Of the many people affected by the recession, some not typically thought about are Indian Americans. Just a few years ago, Indian Americans were lauded for their success in the hotel and motel industry, owning 43% of all hotels and motels in the United States in 2007 according to this USA Today article. With the recession and technologies like video conference cutting back on travel, this article from Khabar (also posted here at New American Media) says that many Indian Americans have had to downsize their American Dream during the current recession. “You are asking me about my American Dream?” asks hotel owner Vimal Kumar Kolappa incredulously. “Right now it’s so bad that if you survive, that itself is fulfillment of a dream.”
Other businesses are being affected, such as the Haven Trust Bank, a bank started by Gujarati pioneers of the hotel industry that was shut down by federal regulators late last year. American United Bank, started just a couple years back by Indian Americans, was shutdown last October.
Closer to my Silicon Valley home, the NAZ 8 theaters in Fremont have shutdown. These theaters showing Indians movies once did 16,000 customers a week during the tech boom but are lucky to have that many customers a month. The theaters will be taken over by Big Cinemas, India’s largest movie theatre chain, which also owns theaters in nearby San Jose.
While it may be difficult to feel much sympathy for owners of hotels, banks, and theaters (many of the commenters of the article at New America Media certainly don’t have any sympathy – more like antipathy), Indian American seniors have been harder hit. Some Indian American taxi drivers, already suffering from high gas prices, ridership drops, and reduced shifts, who have seen up to 30% reduction in their income. Seema Agnani, Director of Chhaya CDC, a housing non-profit group for South Asians in New York, says that many Indian Americans have fallen for loan modification scams. While Indian Americans are often thought of having high incomes, they are all over the economic spectrum and suffer from the recession like everyone else.