8 out of 11 motels I stayed in were owned and run by Gujjus (Gujaratis, originally from the state of Gujarat in India). I was really surprised by this, because until then, I was only used to seeing East Indians working either in Tech or in Gas Stations, 7/11s.
Being a 1st generation Indian immigrant myself, almost always the owners would relate to me and tell me their immigrant story. And yes, almost all of them said the same thing the story mentions, i.e. borrowing money from family to buy a run-down / cheap motel business, live in it and work on it. One of them even shared their Gujju dinner with me as I'd arrive late and all the restaurants were closed in the Area ( Eureka, CA)...
Not all of them carried the business forward though. 1 guys son was working to be an Airforce Pilot and another's daughter was going to Law School. As told by their fathers neither one wanted anything to do with the Motel business, but they put in their work as kids, working at the motel while off school and such.
After moving to San Francisco, I met another Indian-American "Patel" , born to Indian immigrant parents. He too had a family run motel in Portland and would tell me stories of how everyone in the family had to pitch in to make it work. Gujjus are hard working people and I really admire their work ethics and grit.
Their network went well beyond any particular industry though. The first family friend to come to this country ended up in Houston in the early 70s, quickly accumulated wealth by innovating accounting techniques for big oil. He sponsored the next wave, which included her father who started as a nuclear plant engineer and travelled around the country for a couple decades before moving into finance then hospitality.
Each successive wave would sponsor others - they all were relatively successful in India but came here to be executives at tech companies, surgeons, professors, real estate investors, etc. They really took care of each other.
While the family did much of what was mentioned in the article, including living at the Days Inn for a couple years at one point, it didn't mention anything about partnership stakes in these properties. That seemed to be a big thing, or at least I had the impression that diversifying property portfolios was common. Her father owned his properties outright but that was because he bought his partners out during the financial collapse in 2009. When we last talked 2 years back, he was looking to acquire new partners and invest in other properties.
As you say, there was a tension to bring the children in but they had little interest in moving to a place in a so-so part of Florida - the children were well educated, travelled, cultured etc and preferred to live in big cities. My ex and I did grudgingly discuss it as being an option if we started a family.
I had a Gujrati friend while doing my Engineering in Bangalore. He quit round about the 5th Semester, went to the US to start a Motel. And from what I heard the last he had like a chain. Never returned and finished his engineering though.
I remember starting round about the 2nd semester he would frequently visit the US to see his cousins who ran Motels. He was quite famous in the class that he used to get us all sorts of rare merchandise from the US not available back then in India. I'm talking about the time when a bar of Snickers was like an exotic chocolate in India.
One of things you will see in certain Indian communities(Gujrat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bengal) is a very high degree of community affection and willingness to help their kind.
I heard the family based GC, I guess that EB3 wait times are now like 16 years, largely because once a family comes, they apply GCs for everyone in their family.
The downside is that some of the biggest and famous crooks are from the same community as well.
Which is not relevant to this post and the GP comment.
> Many followed his advice. “They would give each other handshake loans—no collateral, no payment schedule, just pay when you can,” Doshi explains. Once a family purchased a motel, they would live there, and the family members would do all the tasks needed to run it, from cleaning rooms to checking in guests. That helped keep costs down, and profits went toward acquiring new motels. By the 1980s Gujaratis had come to dominate the industry.
The "killer app" here appears to be a lack of resources beyond established relationships. Because of this, whole families were willing to spend their time doing work that most Americans feel is not worth their time.
There are plenty of American families who have relations who could easily help bootstrap a profitable small business in the way described here. It just doesn't happen that way very often.
Instead the typical means to wealth is inheritance or luck of birth providing access to investment capital (not loans) and business connections. For every WhatsApp there's a dozen or more Microsofts and Facebooks (Gates and Zuckerberg both benefitted from the immense social and financial capital their families could provide).
I think the individualist streak in American culture is better shown by people being unwilling to seek help from friends/family. I might call an unwillingness to help others (assuming one can afford to do so) selfishness -- not individualism. But what I have seen in American is, as you said, individualism: People are prideful and want to create wealth without help.
An interesting clarification: People will more readily accept help from strangers -- e.g. a Kickstarter campaign, bank loan, or VC investment doesn't diminish one's pride in the way that the same support from someone's parents might.
There's talk elsewhere in this article's comments here about the "killer feature" that these Indian Americans have. I would argue that the true killer feature is not even access to zero-interest capital. It's a culture that actively fights against pride and individualism.
There are surely tradeoffs, but it's hard to deny the power that can come from children and adults alike all looking to family for help... and seeing that help not as something which diminishes their power but rather as something that bolsters it.
I don't think it's about pride at all. I think it's about face (something most Americans don't even have a word for, but which is very relevant in this case.)
Americans don't want to give face to anyone, ever. They don't want anyone to have social power over them. When an individual loans you money—or, even worse, gifts you money—you're giving them a ton of face in exchange. Americans find that idea horrifying. It's like signing up for indentured servitude, except—since it's a social rather than legal obligation—you can't even get out of it by declaring bankruptcy! (See: the way "favours" are portrayed in The Godfather movies, for an image of the American mindset on what owing someone a favour / being in someone's debt is like.)
Bank loans and VC investments are better precisely because they're legal rather than social obligations, so you can get out of them (or, say, sell them off to someone else along with the business.) And Kickstarter is better because no single individual is responsible for enough of the loan to actually attain much social-obligatory power over you in exchange. You're maybe beholden to your Kickstarter backers as a class, but you aren't scared to talk to any individual one of them for thought of what they might ask of you.
Maybe not that extreme, but yeah, it's too easy to get guilted into something because you've become socially indebted by something large.
It's not even about being able to get out of it, like you mention afterwards with a legal exchange, it's about the exchange being forced to continue out of a mixture of guilt, politeness, and social pressure in general, simply because you don't want to accidentally kill the personal relationship.
It's not just practicing individualism, but insisting on it. People don't help others partly because they tell themselves that the person needs to make their own way. It is ultimately a justification for selfishness, but the justification is individualism. And I suspect many people who would otherwise not be too proud to ask for help still won't because they perceive that this is a prominent idea in American culture.
> An interesting clarification: People will more readily accept help from strangers -- e.g. a Kickstarter campaign, bank loan, or VC investment doesn't diminish one's pride in the way that the same support from someone's parents might.
I think that goes back to the same point. Those routes are branded as entrepreneurship, which is like +10 individualism points. If I asked my rich uncle for a loan, he (and many other people) would perceive this as dependency and therefore vaguely shameful. If I took out a bank loan, even though it's technically the same action, those same people would perceive it as an admirable show of entrepreneurial initiative.
When you ask your rich uncle for a loan, it's hard for both him and you to really know whether it's being given because he believes in you, or because there is perceived to be an obligation. And where there is an obligation to give loans/favors just based on familial ties, it's a slippery slope to a culture of nepotism and corruption where your name matters more than your skills and accomplishments.
I'm not saying that relatives shouldn't help each other, but perhaps it's not such a bad thing that people seek out other avenues first in non-emergency situations. It's a delicate balance to be sure.
Western Europe in the last 1000 years or so has been a very unusual place... one aspect of which is having nuclear families not extended ones. Because (crudely speaking) the catholic church wished to diminish alternative power structures, such as clans. This led to an unusually open society, which had many benefits... with generally higher levels of trust among strangers.
But it has some costs, too. Like not having tight connections for bootstrapping motels in a foreign land.
* South America appeared to be more catholic than any Western European or US-American place I've visited, but family and extended family are still a big thing.
* Calvinists seem to be much more "open" than catholics to me.
* Damn, I want the secret recipe that lets me set a policy and enforce it in vast areas (at times without any reliable messenger system) and across many generations, even if my successor comes from a different faction within the catholic church.
The peripheral was different, e.g. Scotland had strong clans until they got kicked out (to Ulster, and thence Appalachia...). And Spain wasn't even christian at this point in time.
That the church did it is less clear, I agree. There are economic arguments too. I guess I'm persuaded that things like suppressing cousin marriage had something to do with it. I'm certainly not suggesting that there's some essential magic attached to the pope! It was core europe that invented Protestantism too... at the same time as Cortez & co were taking the reconquistia to the Incas, with the pope's blessing but a very different culture.
The recipe for setting and enforcing a policy over vast areas of time and space is incentive compatibility. It is always in the interest of one powerful political group to make coordinated action against it more difficult. The Catholic Church had a strong incentive to break up extended kin groups and they did. It was possible to get dispensations for royalty and the peasantry mostly did whatever it wanted. Keeping up the same policy for over a thousand years was enough to make Western Europe and especially Northwestern Europe uniquely atomised in human history.
If you want an academic source look below. Frost basically took what blogger hbdchick had been writing about for years, did a review article on it and didn’t cite her. http://hbdchick.wordpress.com/
The Hajnal Line and Gene-Culture Coevolution in Northwest Europe Peter Frost
If you want to know more about the policies of the Catholic Church on marriage of relatives the Wikipedia article on cousin marriage is quite good and well referenced if you want to go from there.
On the Church banning marrying relatives
> First and second cousin marriages were then banned at the Council of Agde in AD 506, though dispensations sometimes continued to be granted. By the 11th century, with the adoption of the so-called canon-law method of computing consanguinity, these proscriptions had been extended even to sixth cousins, including by marriage. But due to the many resulting difficulties in reckoning who was related to whom, they were relaxed back to third cousins at the Fourth Lateran Council in AD 1215. Pope Benedict XV reduced this to second cousins in 1917, and finally, the current law was enacted in 1983.
The Church’s justification for banning cousin marriage has no scriptural basis. If St. Augustine's justification for banning relatives from marrying isn’t evidence in favour of what I wrote I don’t know what is.
> Whatever the reasons, written justifications for such bans had been advanced by St. Augustine by the fifth century. "It is very reasonable and just", he wrote, "that one man should not himself sustain many relationships, but that various relationships should be distributed among several, and thus serve to bind together the greatest number in the same social interests".
As to “speculative, just so, white-supremacist” Science is generally built on a base of speculation, which researchers then attempt to disprove. Hypothesis falsification and all that. Just so stories is a common insult thrown against evolutionary psychology researchers but far from universally justified. Given the high degree of fit between the model Snow proposes and the evidence it certainly isn’t justified here.
If it's not verifiable even in principle, it's useless from a scientific perspective. And it just happens to be a theory telling white people why they're genetically disposed to morally superiority, which is highly suspicious, coming from a white guy.
> Given the high degree of fit between the model Snow proposes and the evidence it certainly isn’t justified here.
You're not taking the enormous hypothesis space into account. This is not a compelling fit, by any means.
We’re learning more and more about the genetic underpinnings of personality traits and getting betterat extracting ancient DNA. It’s also trivial to compute indices of relatedness between two people if you have either a full genotype or just SNPs. If the personality traits associated with WEIRD populations are highly correlated with declines in inbreeding it’s not proof of the hypothesis but it makes it more likely. We don’t have proof outside of Math anyway, Science is about more or less likely.
If you want to learn more about Evolutionary Psychology the Oxford Handbook is excellent and it’s on libgen.io. The introduction is only about 60 pages and addresses the most common and uncommon criticisms ably.
If you think that being unusually individualistic and unfamilistic is morally superior that’s a personal preference you are of course free to indulge.
The Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama, which has a pretty long section about how the Catholic Church in medieval Europe worked really hard to break up the power of clans. (It is one reason why they forced priests to become celebate.)
Along the same lines see History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church by Henry Lea.
South America's conversion to Catholicism came long after this period was largely over.
Family & extended family in Western Europe and the US is nothing like it is in some other places in the world. Do you -- and 50 other descendents -- take a plane trip every year to go to your grandfather's grave 1,000 miles away to pray to him on the anniversary of the day he died for good luck? We do that here.
Prioritize the targeting of clan leaders?
> This led to an unusually open society, which had many benefits... with generally higher levels of trust among strangers.
It's interesting that you're portraying the openness of European society in a strongly positive light, given the high levels of abject loneliness prevalent primarily in the west.
Communal living has been a staple for much of human existence, the level of isolation most people in western Europe and North America (and now, much of east Asia) face is a direct result of European "openness" (which spread through east Asia via the British originally, and destabilization + American media later).
The biggest risk to the future of the West is the lack of strong families. That's where India, above all others, shines.
I agree that the extreme individualist end of the spectrum has downsides, for sure. Suicide rates make horrifying reading. But I think you can argue it's part of what made the west successful -- in HN terms, being forced to learn to deal with strangers, a lot, set you up to scale well.
Isn't the flip side of being on the other end of this scale -- tight happy families, or clans, maybe even castes -- something close to nepotism? Stagnation because once you've employed all your nephews then you can't grow, who would you trust?
Of course there are a million other factors etc too... anyway.
Literally the biggest group embracing individualism from my perspective are secular white people and mainstream protestants.
No one here is making the argument that Catholicism cannot exist alongside close extended families, so your objection to the argument that is being made falls completely flat.
But it's not true, we have data. The quite readable book on this is Laslett, "The World We Have Lost".
Oh please... Indian Catholic families still act in extended structures. I mean, three of my uncles are priests and one is a bishop. We've been Christian for thousands of years. We're still part of an overbearing, very close, very extended Indian family.
The ruining of European culture can be traced solely back to issues in European culture. Let's stop blaming the church for things that Europe brought upon itself.
Claiming that christianity always and everywhere does this would be pretty obviously wrong, and I did not say this. And indeed even within europe today, catholic-ness is anti-correlated with this kind of "openness" -- because the core relevant for this has long since gone protestant or atheist.
I hold this claim weakly. There are other arguments for what happened. But regardless of why, my main point was that Europe (and especially a core area) was an outlier on this universalist/clannish scale. And that both ends have advantages, depending on the situation.
I think a better explanation is the Protestant reformation weakened the idea that any person should subjugate their own personal individual desires for the greater good, with its emphasis on an individual quest for truth, an idea which has now permeated western culture. This makes sense with what I've experienced of non-European Catholicism, which mostly just finds Protestantism bizzare and confusing.
And? The people running the catholic church around 1000 AD were not running the catholic church in Latin America in 1500 AD.
And our families are, cross-culturally, unusually small. I talk to my parents every few weeks. Not so much my aunts and uncles. I have a few cousins who I see every fifth Christmas or so, and anyone more distant than that may as well be unrelated. This seems to be common within American culture, but it leads to weak social networks - unless you go to the right college and can network there.
Generally my American friends and family never ask for money to fund good ideas. The people asking for money are people who are asking me to throw money at things that won't produce more money(i.e. they don't have a plan for spending it wisely, have shown poor financial judgement in the past, etc).
My friend and his wife just had one of their cars stop working and they both need cars to make money. They are in debt and need to work. There's no way my friend will ask, but I will probably find a way to help them. My niece has no problem hitting up my parents for money for her latest crazy investment scheme after demonstrating several poor choices and a lack of business and financial judgement.
I agree with the individualist streak, but the second part is pretty much untrue of anyone I've met in the upper plain states. Helping to bootstrap you friends and family is part of the culture.
I think the true killer app is family cooperation as a unit in conjunction with a deep network of relatives. My father built his business with the help of his parents, his aunt, and two other cousins who lent him money. Without their help, he couldn't have built the business as fast and as big as he did. His brother also worked for him a bit as well as some of the cousins when he was building his first shop. My mother helped him and once she had me and my brother stayed at home and took care fo the home front even though she had a masters degree. And it appears his generation along with my mothers was the last hurrah of big family ties and help as everyone in my generation up and left. I have no cousins, uncles or aunts who are close. They all did their own thing, went to school and moved away. I see them from time to time, maybe once or twice a year and that's it. Hell, even my mother has all sorts of stories about how here massive Irish family (grandma was one of 12 kids) pulled together to help each other with everything.
Contrast that with my Guyanese friend who has a seemingly never ending supply of helpful family members all in the same neighborhood. His father built himself a small real estate empire of about a dozen rental properties and most of his generation are college educated. His father started out doing handyman and light construction work with his brothers. They all chipped in and worked. Some even had a day job and came to the properties at night to work on them. One by one they fixed and flipped homes using money and labor they pooled together. Then they started buying, fixing and renting. They acted as a small family army, cooperatively building each others future.
The American family has been here long enough to thin and die whereas these foreign families are still "fresh" to America and working hard to make a good life. But they too will one day suffer the same fate. Subsequent generations won't have to work as hard as they are already comfortable. Little by little they will spread out, move away, and their once mighty army is no more. From my perspective as a true 3rd gen American (all G-Grandparents came from Europe around the same time) is that by the third generation, there are no more cultural roots. And family is culture so family dissolves as well. My mother and father were the last to really care and my father was very meh about his Polish heritage. My mother was adamant, keeping traditions alive for as long as possible but the local family thinned out as the rest moved away. She is probably the last to really care about family and cultural roots which bound the early immigrants, and their children.
Informal immigrant aid networks are generally wider than "close friends and relatives" - they extend to distant cousins and friends-of-friends. For example, in this article the relevant quote is “If you are a Patel, lease a hotel” - Patels being a relatively broad caste, and a surname representing about 10% of all Indian-Americans, not a "family" in the American sense.
For a concrete example of how this works in the Middle Eastern Jewish community, and historically in the Ashkenazi immigrant Jewish community:
Instead of "hey uncle, I hear you have $50K lying around, could you loan me some?" it's "hello second cousin once removed, my uncle got me in touch with you - I hear you've got $50K lying around?" You're generally a step or two removed from the direct source of money. The act of the intermediary is a one-time intervention and said interaction is usually closed out with a direct thanks or a gift or both, rather than being an ongoing professional relationship. If the venture doesn't succeed you'll have an awkward relationship with the two-hops-removed acquaintance, and the one-hop-removed intermediary will know about it and be less likely to recommend you to others for credit, but real social consequences that extend to direct friends and relatives are reserved for those who are considered to have acted maliciously or irresponsibly (e.g. if it's clear you've blown the money on hookers and blackjack, you and possibly your children will be ostracized).
Search for "credit" in this article on immigrant enclaves for some examples of communities with these kinds of social structures: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/433f/567bd158d95f0c2611489d... (This also mentions different informal lending structures than the ones that I'm familiar with personally - instances in Korean and Latino communities of "lending circles" i.e. collective lending among peers, rather than from individual community eminences.)
Plus, its one thing to "invest" in someone buying an asset, like a house/motel/gas station/CNC mill/whatever, vs loaning someone money to start a graphics art business where the money is going to basically pay "salary" and once its spent there isn't anything left to sell when the business fails.
Although, the one common thing I've seen a couple times, is an uncle/whatever paying for a college or a trade (like nursing) school under the "teach a man to fish" theory.
After Musk became successful, his father even took credit for helping him – to such a degree that it’s listed as fact in Elon’s Wikipedia entry. “One thing he claims is he gave us a whole bunch of money to start, my brother and I, to start up our first company [Zip2, which provided online city guides to newspapers]. This is not true,” Musk says. “He was irrelevant. He paid nothing for college. My brother and I paid for college through scholarships, loans and working two jobs simultaneously. The funding we raised for our first company came from a small group of random angel investors in Silicon Valley.”"
I'd rather extend a monetary gift without any expectation of repayment.
Any money-related issue is bound to sour relations with your family sooner or later. Business partners that fall out can go their separate ways, but when your sister-in-law cheats her siblings out of their shares of the estate--because she opened the account for her Mom, and it was a joint account, just in case something happened to her--that brews some resentment.
Loans make you involved in the borrower's business, and when things so bad, you need to be able to exercise all your options. Your lazy brother-in-law probably isn't going to prioritize making the loan payment to you over buying a new snowblower, or whatever other toy. Your sleazy brother-in-law might just default, claim your loan was actually a gift, and all but dare you to sue him. So it isn't just that there is a taboo against lending, but there is an insufficiently strong tradition of honoring personal commitments and sacrificing of one's self for the sake of the family.
If they don't pay it back, you have the perfect excuse to never loan them any more.
This is true. I think we got it from the British.
Hamlet: Act 1, scene 3:
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry"
The typical means to wealth is spending below one's means and investing the rest.
And there's the book "The Millionaire Next Door" which shows that 85% of American millionaires are self-made, usually through spending below one's means and investing the rest.
As for the article, the people in it seem to need to continue living a frugal lifestyle after early retirement, so they aren't exactly wealthy. Financially independent, yes, but not wealthy.
The book is pretty cheap (!) and well worth a read if you're interested it becoming financially independent. There are lots of financial advice books, this is one of the better ones, and the advice is straightforward. It doesn't involve learning option trading or real estate hacks.
It's less taboo than years of hearing stories of ended family relationships where money was loaned and then abused, mishandled, wasted, etc without any intention of paying it back. I've heard these types of stories my entire life.
For friends and extended family, I agree. However, most people I know have borrowed from their parents for things like their first car or the downpayment on their first house if they need to. Is that not normal?
Interesting. Never heard of this before. Why do you think it is so (the taboo)? (I read some replies to your comment below, just want to see if you think something different).
Hotels aren’t a Business that requires immigrant labor because it’s undesirable —- it’s a business that needs capital and SMB are starved of capital.
Many Americans come from a cultural background where there is shame involved in talking about money and doing business with family, and prefer dealing with institutions.
The problem is a lot of those business aren’t vetted. How do you know if anyone’s going to eat at Uncle Ned’s crab shack?
These motels are more like new franchises than a startup. They’ve already been partly de-risked.
Paul Allen and Gates had saved up a small amount of money from contract work. Together they provided all of Microsoft's seed capital. They had customers for Microsoft essentially from the start of the business (MITS being the first), making it profitable nearly from day one.
Gary Kildall wrote CP/M in 1974, a year before Gates formed Microsoft.
And how much credence would IBM give a mom (who had little knowledge of computers and software) who suggested checking out her son?
Lastly, the accounts of her advising IBM to use her son's company are not verifiable.
IBM went to Gary Kildall first.
I really dislike this argument. It makes middle-class Americans sound like a bunch of ungrateful churls, because they think that <some job> is beneath them (at the price the employer is willing to pay, but that part is always left unsaid).
I don't call my landlord an ungrateful churl, because he thinks that my <sub-market-price-offer> for his apartment is beneath him. Yet, this is a consistent argument whenever an employer-employee relationship comes up. No shit, I don't want to pick strawberries for $5/hour, when my rent is $2250/month. That's not because manual labour is beneath me.
The thing is - at a low enough price point, no work is worth anyone's time.
Those family members were probably working for below minimum wage. Surprise - their business was successful, compared to one where you have to hire employees, and pay them a minimum/living wage, and have an inflexible schedule of interest payments to whomever fronted the money for you to start the business, etc, etc.
It's not culture. It's economics.
The price the employer can offer is denominated in a currency you cannot use. For the family member, it's more like receiving massive equity stake with little to no salary.
A friend of mine had his great uncle come to America penniless in the '80s. They own apartment buildings in Queens now.
That's because a 12-year-old kid is going to come home, finish homework, and then man the store for three hours, taking over from his older sister. Daycare is free because the 15-year-old will manage the 12-year-old and the 12-year-old will manage the 6-year-old when the teenager is out. It's a tough life, and I don't wish it upon my kids but that shit went straight to equity. Those kids are now well off middle aged people, and when their parents (the original immigrants) pass, the grandkids will be fabulously wealthy.
It is about economics and expectations.
No, it is because a $1000 apartment is apparently beneath you.
It is the same reason there is a "shortage" in technology yet thousands of Indians applying for those jobs -- because most American students dont want to live in outer San Jose, San Martin, or Rucker and commute for 4hrs or live in nasty apartments. Most Americans also dont want to be tied on Production Support getting calls all night for crap wages.
And frankly, I dont blame you. I'm a computer science grad in the US. The bay area wages, even while inflated, are not living wages for families, certainly nothing given my excellent education...and alternatives. I'm in management. I work half the hours, and earn a good pay.
And yet, letting my apartment out for $1000 is apparently beneath my landlord (Look at how entitled he is, to be asking $2250! It's almost like that's the price the market is willing to bear!)
Yet, we only use this sort of judgmental language to express outrage at employees, unwilling to work at a price below what the market is willing to bear.
You realize I'm agreeing with you right? You are looking at the Palo Alto market, or San Jose market. But an immigrant might be willing to live in inner Oakland or a place where the market IS willing to give you a home for $1000 a month it is just not what you come to expect as an American.
I'm Indian American. My father was willing to live in a roach infested inner city apartment and thus we managed to pay $400 rent. I grew up in the US and got a top-3 school CS degree. I'm unwilling to live like my father. Hence I dont compete with H1s on the "jobs going unfilled" because they dont meet my expectations. Luckily I (and probably you) have options. My father didnt. We're lucky and we can be picky with where we live.
And for the record, the market will absolutely give you a sub $1000 apartment if you commute far out enough and live in disgusting conditions. You and I are unwilling to do so. Others will.
> They would give each other handshake loans—no collateral, no payment schedule, just pay when you can
Some Asian immigrant families form a "lending circle" where they choose a member to go 1st, and everyone gives their extra money to that person, and they buy a hotel/restaurant/etc. The circle chooses a 2nd, and everyone gives them spare money - it's a lot faster this time, with the one hotel/restaurant/etc owner paying in a relatively large amount. This goes around until everyone in the group (maybe 12-20 people) has a hotel/restaurant/etc.
My accountant once encouraged me to try to get my family members involved in a business I ran just for that reason.
That’s why rural states give drivers licenses to kids as young as 14 — so they can drive a tractor between fields.
Very difficult to trace and crack by authorities.
e.g. The Greek trader in one little Egyptian town could be more confident in dealing with another Greek trader somewhere in Italy, a week's sail away, because while he might be tempted to run off with the money, word would get around, and soon no other Greek would trust the guy, nobody would marry his sons... he'd be ruined by expulsion from his community. This mechanism didn't work for people from the majority community, because they weren't so specialised, could do other business, could find another priest... Thus the Greeks could ship things cheaper, and won the business.
The Patels, and related Gujarati groups, have been in this kind of trust-heavy long-distance trade for centuries. They spread all over East Africa in the 19th C, and did very well.
For example, the Patels in the US are the topic of this thread; then there are lots of Punjabis (which includes Sikhs) in Canada; Sindhis, I've heard, are many in Hong Kong; and many Keralites in the Gulf. Again, I don't mean to rule out other places where these or other Indians could have gone, these are just the ones I am more familiar with, and may have relatively high concentrations. Be interesting to know if there are other places where particular groups have gone and done well.
Of course, lots of Indians went to Fiji and Malaysia too, I've read, although those may have mostly gone as plantation labor initially (and some to Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, etc.), during British colonial times. Don't know how those are doing now.
On a side note, when I visited Kuala Lumpur once, I tried out some Malaysian (South) Indian food; it was both similar and in some ways different to South Indian food in India. I guess it is both because they use some different local Malaysian ingredients, and because of the long time of separation from India must have made their cuisine evolved to be somewhat different. It was interesting stuff, though.
It's also my hazy impression that the plantation-labor Indian groups haven't done nearly as well on the whole.
Another example is the surprisingly high proportion of overseas Chinese who are from Fujian.
Could be. I do know that Parsis are said to take care of the elderly and poor of their community. They have retirement homes and do charity for them, etc. They are generally philantropic too, like some others. Good of them.
I wonder why Americans don't do this (maybe they do, I don't know) - why borrow from banks (or VCs etc) with strict strings attached, instead of supporting one another based on trust? Obviously this won't work for millions of dollars, but this should work for 5/6 figure loans?
The Small Business Administration also helps with loan guarantees. So the support is sort of there, but takes a different form, and maybe one could say the impersonal nature of it is both a strength and a weakness in comparison. Numbers of small businesses and their starts have been in decline too. I suspect this has to do with the difficulty of more and more Americans in attaining any savings from their wages (let alone enough to set aside to help capitalize a small business).
All the more important to support one another. Although, if everyone in a person's trust circle is more or less in the same boat, then tough luck :(
With no meaningful support from gov/banks etc, people banding together to help each other might be an alternative. Some non profits are working in this space too. After Sandy, some orgs in NY were giving interest free loans to small biz people who lost their trucks etc.
Although on average they are poorer, residents of India have a great deal more freedom with respect to the costs of everyday life. No matter how basic their housing, transport, clothing, food, education, safety, etc. may be, they can always trade down if their situation or preference changes. Many lives lived happily in India would be largely illegal in USA.
When you take these trust networks over to a high-trust society, they just act as additional leverage in your life.
I know Indian guys who lent each other large five figure sums to help business deals go along and, the most surprising to me, had one take on a mortgage for another in Menlo Park! (The family it was for was a dual income software engineer family, just missing a credit history and starting capital).
Because there is a general lack of trust of people outside one's immediate family and a (usually very) small circle of friends.
Most restaurants in Europe are run by immigrant families, they couldn't turn a profit otherwise.
He immigrated to the US back in the 60's. I had a chance to meet him and he had an extraordinary character. He had no formalities and greeted us at his farm house without a shirt on. He was old but fit and you can tell what he has gone through in his life to make a living.
He spoke fluent spanish and everyone loved him in Valdosta. We spent 3 days there and went to restaurants in the evening. Everyone greeted him as if he was some kind of a hero in the town. It was really an amazing experience to have met him and his family - just shows how immigrants assimilate in the most remote places in the US, especially in a hostile place such as south Georgia in the 60's.
Edit: This story is from 2002.
I'd assume something similar was already in place during the 60's.
Sorry, that should be H-1B.
Yes absolutely. As an Indian American, I'm familiar with the Indian grocery store model. However, I grew up in a majority vietnamese area of Southern California, and most of my friends growing up were vietnamese. They had a few interesting hustles going on:
1. A few families were involved in growing produce in their backyards, and grocery stores would source these fruits. Many of the fruits (certainly not all) popular in Vietnam would grow in the heat of SoCal, but they were not farmed commercially.
2. My mom's friend told her that many vietnamese restaurants sourced their egg rolls from various aunties scattered around the community. The egg roll they made was very standardized, and they would sell many trays a day to the restaurants for cents on the dollar.
Which, while popular and does incredibly well in Asia, is also apparently native to the Americas up to Mexico, so it wouldn't be a far leap to grow it in SoCal
But I mean, as someone whose family is from Asia, it is not particularly difficult to sneak things in to the United States.
I don’t thing that the gujarati model works for fringe agriculture. The big players in the agriculture business are global now, and a farmer in Ohio or New York will have a hard time making money, as the big companies just need to outbid you for one harvest season, and make up the difference with their weekly harvests in California, Chile, etc.
There are players (people serving Chinese restaurants and the Amish) doing well, but those markets are limited.
I'm not sure what will disrupt commodity ag, but it sucks, and the sooner it transforms into something else the better. The most successful farmers I know now are raising goats for halal butchers. I'm going to start crossing my cattle with "wagyu" bulls. Don't sell commodities.
It is the exact same with convenience stores. Work 12-14 hour days. Only have other family members work there.
Aside from being specifically about searching for the origin of the general tso recipe, it talks about how chinese immigrants came to own so many chinese restaurants across the country.
I'm wondering if this article applies to just independent motels or if it also includes franchises of the national chains (at least, I assume the national chains use a franchise model). I'd be honestly surprised if independent motels were a full half of the number of motels in the US, since the chains are everywhere.
Also the Patel community is not really into high end motels like Hampton Inn. They are into Motel 6, Super 8, Choice Hotels, etc.
Small, economy brands & independent motels can't afford to hire full-time employees or outside help. Also, most of the money you can make is by not hiring outside help.
The Dhandho Investor: The Low-Risk Value Method to High Returns by Mohnish Pabrai
The author is an investment manager with a focused value strategy.
edit: I need to put this more judiciously :) run => exercise control over
I have not been to a single Indian restaurant that can compare to a home cooked Gujarati meal, especially made by someone who grew up there.
The labor costs are an issue. I cooked a curry with garden vegetables and Gulf shrimp over the weekend, and it took over an hour (perhaps it would have been unpalatable to a real Indian person, but three hillbillies from the Ozarks liked it just fine). However, it's possible to purchase e.g. frozen okra that's already sorted and chopped.
But yeah restaurants are difficult. Way too much competition in that space unless you really like running a restaurant. Chinese-Americans seem to have had some success, however.
Labor intensive yes, but expensive ingredients? Maybe saffron, but it's used very sparingly in only a few dishes, and a little goes a long way.
Take a trip to BC, or the UK, and you'll see what I mean.
The Bay Area itself has Zareen's (Michelin guide) and Rasa (Michelin star).
Yes, the UK has much more phenomenal Indian food, but to say the US has none is wrong.
Food recommendation: Gulberg Restaurant, 5943 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5W 2Z6
Authentic Lahori food.
The cuisine is way older than the 1947 partition...
If you are far south of downtown in the Renton/Kent area, this Pakistani kebab place is great:
In that same parking lot is Teapot Vegetarian House (not Indian) and Malay Satay Hut (though the quality was lacking last time we went).
My new owner origination had about 16 owners/managers. 8 owners were Indian/Gujarati, 1 owner was from Pakistan, 1 white owner and rest were managers.
I went to my first franchise conference and almost 70+% of the US owners were Indian/Gujarati.
I got 2 greeting cards from the franchise in 1 year. 1 was for Diwali/Gujarati New year and 1 in December for the new year.
We are from Indian state Gujarat. Patel is the most common last name in Gujarat.
90+% of Patels I know immigrated to the USA through chain migration. My dad's sister-in-law's sister (A) & her husband came to the USA in last 60s early 70s. Sister (A) applied for the immigration visa for my dad's sister-in-law. My dad's sister-in-law and my dad's brother immigrated to the USA in the late 70s. My dad's brother applied immigration visa for all his brothers & sisters. My dad & his family (including me) immigrated to the USA in the late 90s.
Roughly 200+ of us were migrated to the USA because of the sister (A). Half of them speaks & understand very very basic English. They only have limited options for the job. Mom&Pop kind of motel is easy to run, only requires talking to a few people and its mostly same every day. So they work their butt off for a few years and buy a small motel.
Those who can speak little better English end up working at someone else's hotel when they move to the USA, and from there with the friend/family's help they buy their motel.
Fellow Gujju here. It is "one" of the most common last names in Gujarat. Probably it might be the most common last name of Gujjus outside Gujarat but I doubt it is so inside the state.
One of the ways that Gujaratis come to America is use the investments route, sort of like investment chain migration. One member takes an investment, migrates, sets up business, profits, then sends the money back home, for others to travel in the same visa program. Then two people come, twice the profit, twice the pace of bringing people over. These business groups form around family bonds typically.
Most of us came to America through chain migration (Family F3/F4 Category)
Source: have the 3rd most common Gujarati surname.
For example, there was an article about how Portuguese immigrants have sort of dominated Dunkin franchises.
2. Good old fashioned nepotism
Ethnic professions are nothing new, and part and parcel of American immigrant history. Just another chapter...
It's always nice to hear about people coming to the US and not just taking a chance coming to the US, but also taking advantage of those freedoms to take the risk of starting a business and the massive amount of work that it takes to do so.
I have personal experience with this, I had a Gujarati classmate and we had plans for starting up after our college, he later went on to work for his brother in law (who you already guessed it worked in the hospitality industry), he only told me later when I asked that he was pressured by his family to work with them exclusively. You may think that this is a one off example, but it's not, nearly all people I came across had similar mindset.
Also they contributed largely to the election of Modi as a PM in India, who is also (drumroll) a Gujarati, now this may be good or bad depending on how you look at it.
After living in western countries for well over 50 years (calling themselves American, Canadian and British etc), they ooze pride about their entrepreneurial heritage; but they still vote and contribute money towards electing a man whose past screams bloody murder and that is plain hypocrisy!
I went to university w/ someone's whose family ran a bunch of hotels & motels in the San Jose area.
His surname was Patel.
I'm some senses, this is a story about an older way of doing things.. or a capitalism that has existed at a smaller scale alongside the I understand/liberal system we generally think of as capitalism (or socialism, really).
That is, things work by convention, affiliation and duty. They don't work through formal agreements, roles and contracts.
Family is a true economic unit, with productive capacity, credit potential and such. Affiliations with other families are important.
The ability of one hotelier family to assess an informal loan to another one... Its not necessarily worse than a Banks's.
"Ability to establish trust while bypassing all the conventional channels."
Coming from a socialist country like India to USA I noticed that transaction costs in USA are damn too low simply because of the trust factor. There is no two factor auth each time you do a credit card transaction, you can do self checkouts at Walmart etc. etc. Many of first world citizens might take this for granted but these factors give a huge boost to economy. There are more transactions and less wealth is destroyed just to enforce a contract.
We Gujjus take this to the next level in USA. Consider John Smith decides to run a gas station. He has to appoint a 24x7 attendant at say $10 per hour. So he has to spend $240 per day just for the person. Assuming the profit margin per gallon is $0.15 he needs to see around 100 cars filling 16 gallons before that cost can be earned back. Not to mention these attendants steal cash and other stuff from the gas station store often too. John Smith then hires Jose who is an illegal Mexican at $5 per hour. Jose steals his cash one day and is never seen again or is caught by ICE and deported. Or John Smith sticks to the law and bleeds $240 per day.
Now Dhirubhai Patel buys the same gas station. He makes a phone call and finds another Gujju student who is currently on F1 and legally can not earn and is paying heavy rent in bay area. He agrees to man his gas station at night and sleep in there too. He saves on rent and takes literally no salary until he completes his masters. Dhirubhai saves Around $100 more on this. Also the gujju students is much less prone to stealing and cheating and on other hand is more thankful to Dhirubhai. After completing his masters this kid joins a reputed tech company and later employs Dhirubhai's daughter as an intern. Everyone wins.
I see a lot of hate for Indian tech workers among white nativists tech workers on apps like Team Blind and also on twitter (search for HR392 on twitter). They correctly point out that Indians have been succeeding at a much greater rate than natives. They claim that Indian managers tend to hire Indian employees even in top firms like Google etc.
That might be true as Indians quickly build trust among each other. It is common for a new H1B from India to work for a startup at least for 2-3 years just because founders helped him come to USA even though salary is lower (I did this). Both my founders were Indians and the company was successfully acquired. I left within 6 months of acquisition to join one of the FANGs.
Note: I think the lack of proper deterministic path to green card actually forces smaller ethnic groups to huddle together instead of being more individualistic. This in some way prevents assimilation. There are over 200K tech H1Bs who are here for decade or more and yet wont get their green cards. A lot of them would feel safer in companies where their manager is Indian, CEO is Indian etc. than a general white owned company and might be willing to work for less for the safety of job and presence in USA. Same goes for motels, farming, gas stations and many other businesses which are being completely cornered by Indian-Americans.
Every ethnic immigrant group huddles together, regardless of visa status. That is basic human nature.
They are mostly from one region of India.
And Patel is just a common name, it doesn’t mean you’re in the same tribe. Especially since in the old days tribes were frequently family oriented and religion was a big part of family.
But tribes keep changing. When everyone was immigrating and desperate, they acted as one and helped each other. Now, the successful ones and 2nd generations americans who can stand on their own have become their own tribe. They’re not going to reach out to their 2nd cousins who are poor and don’t know English well.
Now there are new tribes, mostly split along socioeconomic and education lines, regardless of religion.
As a Canadian who has lived many years in the US, the casual use of racial descriptors still shocks me. I find is very discomforting to be asked my race on forms, to see national news talk about how different ethnic groups feel about this or that.
This year added several options to the race question, including Vietnamese, Indian (East), Guamanian, Samoan, and re-added Aleut.
On your latter point, absolutely. And the people who make make the biggest effort to categorize people into hyphenated-Americans are the very ones who turn around and accuse people of being some-kinda-phobic or some-sorta-ist if they don't see the world that way.
This is definitely worth reading. This short and simple article has lots of lessons.