Ritesh Desai, president of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, stood in front of the Hindu temple in Gwinnett County and marveled at the structure made of limestone, marble and sandstone that was hand carved in India. The temple is expected to last at least a thousand years.
“The entire thing was put together in less than 18 months,” said Mr. Desai, describing how hundreds of local volunteers helped piece together the interlocking stones. “This building is a labor of love.”
Mr. Desai speaks in equally glowing terms about the business potential between Georgia and India. “With a 1 billion- person consumer base in India, the possibilities are absolutely endless,” he said. “India is a democracy. You have a huge talent pool. It’s a win-win situation.”
There are 65,624 metro Atlantans of Indian descent, according to U.S. Census Bureau. Indian-Americans outnumber all other Asian groups in metro Atlanta, including those of Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese descent, according to the Census. Later this year, the government of India is expected to open a consulate general in Atlanta, which Mr. Desai believes will boost local business connections.
Also on the horizon, Indian information technology giant Wipro Technologies is planning a software development center in Atlanta. Wipro announced the center in August 2007 but delayed the expansion because of the economic downturn.
At a March meeting of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber, Suraj Prakash, a Wipro vice president in charge of Atlanta operations, predicted, “In times to come I’m sure that Wipro will be as big in Atlanta as it is in Bangalore, and that really is our dream.” The company’s plan was to have 500 employees in Atlanta after three years. “We are well on our way to exceed the target,” Mr. Prakash told GlobalAtlanta in late July.
Mr. Desai, who will be chamber president through the end of the year, shares that vision of large-scale business ties between Georgia and India. Born in India, Mr. Desai moved to the United States at age 12. He has lived in Gwinnett County since 1990 and has several businesses including Eshco Global Investments LLC which helps companies enter emerging markets such as India.
The recent decision by Delta Air Lines Inc. to suspend the Atlanta to Mumbai flight, ending all of its non-stop service between the U.S. and India, is only a temporary setback for trade, said Mr. Desai.
“It was disheartening for us to hear that, especially given that I was on the inaugural (Atlanta-Mumbai) flight,” he said. “There are a lot of people who benefit from the direct flight.”
Yet Mr. Desai said he understands Delta’s need to make tough business decisions in a down economy. “Hopefully, when the economy improves, they will reconsider,” he said.
With 300 members and growing, the Georgia Indo-American Chamber will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a gala Nov. 21. Among its many events this year, the chamber hosted a dinner for Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan of the Supreme Court of India in Atlanta in March. It co-hosted a reception for Indian delegates to the Bio International Convention in Atlanta in May. It also has a partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority, working to recruit Indian shippers.
The chamber’s approach has been to connect government, business and civic groups in the common purpose of promoting trade. “We have been the catalyst of Indo-Georgia growth,” said chamber board member and trade committee co-chair Roop Singh.
The chamber holds frequent networking events and works constantly to recruit Indian companies here. “With a large and fast- growing middle class, it is hard to ignore India as a business destination,” said Mr. Desai. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Georgia ports and a friendly business environment in Georgia are among the many factors that make the state conducive for trade with India, he added. “Georgia and India are a marriage made in heaven,” he said.
For more information on the Georgia Indo-American Chamber click here .