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
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,"
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
"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,
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.