Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Indian Americans - Ambassadors of Hope

Consul General Katherine Dhanani distributing loans to beneficiaries of a local bank 
Since I arrived in Hyderabad, I’ve been amazed by the number of Indian-Americans I’ve met and by the tremendous contributions they’re making.  They tend to describe their own odyssey humbly, suggesting that now that India is transformed, it’s natural that they would bring back and invest in their birthplace the rewards they accumulated during decades in the U.S.  But that greatly understates their accomplishments.  It’s not easy to make a living in the U.S., and even harder in one generation to save a substantial amount.  And the investments they are making in India are certainly not passive, secure or easy.  Many of them have created companies from scratch that now employ thousands.  The same ingenuity and entrepreneurial intelligence that helped them succeed in the United States is at work here in India.  I greatly respect their undertakings.
During my visit to Vijayawada I got an up-close look at two undertakings where Indian-Americans are investing with a philanthropic side, supporting the communities from which they came—and which may end up proving to be good investments as well.  One involved a shareholder’s insistence that the local bank he chaired should make microfinance loans at low interest rates.  I blogged about the results of that for the borrowers last week; it has also turned out to be a good, though modest, business for the bank. The second is the NRI Medical College and Hospital. Some thirty Indian-American doctors from the Vijayawada area each contributed a million U.S. dollars to establish this new institution.  It is now providing top notch medical education for students and low cost state-of-the-art medical care for villages outside Guntur. 
I’m proud that my fellow Americans are remembering their roots and changing the lives of so many Indians.  I’d like to think their actions reflect what they learned in the United States but I know that their Indian roots have influenced them just as much.  Whatever has influenced these philanthropic individuals, both India and the United States have benefitted. 

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