara, Kerala, Kumar has served on the advisory councils at Stanford University and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

He is co-editor of “Kerala's Economy: Crouching Tiger, Sacred Cows,” and the author of a book of poetry, “Plain Truths.”

The son of B. Madhavan and Kamala Nair, he is married to Poornima Kumar, the daughter of noted historian A. Sreedhara Menon and Sarojini Menon. Kumar began his India career as a member of the Tata Administrative Service.

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