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September - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature
Is this the best time to be an Indian in America?
Tariq Khan
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
The changing face of America is creating new opportunities
We are living in a new environment today where the face of America is changing. The new face of America is very diverse and full of opportunities. The visionary leaders understand that taking advantage of multicultural America is a promising way to grow. Baby boomers are considered to be one of the most sought after and lucrative markets with nearly 80 million people. Many major companies are spending lots of money to get a piece of that business. On the other hand, the U.S. multicultural population is nearly 100 million and its buying power is likely to reach U.S. $5 trillion by the year 2007, yet this target group remains nearly untapped.

Do any of these facts affect your business? YES! We simply cannot afford to ignore these changes. Smart leaders will align their business plans to leverage the opportunity. Many smart managers understand the importance of growing diverse markets, however, they consider them too complex. In fact, these markets are quite uncomplicated and the cost of entering these markets is far lower than the mainstream market.

The Asian/Indian edge
The Asian American segment in general, and specifically the Asian-Indian/South Asian segment, creates a unique and desirable opportunity. I personally prefer the term South Asian as it essentially covers the larger target market that is quite similar in psychographics. As a marketer I would divide South Asians into two groups; South Asian consumers and South Asian talent for employment. The overall South Asian American population is under three million (around one percent of the total U.S. population); however, they attribute some desirable consumer traits to the market:

* The annual household income of Asian Indians is among the highest– even higher than the general population.
* The level of education of Asian Indians is among the highest.
* The population growth rate of Asian Indians is among the highest in America.
* One percent of the Asian Indian population represents nearly eight percent of the physicians in the country.
* One percent of Asian Indians own more than 40 percent of the budget hotels/motels in the country.

These statistics clearly make them a desirable consumer group as well as potential employees.

A sign of the time
It is important that we look at the bigger picture – think of yourself as an Asian American or multicultural American. It gives you a broader outlook immediately. We are fortunate to live in a time when the diversity-survival battle has already been fought and won by other groups, with the African American group leading the way for us in this country. We are living in America when a diverse background and knowledge is valued like never before is incumbent upon us to pave the way for our younger generation.

How can we contribute?
* Educate, educate, and educate our next generation: It is extremely important for us to understand that the core of our success will be educated and skilled South Asian-Americans who will take over from us. We must educate our next generation about our cultural values, integrity, honesty, and the academics needed to make a successful career. It is fine if all our children don’t want to be doctors, engineers, or lawyers as our parents wished for us. These children should follow their dreams if they want to be a musician or a chef, for example. They all can find successful career paths in this country as long as they strive to be the best in what they do.

* Mentor someone: Many South Asians have been successful in this country and it is our responsibility to adopt at least one person whom we can mentor to be successful in life. We can make a difference in the lives of many young Americans if we commit ourselves to exert an impact on at least one career. It may not take more than a few hours a year.

*Think big: We should be proud to be American, diverse American and Asian- American. We should not divide ourselves into smaller, insignificant groups, such as North Indian, South Indian, Punjabi, Gujarati, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi. As Asian Americans, we have many cultural values in common. As Asian-Indian, we are barely one percent of the total U.S. population, while as Asian American we are nearly five percent of the total population, and as multicultural American, we are more than 30 percent of the total population. I suggest we become a part of the larger, growing group.

Perception is reality!
There is a perception in America that India is taking American jobs – is it true? In some cases, the outsourcing can be justified, as consumers need quality products and services at competitive prices. Thus, a few jobs and services would be outsourced to countries like India. We have a good example of how the Japanese approached this. The auto industry was dominated by three big American companies up until the 1980s. Today, the Japanese automakers are almost as big as the Detroit giants. In fact, some of the top-selling vehicles in America today are Japanese. However, the animosity against Japanese automakers was subdued when major Japanese automakers opened their plants on American soil and provided jobs to local Americans. Indian companies have to strategically think on these lines and find ways to look at the American public not only as consumers but also as employees.

Education happens to be one of the most common reasons for many Asians to move west - for their own education or for the next generation. The role of China and India in the global economy is making Indians a sought-after talent around the world, especially in America. Almost all immigrants came here with a purpose and a mission. I consider myself fortunate to be living in America, a country that is among the most inclusive societies for people with diverse ethnic backgrounds. Indeed, we are living in interesting times. It is our job to keep it that way. Go global…locally!

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