HOUSTON (TIP): Move over New Jersey and Fremont, California. With a population of 150,000 Indian-Americans, Houston, Texas, is emerging as a new hub for the community. “A couple of decades back many Indian professionals had come to Houston, including doctors who came to work at the famous Texas Medical Center and engineers who came to join Nasa’s Johnson Space Center. But now members of the community have come of age with many of them becoming entrepreneurs and setting up different ventures, including those in manufacturing and energy and petrochemicals,” says Jagdip Ahluwalia, a Houston-based businessman, who was a faculty member of the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, before moving to the US.
An example is Piping Technology & Products, which was a set up in 1978 by Durga D Agrawal in his garage. Today, the company has a wide industrial product range, including pipe supports, expansion joints and shock control devices and more. The company has grown through acquisitions of Sweco Fab, Fronek Anchor/Darling, Pipe Shields and US Bellows.”
Piping Tech is among the largest employers in the greater Houston area and its founder is a well-known businessman and influencer, who supports charitable and philanthropic activities,” says Ahluwalia.
He adds that there are many other Indian-American owned companies such as Vinmar International, a petrochemicals company and hospitality and food services majors in Houston. “And members of the community are now also playing an important role in public life and community services, and are visible in various leadership positions in Houston,” says Ahluwalia, who is executive director and a founder member of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston.
Ravi K Sandill, judge of the 127th district court in Harris County of Houston, became the first South Asian to hold the position in the US while another Indian-American, Himesh Gandhi, was elected to the Sugar Land City Council in 2012. Nandita Berry, an Indian-American attorney from Houston, was the former secretary of state of Texas.
“Indians are now among the most-respected communities in the Greater Houston area with many making an impact in public policy. We now have a place at the table and there are Indian faces in different administrative and community organizations,” says Sanjay Ramabhadran, vice president at CP&Y, a Texas-based infrastructure consulting firm.
He was honored as one of the 10 outstanding young Americans in 2012 by the US Junior Chamber. He adds that the chancellor of the University of Houston, Dr Renu Khator, who had helped make UH a tier-1 university and generate huge revenues, is a prominent member of the community.
But it’s not just in business and public life that Indians in Houston are coming of age. Members of the community are also involved in philanthropic and charitable causes. “Sugar Land city in Houston has emerged as a hub for Indian-Americans.
There are a large number of Indian restaurants across Greater Houston and the city is very friendly towards those arriving from India,” says Ashok Garg, who runs his company Allied Exports and is president of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. He is associated with various community activities including serving on the board of Literacy Advance of Houston and is currently on the board of Lighthouse of Houston, a non-profit dedicated to helping the visually impaired.
A recent business delegation to India from Houston, led by Houston mayor Annise D Parker, had several meetings with key business leaders in energy, engineering and government. Bobby Singh, principal at Isani Consultants that offers civil engineering and construction services in Houston, said in regard to the mission, “Houston is a diverse, immigrant-friendly city where Indo-Americans like myself share in the city’s success and we have a mayor who recognizes the importance of nurturing those international ties.”