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South Asians' tech savvy buoys media

  • The growth of South Asians in the Bay Area has coincided with the rise of the ethnic media that cover them

    By Ellen Lee
    CONTRA COSTA TIMES


    Vinod Khosla's smiling face peers from the cover of Forbes' Feb. 19, 2001, issue, which focuses on the "50 most powerful dealmakers."

    But years before Khosla's face graced the covers of the business and technology industry's mainstream magazines, he was featured on the front of Siliconindia's debut August 1997 issue.

    It's no surprise that Siliconindia, a Newark-based magazine focusing on business and technology issues in India and the United States, was one of the first to highlight Khosla, Sun Microsystems' co-founder and now partner of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The growth of South Asians in the United States, and particularly the Bay Area, has coincided with that of the ethnic media that cover them.

    More than 3 million South Asians live in North America, most of them concentrated in the medical, technology and hospitality sectors, according to South Asian marketing firm Masala Marketing Communications.

    From San Leandro-based India West to San Ramon's INDOlink to the oldest of them all, India Abroad, founded during the early 1960s and headquartered in New York, the South Asian ethnic media have documented the journey of South Asians to the United States. They provide a connection to the country the immigrants left, and for some, a home where they hope eventually to return.

    The topics they address range from immigration to India's movie-making industry, Bollywood, to the popular pastime, cricket. And more often than before, business and technology issues have come to the forefront of their coverage.

    The publications are "responding to a specific thing, the sudden growth of the number of tech people working in Silicon Valley," said Sreenath Sreenivasan, professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

    Earlier this year, Fremont-based Post Media Group launched TechBiz, both as a part of its 138,000-readership weekly newsmagazine, India Post, and its weekly television program, Post Television Network, which airs in the Bay Area on KTSF Ch. 26 and reaches an estimated 2.75 million Bay Area viewers.

    Founded seven years ago by cardiologist Romesh Japra, the Post Media Group launched the new division in January so it could feature business and technology stories in a formal fashion.

    "The content was there because of the mass of South Asians in technology," said Raj Singh, vice president of business development. "It lends itself well to highlight what they're doing."

    The section includes an index of Indian companies, a list of the top five weekly stock market gainers and losers, columns by South Asian financial analysts and a profile of "companies of consequence."

    "Whatever momentum is out there, we're helping increase the momentum," Singh said.

    Founded in 1997, Siliconindia also saw how the demographics in the technology industry were changing.

    "In the late 1990s, there was the leap of faith that professionals took to go from being engineers or vice presidents of marketing to becoming entrepreneurs and CEOs," said Yogesh Sharma, editor and co-founder of Siliconindia. "What we were witnessing were the early movers trying to make a mark."

    Siliconindia sought to capture that in its glossy monthly magazine. It began with an article on Khosla and went on to chart the rise of South Asian-owned and operated companies, such as WebEx, i2 Technologies and Sonic WALL.

    Its readership has expanded, with an estimated 85,000 subscribers and a readership of 300,000. Pallavi Gadepalli, a 25-year-old software design engineer at Hewlett-Packard, said she subscribed to the magazine partly for job leads and to stay connected with the technology community.

    "This was probably the only magazine I ever subscribed to in my whole life," she said.

    Non-South Asian executives pick up the publications, too, if not for leads, then at least to get a pulse of a community that is quickly dominating the high-tech sphere.

    "We appeal to a wide variety of audience, and more and more, the mainstream venture capitalists, investment bankers who are not Indian, who read Siliconindia because we get the deals," Sharma said. "The core group remains the same, but it's expanded on to the mainstream business and technology sector. It's simultaneous to the recognition of the Asian Indian community."

    Raj Baronia approached the growing South Asian community by leveraging the development of the Internet and launching San Ramon-based INDOlink in 1995.

    "I could see a good marriage of technology and the media," said Baronia, a former NASA rocket scientist. "The Internet was a launching pad to establish ourselves as a media company."

    That many of the recent South Asian immigrants are known to be tech-savvy was the "icing on the cake," says Baronia. The site, http://www.indolink.com/, receives 60,000 visits monthly, many of them during the lunch hour. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the hits doubled to 120,000.

    Advertisers, the lifeblood of the media, are responding. Major bellwethers of the technology industry, including Oracle, publicize in the publications, as well as a host of South Asian business owners, from real estate agents to financial advisers. INDOlink's sponsors include IBM, AT&T and Dell Computer.

    "We have always provided a focused window for the advertising market," said Baronia, who has seen advertising increase, in contrast to the decrease the rest of the media industry has endured during the economic downturn.

    PakistanLink, which is owned by Safi Qureshey, will add a science and technology section to its Web site, http://www.pakistanlink.com/, and weekly publication in the coming months. Surrounded by engineers in its office complex in Irvine, the publication is heavily influenced by the growth of Pakistanis in the high-tech industry.

    "The place where we work just hums with activity of software and hardware engineers," said editor Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui. "It's a high-tech environment where we work."

    But there's also a greater goal for adding science and technology to the Web site and weekly publication, says Faruqui.

    "The greatest equalizer today is science," he said. "You have to create awareness of science and technology to inform people of the breakthroughs so they know what's happening in the world. That's what we have in mind."

    Ellen Lee covers technology and Tri-Valley businesses. She can be reached at 925-847-2125 or elee@cctimes.com.

    On the web:

    http://www.indiaabroad.com/

    http://www.indiapost.com/

    http://www.indiawest.com/

    http://www.indolink.com/

    http://www.masala.com/

    http://www.pakistanlink.com/

    http://www.siliconindia.com/




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