Vinai Thummalapally leads Red Fort in its mission to provide the highest value government affairs services to its clients. Vinai Thummalapally served as Executive Director of SelectUSA (2013-2017), part of the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Established by Executive Order of the President, SelectUSA is the U.S. government-wide initiative to attract and retain business investment in the United States.
As Executive Director, Ambassador Thummalapally managed the strategy and implementation of SelectUSA to help create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote American competitiveness. He also co-chaired, with the Director of the White House National Economic Council, the SelectUSA Interagency Investment Working Group, to coordinate resources across the federal government to promote business investment and address federal regulatory barriers.
Ambassador Thummalapally brings a wealth of experience from both the private and public sectors. President Obama appointed him Ambassador to Belize in 2009, where he served until 2013. In his role as Chief of Mission, Ambassador Thummalapally helped strengthen the bilateral relationship between the United States and Belize in the areas of citizen security, economic development, education, and health care. In addition, he found innovative ways to engage regional and international organizations and other embassies to promote the same. Ambassador Thummalapally has had a distinguished 31-year career in the private sector.
Prior to joining the foreign service, Ambassador Thummalapally served as President of MAM-A Inc., formerly Mitsui Advanced Media. MAM-A Inc. was the nation’s leading manufacturer and distributor of archival recordable optical discs. During his fourteen year tenure the company became the benchmark of the optical disc manufacturing industry. Ambassador Thummalapally also served as the plant manager of WEA Manufacturing Inc., a division of Time Warner Inc.; the Managing Director for Clines Printing and Office Products; and Manufacturing Manager of Disc Manufacturing, Inc. In addition to holding two U.S. patents for design of optical disc manufacturing, he has received several Outstanding Service awards for his professional accomplishments.
Originally from Hyderabad, India, Ambassador Thummalapally moved to the United States in 1974 to pursue his engineering studies. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from California State University in 1977, completed post graduate Business Administration courses from Cal State University in 1980 and holds a diploma in “Lean Production Systems” from the University of Tennessee in 1995. He is fluent in Telugu, Hindi and Urdu. Vinai Thummalapally serves on the board of directors of Cyient, a publicly traded Indian engineering services company. He also serves on the board of The Indian American Impact Project, a non-profit promoting Indian Americans to run for public office.
Varun Nikore’s background encompasses over 27 years of experience in government, policy and international trade. Focused on business development, marketing, strategic planning and civil and defense manufacturing and supply chain with a particular emphasis on the aviation, aerospace and defense industries. He is also well known in Washington D.C. political circles where he has been active for decades. For the past several years, Mr. Nikore has served as Senior Vice President-International for TriPolus, a facilitator of international business based in London. In this capacity, he advised numerous service industry and manufacturing clients engaged in international business development and industrial participation activities, with a special focus on India and other emerging markets. Mr. Nikore also served as a strategic advisor to domestic and foreign companies in global business development, marketing and international offsets focused on assisting aerospace and defense suppliers in engaging in the U.S. marketplace and establishing themselves in the U.S. supply chain.
Mr. Nikore previously served as COO of Tobiko Strategies, a communications and political strategy firm, incorporating cutting-edge social media and technology. In this role, Mr. Nikore assisted numerous non-governmental organizations, political entities, corporations and public officials around the world in communicating with the public and influencing public policy. For several years prior, Mr. Nikore was Director of Supplier Management at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) where he assisted hundreds of aerospace and defense suppliers and senior executives in achieving their industry objectives. At AIA, Mr. Nikore developed, planned and successfully executed the first-ever AIA Trade Mission to India held in December 2006. He also coordinated major business lobbying efforts for member companies, organized high level meetings and interfaced with Indian government officials, aerospace association heads as well aerospace and defense supply chain and procurement officials and other corporate executives. He also served as Chairman of the Globalization Committee and on the Board of the Executive Committee of AIA’s Supplier Management Council.
In 1999, Mr. Nikore was appointed by President Bill Clinton as Special Assistant to the U.S. Department of Education where managed the day-to-day responsibilities of the Distance Education Demonstration Program and served as liaison for eight major educational technology program initiatives. Mr. Nikore has been active in Democratic politics for decades, having founded and served as the President of the Indian American Leadership Initiative, the largest Indian American network of Democrats in the U.S. In 2012, Mr. Nikore was appointed as Co-chair of the Small Business Owners Council of the Democratic National Committee and in 2008 he served as Transportation Policy Advisor for President Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign. In 2000, Mr. Nikore served Budget Coordinator for the Presidential campaign of Vice President Al Gore at the campaign’s Nashville headquarters.
Mr. Nikore was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Boards of the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority and the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority from 2015-2017. Mr. Nikore also served on the Board of the Democratic Business Council of Northern Virginia after having served as past President of the organization. Mr. Nikore holds a Bachelor’s degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Aviation Business Administration and a Master’s Degree from George Mason University in International Commerce and Policy.
Ferhan Hamid is a Founder and Managing Partner of Red Fort Strategies. With Red Fort, Mr. Hamid is able to utilize his skills in advocacy, strategy, government, and business.
He advises companies on how to achieve success in Washington D.C. as well as at the state and local level by employing a multi-pronged government affairs, public affairs and sales strategy. Mr. Hamid is a dynamic, proven executive who recently successfully exited as the CEO and co-founder of INADEV, a cutting edge digital technology firm. He led INADEV from start up to multi-millions in revenue in 5 years with a mix of government and commercial business. Mr. Hamid has 23 years of leadership in both the public and private sectors. Prior to his work in the digital space, Mr. Hamid was a partner in a national law firm focusing on government affairs and public finance. He first came to the Washington D.C. area as a Director of FBR Capital Markets, Inc., a leading investment banking firm. At FBR, he helped raise an investment fund with former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.
Ferhan previously spent 13 years in government, finishing his government career as Managing Deputy Comptroller for the City of Chicago. While in that position, he successfully transformed business processes to streamline and modernize finance operations, saving the City millions of dollars. As a top aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley, he managed a $400M budget and administered a self-insured insurance health care plan covering over 130,000 individuals. He also produced and negotiated two groundbreaking benefits plans with the City’s 43 labor unions. Previously Ferhan served as Deputy Comptroller and Assistant Comptroller for the City of Chicago and as Counsel for the Chicago Park District. He started his career as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois.
Mr. Hamid serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Virginia Lottery. He was first appointed to the Board in 2016 by Governor Terry McAuliffe and then re-appointed to a 5-year term in 2017. Mr. Hamid recently served on Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northum’s Transition Policy Team advising on Commerce and Trade. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Democratic Business Council of Northern Virginia. Mr. Hamid is an Alumni Member of MissionLink, an executive level forum designed to foster collaboration and innovation in the areas of defense, intelligence, and national security. He previously served as the Industry Co-Chair of American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council, Digital Working Group, established to assist the Obama Administration with its digital government strategy. Ferhan received his B.A. with Honors from the University of Illinois, Urbana and his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law.
A strategic consultant, millennial entrepreneur, & media commentator based in Washington, DC for over a decade, Rina Shah has been nationally-recognized as an astute businesswoman with a strong streak of political activism. Prior to launching Rilax Strategies – a boutique practice specializing in government affairs, political consulting, and strategic communications – Rina served as a senior aide to two Republican Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Her expertise is in building winning strategies for political and issue advocacy campaigns at every level as well as in offering strategic guidance to a wide-range of domestic and international corporations, including start-up ventures, which seek to navigate the legislative and executive branches of U.S. government.
Since completing studies at the George Washington University and Cornell’s Johnson School of Management, Rina has single-handedly or jointly formed nearly ten small businesses. Notable highlights in her consulting career include serving in the senior leadership of two U.S. Presidential campaigns; most recently, Rina was tapped as Chief Spokesperson and one of the top strategists for the 2016 campaign of Independent U.S. presidential candidate Evan McMullin. Her background also includes roles such as acting as the spokeswoman for NextGenGOP and serving on the Board of Directors for RightNOW Women PAC. She was recognized by BMW-USA as recipient of their 2016 “Pay It 4Ward” award for her diverse, high-impact work in various communities and for “lifting others up as [she] rise[s].” In 2017, DC Inno had this to say when they recognized her for their “50 on Fire” award: “If you’ve been in Washington, DC for any length of time, chances are you’ve heard of Shah.” Washington Life Magazine placed her among the city’s most influential young professionals in naming her to their 2018 “Young & the Guest List.”
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Nick Rathod is a Managing Director at Red Fort Strategies. Mr. Rathod was the previously the founder and Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange (SiX). In 2014, Nick successfully merged several organizations together to form SiX, including Progressive States Network, Center on State Innovation, and the American Legislative Issues and Campaign Exchange (ALICE). Prior to SiX, Nick served as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Obama-Biden Transition Team. In these roles, Nick served as President Obama’s liaison to states and U.S. territories. Nick also worked with Senator Elizabeth Warren to help with the building and establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), serving as the Bureau’s Assistant Director, in charge of Intergovernmental and International Affairs.
Nick has also served as a Senior Advisor to former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senior Manager of State and Regional Affairs at the Center for American Progress, and Director of State Campaigns for Mayor Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety. A lawyer by training, Nick has also worked as a civil rights attorney and community organizer, with a focus on language access, housing discrimination, and immigrant rights issues. He is a founding member and former Chairman of the Board of Directors of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national nonprofit dedicated to empowering the South Asian community.