Silicon Valley Hinduism:
South Asian Innovation Drives American Progress
Sun Microsystems cofounder Vinod Khosla and Hotmail cofounder
Sabeer Bhatia stand as pioneers among technology's barons. Their rise from
immigrants to industry legends symbolizes the profound, though less visible,
South Asian business encounter with America, as the United States' high-technology
industry reaps tremendous rewards from the tenacity and technological-savviness
of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. A first wave of "highly educated
[Indus] people" starts immigrating to America in the mid-1960s "for higher
studies," and most immigrants of this influx stay to work. When the immigrants
find themselves unable to climb the corporate ladder in the 1970s, some
leave to form their own companies, as does former Advanced Microsystems
president Saiyed Atiq Raza. Others construct professional organizations
based upon ethnic ties to mentor new arrivals to the Valley and to financially
support members' ventures. Indo-Americans now rank among Silicon Valley's
most influential technology developers and entrepreneurs.
Immigrants bring culture in addition to engineering skills. Silicon
Valley firms now cater to the employees' palates, as company cafeterias
now stock Indian dishes. Religious identity appears important to the group,
as Johnathan Thaw finds that Hindus make up 83 % of Silicon Valley's Indians.
President Clinton even issues a proclamation in 2000 to acknowledge Diwali,
"the ancient Festival of Lights," upon the suggestion of one Silicon Valley
Statistics greatly reveal South Asians' influence on Silicon Valley.
Though RN 313 attempts to characterize Hinduism's place in America, one
can find very little data on Hinduism's influence specifically. Instead,
one must rely upon Thaw's discovery that most Indo-Americans identify themselves
as Hindu in order to ascertain the prominence of Hindus among Silicon Valley's
Indians' Professional Presence
Silicon Valley's Indians represent a "very highly educated" community.
98 % of Thaw's respondents arrive in Silicon Valley with an undergraduate
degree, and 78 % have attained "some form of post-graduate qualification".
1990 census information indicates that "Indians made up 23 percent of the
regionís Asian-born engineers".
28,520 Asian Indians work in Silicon Valley as of 1999.
82% of the Indian migrants work in high-technology fields. According to
Thaw, "Occupations involving computers and communications accounted for
26 percent of respondents, software for 56 percent and semiconductor/equipment
for 6 percent".
Forbes magazine named seven Indian immigrants to its list of the wealthiest
Americans in the year 2000: Sanjiv Sidhu with $ 9.8 billion, Gururaj Deshpande
with $ 7.6 billion, Pradeep Sindhu with $2.6 billion, Naveen Jain with
$2.2 billion, Rajendra Singh with $ 1.4 billion, Romesh Wadhwani with $1.3
billion, Vinod Khosla with $ 1 billion
Indian CEOs lead 16,598 individuals of 774 Silicon Valley firms in 1998.
America's Indian population "numbers about one million, and its median
family income ranks among the highest in the nation".
Over 1,000 Indians have founded Silicon Valley companies, and those companies
have a total value of "more than $40 billion".
Indians begin "10 per cent of the start-ups in Silicon Valley between 1995
"40% of all start-up companies include Indian Americans on staff".
Though "only 14% of Indian immigrants have gone into business for themselves,
" as compared to 33 % self-employment for Korean immigrants, one venture
capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, "says 40% of its portfolio
consists of companies founded or managed by persons of Indian origin"
Indians start 23 percent of Silicon Valley e-commerce companies.
Looking Back while Looking Ahead:
Transnationalism Characterizes Migrants
78 % of respondents to Thaw's study "return to India every other year or
Over 50 % of Thaw's respondents communicate each week with friends at home.
65 % of migrants send money back to India, and over 25 % of those migrants
give one-fifth or more of their income.
Indian Immigration Patterns
Indians make up 46 % of H-1B visa recipients, and receive "about 20% of
all the H1B visas issued each year, by far the largest proportion."
Indian migrants have social, business, or familial links to Silicon Valley
before departing India. " 57 percent of respondents had friends in Silicon
Valley prior to migrating, 43 percent had family contacts, and 9 percent
had business contacts already established".
Migrants accompany migrants. "57 percent of Indians migrating to the United
States came with either friends and/or family".
Studies on Asian Immigrants in America
Influential Indian Digerati
pictures courtesy of Silicon
India and Kleiner, Perkins,Caufield &
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