GN’s Most Influential
As the South Asian community grows in Canada, so does its influence and wealth.
South Asian community – Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Tamils, Afghanis, Nepalis – in Canada comprises of wealthy, philanthropists, activists, artists, entrepreneurs, law enforcement professionals, social workers, community organizers, pioneers, healthcare professionals and many more.
Some of these South Asian Canadians spark controversy; others initiate dialogue for the wellbeing of the South Asian community.
Welcome to South Asian Generation Next’s most influential:
Lt. Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan
On September 11, 2011, Lt. Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan became the first Sikh in Canada to take command of a British Columbia regiment. He joined the British Columbia Regiment as a Trooper in 1989 and was commissioned in the Regiment in 1991. He served in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well thrice in Afghanistan.
Det. Sgt. B. J. Sandhu
Det. Sgt. B. J. Sandhu is spearheading Peel Regional Police’s Diversity initiatives. His efforts in the Region of Peel have led to increased participation from the South Asian community in programs like Race Against Racism. He encourages the South Asian community to increase its engagement in municipal politics.
Sergeant Baltej S. Dhillon
In 1989 when he decided to serve his country, Sergeant Baltej S. Dhillon’s turban became an issue. He was successful in the legal battle and was the first Sikh RCMP officer to wear the turban. Since then he has been a great source of inspiration to South Asian youth who want to serve in law enforcement. He is also a very good speaker and has been recognized by Sikh Centennial Foundation.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT:
Michael Ondaatje, Writer:
Among English writers of South Asian descent in Canada, Michael Ondaatje is probably the leading name. This near-septuagenarian author is arguably best known for his Booker-winning novel, ‘The English Patient’, which was also made into a film of the same name. Currently, Ondaatje lives in Toronto and edits ‘Brick’, a literary journal, with his wife, Linda Spalding.
Russell Peters, Comedian:
This comedian of Anglo-Indian descent is one of the highest-paid stand-up performers. In Canada, he became the first comedian to sell out Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, when 16,000 tickets sold in two days for the single show. Peters’ widespread popularity is often attributed to one of his stand-up acts on Comedy Now!, a Canadian TV comedy series. He is also the one of the top earners of the industry.
Deepa Mehta, Filmmaker:
With no formal training in filmmaking, this Indian-born Canadian director began her film career with producing documentaries and writing scripts for children’s films. Her first film as a producer-director was Sam & Me in 1991. Mehta is best known for her Elements trilogy, which includes Fire, Earth and Water. Earth was submitted as the Indian nomination for the best foreign film Oscar Award.
Lisa Ray, Actor:
Born in Toronto to a Bengali father and a Polish mother, Lisa Ray is known both for her modeling and acting talents. She made her debut in films in 1994, with a Tamil film. Her Bollywood break happened in 2001 in the film “Kasoor”. In 2005, she worked with acclaimed director, Deepa Mehta in the Oscar-nominated film, “Water”. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2009, a rare disease. Following a stem cell transplant, she declared herself cancer-free in 2010.
Rapinder Kaur, Artist:
Using art as therapy, Rapinder Kaur works with children and teenagers to help them overcome psychological and behavioral issues such as ADHD, anxiety, autism, depression and low self-esteem. She is registered with both the Canadian Art Therapy Institute and the Ontario Art Therapy Institute and provides both individual and group Art Therapy to individuals who need help and healing.
Lata Pada is dancer, choreographer, thinker and social activist. She is also the first South Asian to be appointed for the Order of Canada. She was a leading advocate for an inquiry into the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 and the subsequent trial of terrorist suspects. She is also the Founder, Director, and Principal Teacher of SAMPRADAYA Dance Academy.
Ratna Omidvar, President, Maytree Foundation
Since coming to Canada three decades ago, Ratna Omidvar has been working with and for immigrants and has become a champion of immigrant rights. As the President of Maytree, a private foundation that works to reduce poverty and inequality in Canada, Omidvar has been consistently vocal about the need for inclusion of newcomers and visible minorities in mainstream society and positions of prominence. In 2006, she was awarded the Order of Ontario.
Aditya Jha, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist, Aditya Jha boasts launching several start-ups and executing successful turn-arounds. His private Charitable Foundation (POA Educational Foundation) promotes education and nurtures entrepreneurship among the disadvantaged. In 2010, he was adjudged one of the top 25 Canadian Immigrants. Active in Canadian, Indian and Nepalese public affairs, Jha received Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Ryerson University.
Vasu Chanchlani, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
A serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Vasu Chanchlani is the co-founder of the Sigma Group of Companies and a founding member of the Canada-India Foundation. He is known as a core facilitator of enhancing Canada and India’s bilateral trade relations. Chanchlani Health Research Centre, McMaster University, Chanchlani India Public Policy Center, University of Waterloo and Canadian Fallen Soldier Foundation are only a few projects that he is involved with.
Rahul Singh, Founder of Global Medic
Indo—Canadian paramedic Rahul Singh has joined US president Barack Obama, talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and Apple boss Steve Job in Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010.
The Toronto—based paramedic, who founded GlobalMedic in 1998 to help disaster—hit people, has been the face of Canadian relief efforts around the world, including the quake—hit Haiti, in the past 10 years.
Dr. Alok Mukherjee – Chair, Toronto Police Services Board
One of the best known faces in Toronto, Alok Mukherjee emigrated from India to Canada in 1971. Currently heading the civil body of Toronto Police Services Board, he has previously played the roles of Acting Chief Commissioner and Vice Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Vice Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He was also an instructor of South Asian studies in York University and as an advisor to Mayor David Miller.
Rahul K. Bhardwaj, President and CEO, Toronto Community Foundation
Associated with community service for a while now, Rahul Bhardwaj had been a corporate lawyer with a leading Canadian law firm before becoming the President and CEO of Toronto Community Foundation. In 2008, he served as Vice President of the Toronto Olympic Bid. He is popular as a presenter and speaker and speaks on issues relating to the city, community and Toronto’s vital signs.
It’s hard to describe Ruby’s work description. Many of Ontario Premier’s South Asian community engagements are informed by Ruby. She is a South Asian community advocate and the first female to hold the Diversity position in an Ontario Premier’s office. So far, Progressive Conservatives and Ontario New Democrats have failed to find a dedicated South Asian in their respective leader’s office.
Shamira Madhany, Chief Officer, Diversity and Accessibility, Ontario Public Service
Boasting a long association with public service, Shamira Madhany has developed and implemented a number of provincial policies, programs and services across a range of ministries. Before taking up the present position, she worked as the Director of Postsecondary Accountability Branch. She has served on the board of directors for organizations such as Markham Stouffville Hospital and the Markham Public Library.
Harinder Takhar, Minister of Government Services, Ontario
The first Indo-Canadian to hold a cabinet post in Ontario, Harinder Takhar immigrated to Canada in 1974. Well known in the community, Minister Takhar keeps an eye out on rising South Asian youth who are interested in politics and public service.
Kulvir Singh Gill, Chair Seva Food Bank
Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Kulvir Singh has been actively involved in the local Sikh-Canadian community. He serves on the Board of Directors for the William Osler Health System Foundation and Habitat for Humanity—Brampton.
Asha Luthra, Convenor ICCC
Asha Luthra was the first woman president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce. As such she brought a unique perspective to organization. Single mother of a daughter, she also understands the need and value of community engagement and volunteerism better than many of her counterparts.
Tim Uppal, First Sikh Conservative Minister
Born in British Columbia in 1974, Tim Uppal worked as a Residential Mortgage Manager for TD Canada Trust and served a Senior Advisor for the Conservative Party of Canada before entering active politics. As the Conservative government moves ahead with democratic reform in Canada, Minister Uppal has an important task ahead of him to convince Canadians that Conservatives are doing the right thing.
Satish Takhar, President Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce
Satish Takhar has been the President of Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) for less than a year, however under his leadership ICCC has been quite aggressive in engaging with all levels of government as well as the community. It is working toward facilitating trade between Canadian and Indian businesses.
Harpreet and Jaswinder Sethi, Owner Radisson Plaza Mississauga
Harpreet and his wife is involved in a quite a few philanthropic initiatives; however he likes to keep his donations to various institutions quiet. He has donated $500,000 to William Osler Health Foundation. They are also involved with Canadian Fallen Soldier Foundation.
Jagmeet Singh, NDP MPP Bramalea-Gore-Malton
Fluent in English, French and Punjabi, Jagmeet Singh is one of the youngest MPPs and the first NDP MPP to be elected from the Region of Peel. Just before the October 6th elections, he had won hearts and minds moving beyond party lines. However, since being elected many members of the South Asian community are skeptical of his speeches about “November 1984 Genocide.”
Neena and Vijay Kanwar
In 2006 Neena launched the KMH Family Assistance Services, a charity that assists people who want to improve their quality of life through the HEAL initiative (Health promotion and Empowerment through education to Achieve a higher standard of living through better Lifestyle choices.) They have also donated $500,00 to Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga.
Yogesh Sharma, President of Rajhastan Association of North America (RANA)
Yogesh Sharma has developed RANA from 0 members to more than 300 members. As RANA’s President, he has worked tirelessly to engage Rajhstanis in RANA to preserve unique Rajhstani culture.
Zabeen Hirji is RBC’s Chief Human Resources Officer and has global responsibility for Human Resources as well as Brand, Communications and Corporate Citizenship. As a member of RBC’s Group Executive, she is one of nine executives responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of RBC.
Surjit Babra, Founder & Chairman/CEO, SkyLink Group of Companies
Actively involved with community services, Surjit began his own SkyLink Children’s Charity in 2009, which has contributed to several children’s causes, including Haiti.
Karim Sunderji, President of Ismaili Muslim Council of Ontario
Mr. Sunderji is an entrepreneur who has lived in Canada for over three decades. As the President of one of the largest Muslim organizations in Ontario, Mr. Sunderji believes that Muslims have contributed their fair share to the growth of society in Canada.
Juanita Nathan, Public School Board Trustee
As a community worker, Juanita Nathan has worked closely with youth, seniors, and abused women. Following a BA in Psychology from Brock University, she completed a project for the Ministry of Attorney General that focused on domestic abuse. She currently works with Youthlink.
Rupinder Kaur, Press Secretary to New Democrats
She is the first South Asian female to be the press secretary of NDP. Many believe that she holds the key to any NDP leader’s office. Federal Conservatives and Liberals have a long way to find a dedicated South Asian community activist like her.
Nadir Mohamed (Rogers Communications)
Born to Ismaili Muslim parents, originally from India, Nadir Mohamed grew up in Tanzania. After his family’s immigration to Canada, he studied accounting at the University of British Columbia. In 2000, Mohamed joined one of Canada’s top telecom carriers Rogers. In March 2011, he became the company’s CEO and is one of the best paid professionals of the industry, earning $8,580,492 in 2010.
Prem Watsa (Fairfax Financial Holdings)
Hailed as the Canadian Warren Buffet in the past, the founder, chairman and chief executive of Fairfax Financial Holdings, Toronto, was born in Hyderabad, India. A graduate of India’s prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Ontario Museum foundation. In 2009, he was appointed the ninth chancellor of the University of Waterloo. He is believed to earn $644,057 in 2010.
Sabi Marwah, Vice-Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Scotiabank
Believed to be one of the smartest brains in Bay Street, Sabi Marwah held several senior positions in Scotiabank before rising to the present role in 2008. Born in Asansol, West Bengal, this popular banker earned an MBA in Finance from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a past Chair of the Humber River Regional Hospital and received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his contributions to Canada.
Nav Bhatia, President of Nav Bhatia Superstores and Nav Bhatia Entertainment
One of the best known entrepreneurs of the South Asian community, Nav Bhatia has brought the brand Hyundai to the South Asian community. His “Super Fan” status in basketball has introduced the sport to the South Asian community. Just in 2011, he has worked hard to bring South Asian community’s issues in a movie called “Breakaway.”
Gary Anandasangaree, President of the Canadian Tamil’s Chamber of Commerce
With extensive experience in business and real estate, Gary Anandasangaree has volunteered with several community organizations. A current member of the Toronto Board of Trade, the South Asian Bar Association and the Toronto City’s Summit’s Emerging Leaders Network, he has received several community awards.
Amar Doman, Founder, The Futura Corp
The sole shareholder of The Futura Corp, Amar Doman is credited with bringing his company to $1,500,000,000 in revenues and close to 2,000 employees. With more than 16 years of experience in the building materials manufacturing and distribution industries, Doman wields a strong influence in the South Asian business community in Canada.
Kunjar M. Sharma, President, Kunjar Sharma and Associates Inc.
Educated in Nepal, India, the U.S. and Canada, Kunjar Sharma has been practicing a Trustee in Bankruptcy in Ontario for more than 30 years. Previously he has held the position of a Senior Vice-President and Partner with a major professional services firm. In 1993, he was named the Honorary Consul General to Canada for Nepal.
K Rai Sahi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Morguard Corporation
After immigrating to Canada from India in 1971, Sahi began working as a labourer in Montreal before he built CF Kingsway, Inc, the third-largest trucking operation in Canada. He later widened his business by getting into manufacturing and real estate and has emerged as one of the wealthiest Indo-Canadians in Canada.
Pradeep Sood, Founder, XactScribe Inc
The founder of XcatScribe Inc., a Toronto-based transcription company, Pradeep Sood is also the Chair of Ontario-India Business Forum. Actively involved in building stronger trade relations between Canada and India, Sood has served as a board member in the Toronto Board of Trade and as the President of Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce.
Ajay Virmani, President and CEO, Cargojet
Starting off by washing windows and selling life insurance after he first landed to Canada in 1975, Ajay Virmani has gone on to become the President and CEO of the largest cargo airline operating in Canada. The company was founded in 2002, following the purchase of fifty percent of Canada 3000 Cargo.
Hari Pandey, President and CEO, PanVest Capital Corporation
Having come to Canada 35 years ago, Hari Pandey founded ICICI Bank Canada in 2003. Under his leadership, the organization made more than $4 billion in assets. In 2009, he was awarded the Corporate Executive of the Year prize by the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Steve K. Gupta, President and CEO, Easton’s Group of Hotels
A business that began with the buying of a truck shop in Ontario, went on to become a hotel group with ten hotels under its umbrella, with two more under development. It’s worth mentioning that Steve Gupta’s truck shop itself became the one number one in diesel sales in Canada within a few months. He also holds the credit of opening three new hotels in 2009, when the country was dealing with a recession.
Soham Ajmera, Co-Founder and Chairman, FGF Brands
Known as Sam in his friend circle, Soham Ajmera’s FGF Brands—a commercial bakery in Ontario, is the largest producer of muffins in Canada. The company has recently launched naan, focaccia, and pizza crust under its Fabulous Flats label. Ajmera also owns Specialty Rice, Inc, the largest grower of organic rice in North America.
GN’s Most Influential – Worldwide
Generation Next’s Most Influential South Asians Worldwide
Indra Nooyi, CEO, Pepsico, US
Ranked the fourth most powerful woman in 2011 by Forbes, President and Chief Financial Officer of PepsiCo, Indra K. Nooyi oversees a $60 billion food and beverage empire. One of the top female executives in the U.S., Nooyi is believed to be the highest-ranking woman of Indian heritage in corporate America. She is known to possess the ability to tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke in a sniff test.
Sonia Gandhi, President, INC, India
Although ranked as the seventh most powerful woman by Forbes for 2011, in India, Sonia Gandhi is probably the most powerful woman. In September 2010, she was re-elected president of the Congress party for the fourth time, making her the longest-serving president in the party’s 125-year history. Mocked as “Super Prime Minister” by some opposition leaders, she is the Chairperson of India’s ruling coalition, United Progressive Alliance.
Chanda Kochhar, CEO, ICICI Bank, India
She is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank Limited—India’s largest private bank and the second largest overall bank in the country. In a career that began in 1984 as a management trainee in ICICI, Ms. Kochhar has made consistent leaps by heading all the major functions of the bank. This banker boasts a breadth of experience in areas such as corporate credit, infrastructure financing, e-commerce strategy and retail.
Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary, National League for Democracy
In confinement (house arrest) for 15 of the last 21 years, this icon of democracy and justice finally breathed freedom in November 2010. The General Secretary of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991. In 2007, the Government of Canada made her an honorary citizen. She is one of only five people ever to receive this honour.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Founder Chair, Biocon, India
Trained as a brewer in Australia, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is India’s first biotech entrepreneur. The enterprise that started with $220 when she was just 25, began by partnering with an Irish firm to make industrial enzymes. Currently Biocon produces drugs for cancer, diabetes and auto-immune diseases. Deeply concerned about providing affordable healthcare in India, she is the founding donor for a cancer hospital that is free for the poor. She also sponsors a health insurance plan that benefits 100,000 rural villagers.
SAVITRI JINDAL, Non-executive Chairperson, Jindal Steel and Power Limited:
This 60-year-old non-executive chairperson of Jindal Steel and Power Limited and JSW Steel and a member of the Harayana state legislature is the richest woman in India. She also happens to be the world’s 56th richest person, although, until her husband O. P. Jindal’s death by helicopter crash in 2005, she didn’t even ask how much wealth she had.
INDU JAIN, CHAIRPERSON, Times Group:
This matriarch is the Chairperson of the privately-owned Bennett, Coleman & Co., which her family acquired from a British group. It is now India’s biggest media house. Ms. Jain is a spiritualist and has introduced columns on spirituality in the group’s newspapers. Her sons Samir and Vineet are presently handling the company’s affairs. Ms. Jain is also managing the Times Foundation, the group’s philanthropic arm.
MUKESH AMBANI, Chairman Reliance Industries:
As the richest Indian man, Mukesh Ambani is the chairman and managing director of the petrochemical conglomerate, Reliance Industries—the largest private sector enterprises in India listed in Fortune 500 magazine. His personal stake in Reliance Industries is 48% and, he also owns the world’s most expensive private residence—a 27-floor high-rise in Mumbai.
LAKSHMI MITTAL, Chair, ArcelorMittal
He is London’s richest resident and oversees ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker. When the company’s net profits fell by 75% in 2009, Mittal took 12% pay cut amid slump. He started family steel business in India in 1970s and branched out on his own in 1994. This steel giant is also funding a 400-foot sculpture to be built in London’s Olympic Park in time for 2012 Olympics.
CYRUS S. POONAWALLA
The 23rd richest Indian, Cyrus S. Poonawalla is the Chairman of Poonawalla Group, which includes Serum Institute of India, an Indian biotech company that manufactures pediatric vaccines. In 2005, the Government of India awarded him the Padma Shri for his contribution to the field of medicine.
AZIM PREMJI, Chairman, Wipro Limited
This Indian business tycoon is the third wealthiest Indian and the 36th richest in the world. Twice, he has been listed among the 100 most influential people by TIME Magazine—in 2004 and 2011. He has 74% ownership in Wipro Limited that began by manufacturing hydrogenated cooking oils as well as consumer products. The company’s global IT business, Wipro Technologies, is one of India’s largest software companies and is ranked among the top 100 technology companies worldwide.
GAUTAM ADANI, Chairman, Adani Group:
According to the March 2011 issue of Forbes Magazine, Gautam Adani is the 6th richest Indian. His personal wealth amounts to US $10 billion. With more than 25 years of wide business experience, he stewarded Adani Group to emerge as a diversified Energy and Logistics conglomerate with interests in power generation and transmission, coal trading and mining, gas distribution, oil and gas exploration.
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Army Chief of Staff, Pakistan
Forbes Magazine calls Ashfaq Parvez Kayani “The most powerful man in a nuclear-armed country.” This four-star general is the current Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. He replaced General Pervez Musharraf in that position in November 2007. As the former Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), this very important man in the Pakistani political scene was named the 20th most powerful person in the world in 2008 by Newsweek magazine.
AHMED SHUJA PASHA, Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan
Possibly of equal prominence as the Army Chief of Staff is the Director-General of Pakistan’s premier intelligence service, ISI. Though due to reach the age of superannuation in March 2010, he received two extensions. His term was extended twice—first by a year, then by two more years, until March 2013. Recently named as one of the 100 most influential people by TIME Magazine.
Dr. Farooq Bajwa, Partner, Dean & Dean Firm, London
Born in Lahore in 1966, this eminent scholar lectured on history and politics at a number of universities and institutions before training to become a barrister and solicitor. In 1990, he completed a PhD in International Relations at the London School of Economics. Some of his significant clients include the Black Police Association, Muslim campaign groups, mosques and Muslim ambassadors to the United Kingdom.