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January 2023
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A Leading Light in India

By Paul Sterman


One of this organization’s great success stories in recent years has been the dramatic growth of Toastmasters in India. Deepak Menon has played a key role in that story.

When the new International President first joined Toastmasters, in 2002, only a handful of clubs existed in the country. Today there are nearly 900. The first club in India didn’t form until 1991. The first district didn’t emerge until 2006. Now, less than 15 years later, the country has four districts.

When that initial district did form, consisting of 40 clubs in India and Sri Lanka, Menon knew something special was building. However, when he first joined as a member of the Toastmasters of New Delhi (still his home club), it was the city’s only club. At first, says Menon, the club was content to stay in its own bubble.

“We weren’t that aware of other Indian clubs or clubs elsewhere in the world. We were happy within ourselves, learning and growing.” But as the club grew, so did its ambitions. “The New Delhi club started getting a bit lonely,” says Menon. “As we got better, we wanted to start more Toastmasters clubs.”

As Menon has often noted, business community support was vital to Toastmasters growth in India. Of the 875 clubs in the country at the end of the 2018–2019 program year, more than half—480—are company-sponsored clubs. Menon says the large percentage is proof that companies in India realize that Toastmasters training is invaluable to their employees, and, ultimately, a cost-effective business asset.

Indian leaders, through their dynamic drive, spurred club growth, giving rise to clubs and members who were increasingly inspired by the spirit of self-improvement, especially in English language and presentation skills.

District 82 now has more than 300 clubs—more than any other Toastmasters district—and about 8,000 members. It has also been the home of Past International President Balraj Arunasalam (2017–2018), DTM, and 2014 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, both of Sri Lanka.

Following another membership surge in the northern, eastern and western parts of India, District 41 was formed in 2011. Menon’s home club is now part of that district. It was Smedley Distinguished—the top level of the District Recognition Program—in 2018-2019, and was President’s Distinguished the three years before that.

District 41 covers over 200 clubs in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Since 2014, two more districts have formed in India: districts 92 and 98.

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