An emotional Ajit Pai, the first Indian-American to head the powerful communications regulator in the US, recalled the journey of his parents to the US almost 50 years ago to provide better opportunities to him and his sister, as he called on the community to inspire the next generation of Indian-Americans to excel and keep the spirit of opportunity in both countries alive.
Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was the Chief Guest at the launch of the North East New York Regional Chapter of the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce (IAICC) held at the Consulate General of India in New York on Wednesday.
Addressing the event attended by Minister (Commerce) in the Embassy of India in Washington DC Manoj Kumar Mohapatra and members of the Indian-American community, Pai, 46, lauded the significant contributions made by members of the community across sectors in the US, including finance, technology, education, sports, art and culture.
He spoke about the journey of his parents - his mother grew up in Bangalore and his father in Hyderabad - in 1971 to come to the US with literally nothing else but USD 8and belief in the American dream.
Pai got very emotional and held back tears as he recounted the sacrifices his parents and grandparents, like so many other immigrants, made to get him and his sister opportunities that they didn't have growing up in India in the 1940s and 1950s.
And I am always amazed that nearly half a century after my parents' journey from India, here I stand before you - the grandson of a small auto parts salesman and a file clerk - getting tapped by the President of the United States, two of them as a matter of fact, to serve in this important position. Only in America, Pai said, his voice choking, amid a round of applause from the audience.
He said the story of his parents may be to many the quintessential tale of Indian-Americans' determination to succeed and to others, it is the American dream manifest.
I would say that they are both right. Let's continue this tradition of excellence, let's inspire the next generation of Indian-Americans to surpass us and let us continue to keep that spirit of opportunity in both of our countries alive.
He also highlighted the success stories of prominent Indian-origin people such as Google head Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, former CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi and artists Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari to illustrate their achievements and contributions to America.
Noting that the Chamber recently commemorated 30 years of its existence, Pai said three decades ago, there were about 800,000 Indian-Americans in the United States and it was quite rare to see Indian-Americans in public office or on the TV screen or anywhere else in public life.
The Indian-American community has now grown to be 4.5 million people strong. If you look in the tech sector, which has arguably become the most dominant force in our culture and Indian-Americans are leading the way.
Multiple world leading technology companies including Google and Microsoft now feature Indian or Indian-American chief executive officers and nearly one in every four Silicon Valley startups is founded by somebody who is desi', he said, using the term used for people in the US from India.
He also referred to Indian-origin MIT professor Abhijit Banerjee who won the Nobel Prize for economics, something that might have been unthinkable just 30 years ago.
Pai recalled that while growing up in a very small town in the rural parts of Kansas, which had about 10,000 people, he did not see many from the Indian subcontinent in the area and how his parents had to drive a few hours to be a part of the broader Indian-American community.
Having lived through those times, I remember what it was like, I know how valuable it remains to preserve those ties with the broader Indian-American community, he said.
Pai said that he is confident more entrepreneurs will be able to benefit from the Chamber's activities, including through networking opportunities and expertise.
The President of the New York Chapter is Mike Narulla, while the Chamber's President and CEO is KV Kumar.
Attending the launch were the Chamber's Chairman Appen Menon, Chairman of Board of Trustees Sudhir Parikh, New York Regional Chair Ravishankar Bhooplapur, Secretary Glenn Falcao, President, Forum on Women in Business and Leadership, and President, Virginia State Chapter Nandini Selvam and Chair, CA State Chapter, Priya Tandon.
Kumar said the Chamber provides vital resources and acts as a catalyst between businesses in the US and India. Menon said the launch of the New York chapter of the Chamber establishes a crucial presence in the financial capital of the world. IAICC is also planning to launch two new chapters in New Hampshire and San Francisco in December.
Set up in 1990, IAICC is an umbrella organisation focussed on providing a sustainable platform to US and Indian businesses, exchange ideas and promote economic growth and development.
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