Gujarati American Businessmen and Why They are Thriving

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Gujarati immigrants in the United States have found success across various industries, contributing to both their community and the US economy.
  • Many Gujarati Americans initially entered as students, overcoming hardships and striving for success.
  • Over time, they have excelled in fields such as technology, hospitality, and retail, with nearly half of the hotels in the US owned by Gujarati Americans, known as “potels.”
  • Notable individuals like Romesh T. Wadhwani and Bharat Desai have become some of the richest people in America, and Gujarati-run companies like Atos Syntel, Symphony Technology Group, 3D Systems, and Patel Brothers have made significant contributions to their respective industries.

With the new visa laws in the United States – particularly as they seem to be getting more and more strict – it might be hard for a Gujarat Indian to do business there. However, provided they get the right visa and prove to be an asset not only to their home country but the US as well, the Gujarati can be very successful.

And why wouldn’t they be? As long as there are enough resources for them to work with, each person can become successful – including the Gujarati. Many Gujarati arrived penniless in the United States and over time, they have become more successful. Some may even say that they are some of the most successful people in the world. And this article will give you some ideas on how they did it.

Gujaratis and Success in the US

In the past, not often would you find a Gujarati person doing business in the United States. However, nowadays, you may see Gujarati folk doing business everywhere – from small corner shops to big hotels and techno shops that seem to be high-edge. These communities of immigrants have not only allowed themselves to flourish – but have also let the US flourish alongside them.

That being said, most of these people came to the United States as Indian Students. During this time, they studied, endured harsh oppression – but swore that they would be successful. At such a large distance from home, they made sure that they would set the path towards a good life for themselves.

Gujarati people have never been put off by something as insignificant as temperature or distance. As long as they could find the resources to make a decent and proper living, their home could be anywhere else – even in the United States.

And just like every other immigrant coming from afar, they were not always viewed with the best eyes. Some actually believed that unless they were “American,” they were not welcome to join their working society. It was only after some harsh moments in history that people stopped oppressing those of other colors.

Now, however, the focus has shifted more towards what a person can do rather than what they look like. People of Indian origin have made themselves noticed in the IT fields, raising the economy of both India and the United States. Now, we see them at the top of technology companies, hotel chains, and even supermarkets. What used to be a minority in the United States has now grown to quite a significant number – and these people are becoming more and more important to the economy of the United States.

Gujaratis Americans and the Hotel Industry

You may not know this, but nearly half of the motels and hotels in the United States are actually owned by the Gujarati Americans. How did this actually happen, you may wonder? Well, it all started in 1940, when a large number of people from India began migrating to the United States in search of the American dream.

Most of the motels owned by Gujarati Indians are actually referred to as “potels” – a term derived from Patel, the name of a group that came to the US during that time as well – the Patel family. This group made the migration because as a farming class, they would always work for themselves and would never work for anyone else.

This is why they decided that it was time to move onto the “greener” lands of America. It wasn’t a smooth ride, and it took a fairly long time for them to adjust, as they had no knowledge of this new country. However, what they could agree on was that many people migrating there would need a place to stay – and so the first motels were born.

The first motel to appear was said to be owned by an illegal immigrant Indian called Kanjibhai Desai. At first, working in the hotel business was very challenging, and only a handful of Indian-owned inns, motels, and hotels could be found. However, after a while, more Patels moved into the country – and since their businesses generally ran into the family, more and more “potels” began to appear. It was unglamorous during that time – but it was a family business that brought them pride.

These motels have grown over the centuries, and more and more Gujarati people began investing in property. These properties would further be transformed into living headquarters for travelers – therefore, raising the Patel business (and the American hotel industry) up the ranks.

Gujarati Businessmen in the US among the Richest in America

Who says that immigrants can’t go big in the United States? As long as you know what you are doing and you have a clear vision, it should be fairly easy to give yourself a kick start. Granted, finding the right line of business will also help your cause. Here are some people that seem to have had the right idea, as they reached the top of America’s richest people.

Romesh T. Wadhwani

With a net worth of $3.30 billion dollars, Romesh T. Wadhwani has made it in the top 20 richest people of the United States. His line of business dives into software, launching himself as a self-made entrepreneur and founding Symphony Technology Group.

Plus, aside from being a businessman, he is also a philanthropist. He opened numerous research centers – and with each discovery, he kept bringing more into the software sphere. He has also founded the Wadhwani foundation in an attempt to improve the socio-economic development in countries that were not so well-off – including India.

Bharat Desai

With his birthplace in Kenya, Bharat Desai actually grew up in Gujarati, India, before he moved to America and obtained his citizenship. Together with his wife, Neerjia Sethi, he created an outsourcing and technology company from their own apartment in Michigan – their company’s name being Atos Syntel.

Bharat Desai also launched the DSF (Desai Sethi Foundation) together with his wife – the focus being on the underprivileged youth from Michigan and Florida. They also gave remittance to Indian organizations and schools that they felt a personal connection to.

Top Gujarati-run Companies in the US

In the United States, there are several successful companies that are led by Gujarati people. Some founded it – and some inherited it. The main idea is that these people managed to successfully take an idea, hone it, and turn it into something successful.

Atos Syntel

A division of Atos, Atos Syntel also has a Gujarati as a chairman – namely, Bharat Desai. Focusing on providing integrated technology mixed with business services, the company has been founded in 1980 – and ever since then, it had become one of the biggest tech-based companies in the entire United States.

Symphony Technology Group

When we think of companies of rich Gujarati, it’s difficult not to think about the business that is led by one of the richest men in the United States – namely, Romesh T. Wadhwani’s Symphony Technology Group. Founded in Palo Alto, California, 2002, with Wadhwani as a managing partner, this private equity firm specializes in buyouts, startups, growth capital, and so on.

3D Systems

Found in Rock Hill, South Carolina, this company manufactures, engineers, and sells 3D printers, stereolithography systems, and other similar systems. The company has more than 2,500 employees, and it has been founded by a Gujarati Indian named Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi.

3D Systems also provides software materials that can be used with their 3D sculpting devices. These technologies are generally used in the design department, where various physical objects with unique shapes need to be produced. Nowadays, these 3D printers have also become rather popular – which is why its founder has gained a lot of success.

Patel Brothers

Patel Brothers, Inc. is a supermarket chain in Hanover Park, Illinois, featuring 57 locations in 19 different states of the US. Most of them are found in New Jersey, mostly because that is the place that has the highest concentration of Indians. The store mostly focuses on Indian food – but you may find American products as well, as the supermarket provides Asian-American products.

The company is, in fact, a family business. Founded by two brothers that grew up in Badhu, Gujarat – Mafat and Tulsi Patel – the store’s purpose was to bring a taste of India in a place that completely lacked this cuisine. Mafat and Tulsi stepped down from the business, and Patel Brothers is now run by Swetal and Rakesh Patel, Mafat’s sons. To this day, the trademark brings quite a lot of revenue.

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Final Thoughts

Being a Gujarati Indian in the United States was not easy in the past – but as immigrants became invested, they have managed to achieve the American Dream. Some were successful in the hotel industry. Others made software their line of study. The bottom line here is that nothing could have been accomplished without a fair amount of hard work.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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