Five NRIs climb obstacles for a better India


Five NRIs climb obstacles for a better India
Mobina Jaffer

We feature prominent NRIs across the globe who have made a mark for themselves and continue to build their careers despite challenges

By Nithin Belle

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Published: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 10:56 AM

Last updated: Sun 27 Jan 2019, 2:35 PM

Many Indians have over the years ventured abroad, pursued different careers and later built a reputation for themselves, bringing joy and pride to their compatriots. While many of the first generation of migrants have done well, the second generation, born abroad, are also making their mark internationally. We feature five prominent Indians - or Indian-origin people - living across the globe who have made a mark for themselves and continue to build their careers despite challenges.

Mobina Jaffer
Senator, British Columbia, Canada
When Jaffer was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2001 she was the first Muslim senator, the first Africa-born senator and the first senator of South Asian descent.
A member of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, Finance, Official Languages and Internal Affairs, the Liberal Party member practised law and also served as the Queen's counsel.
"I love my job," Jaffer said in a recent interview. "To be a politician, there is no other job that gives you the opportunities that a politician has. Every day you can make a difference, and you can be a part of the conversation."
She served as Canada's Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan for four years from 2002 and also chaired the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace, and Security.

Surinder Arora
Founder and Chairman, Arora Hotels, UK
When Arora was not yet in his teens, he would be roaming the streets of a city in Punjab, armed with a knife, a cigarette between his lips and busy gambling away.
His parents were in the UK and he had been adopted by his uncle and aunt. But the tough kid that he was, Arora was not worried about his future or his family. When he turned 13, however, his parents brought him to Southall - dubbed Little Punjab - where he hoped to continue with his rough ways.
But his mother was tough and warned him she would chuck him out of their home if he continued with his bad ways. Fortunately, he listened to her and life took a dramatic turn since then.
Today, the 60-year-old Arora is a successful hotelier in the UK - he bought the Renaissance London Heathrow hotel in 2012, where he had worked as a waiter in the 1970s - among the richest Asians in the country, and has built a fortune exceeding £350 million over the past 20 years.
He is close to the royal family in Britain and is also a good friend of former prime minister Tony Blair. His group has seven hotels with nearly 3,000 rooms across the UK.

Akshay Venkatesh
Professor of Mathematics (number theory), Institute for Advanced Study, New Jersey, US

A mathematician, he recently joined the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey as a professor of mathematics. He was earlier the professor of mathematics at Stanford University and won the 2018 Fields Medal, the highest honour in maths.
"A lot of the time, when you do the math, you're stuck," said Venkatesh after getting the prestigious awards. "But at the same time, there are all these moments where you feel privileged that you get to work with it. And you have this sensation of transcendence. You feel like you've been part of something really meaningful."
Venkatesh, whose family is originally from Tamil Nadu, was born in Delhi in 1981; his family moved to Australia when he was two. When he was just 11, he won a bronze at the 24th International Physics Olympiad in Virginia in the US.
The young student also won medals at the Australian Mathematical Olympiad and the Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad. Later, he did his PhD at Princeton University. He has contributed significantly to mathematics especially in number theory, automorphic forms and representation theory.

Rita Baranwal
Director, Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative, and appointed Assistant Secretary of Energy, US government

Baranwal, whose parents are Indian, has been nominated by US President Donald Trump as Assistant Secretary of Energy and to head the nuclear energy division.
With a degree in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a PhD from the University of Michigan, Baranwal was earlier director of technology development and application at Westinghouse.
Baranwal joined the nuclear science and technology directorate of the Idaho National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy's complex national laboratories, in 2016 as Director for the GAIN initiative.
"The unconventional and energetic spirit that created the commercial nuclear energy industry will again transform our country," Baranwal wrote recently. "New, smaller and more efficient reactors are being developed to combat climate change and meet the energy demand."
She believes that nuclear energy is essential for the economy as "it creates thousands of high-paying jobs in the US and helps fund schools, fire and police protection, roads, parks, zoos and other amenities. There's a lot at stake, but the rewards are high. And the time is now to power America's future."

Prem Watsa
Chairman and CEO, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, Toronto, Canada

It requires a lot of courage to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a country embattled in crises for several years and yet not regret it.
Watsa, the Indo-Canadian billionaire businessman - also dubbed the Canadian Warren Buffett - is believed to have lost more than $600 million in Greece over the past five years.
"What Greece has gone through is a unique situation," Watsa said in an interview to an American news agency. "When a country goes through a 25 per cent drop in GDP, it's very difficult for any bank to do well. It needs to be recapitalised, it needs more money to come in. But that's history now."
Watsa says he is in Greece for the long term and will continue ploughing more funds into the country. The 69-year-old Hyderabad-born tycoon did his chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and later joined his brother in Canada, where he enrolled for an MBA course, paying his fees by selling appliances door-to-door.
He started his own business in 1984 and like his idol, Warren Buffett, began acquiring insurance companies. The self-made billionaire was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015.


Surinder Arora
Surinder Arora
Akshay Venkatesh
Akshay Venkatesh
Rita Baranwal
Rita Baranwal
Prem Watsa
Prem Watsa

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