Asian American Hotel Owners Association
Tampa (Florida), July 12, 2005
Lalit K Jha
About six months ago Awdesh Mishra, who owns a local
convenience store at Plant City -- some 25 miles east
of Tampa city in the coastal Florida of the United
States - was robbed.
NRI Mishra, who came to the U.S. about six year ago
from his hometown Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, did lodge
a complaint with the local authorities and the police.
"But, this did not work," he claims. No
one came to his help, he rues.
This, possibly, has now become history. Unorganized,
so far, the Asian convenience store owners of the
U.S., who are predominantly Indians and mainly Gujaratis,
held their first ever convention at Tampa July 9,
resolving to work together for a common cause to help
"Individually, we are isolated. We feel lonely
in this nation and can be subject to any type of discrimination
or injustice. From today, we represent a force
to recon in the U.S., with a joint purchasing power
of $80 billion (about Rs. 3,600 crores) per annum,"
Satya Shaw, president, Asian Americans Convenience
Stores Association, told HindustanTimes.com, after
the first annual convention.
Statistically, their purchasing power is double that
of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA).
Formed in the aftermath of the "Operation Meth
Merchant" in Atlanta in which some 43 Gujaratis
were arrested by the police on the charges of allegedly
selling substances used in the illegal manufacture
of the methamphetamine (meth), a highly addictive
substance, Shaw said this was because of ignorance
and lack of legal knowledge among the Indian convenience
Of the nearly 1.3 million convenience store owners
in the United more than 80,000 are Indian and majority
of who are Gujaratis. Referring to the increasing
crime rate against the Indian convenience store owners
in the U.S., he said in his inaugural address: "There
is an urgent need to organize ourselves."
Claiming that on an average 100 people (Indian
convenience store owners) die every year due to
robbery and other crime related incident, Shaw alleged
that the police did nothing in majority of these cases.
"Now, we would not let this happen," he
Talking to HindustanTimes.com after the conference
the Association chairman, Chandra Patel, said they
have started negotiating with several eminent manufacturers
on prices of products to be supplied to the convenience
stores. "With such massive purchasing power,
we can negotiate for more discounts from these people,"
said Patel, who last month was elected as president
of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, U.S.
In such circumstances a convenience store owner can
make an additional saving of $500 to $1,000 per month.
Gracing the occasion as chief guest the Florida Attorney
General, Charlie Christie, in his speech congratulated
the convenience store owners of forming the association.
In fact, a glittery of Indian community leaders had
gathered on the occasion signifying importance of
Christie is the number two men in then Florida Government
after the Governor Jeb Bush - the brother of the President
George Bush. Christie has already announced his decision
to run for the next Governor election.
"It was long due. I happy that this has finally
happened," said Akshay Desai, the White House
Commissioner on Health, who specially came in to attend
the convention. "This would help in curtailing
crime against them (the convenience store owners),"
Addressing the gathering, whose attendance in the
morning was affected by the Dennis hurricane, Subramanian
Swamy, who is here on a Harvard teaching assignment,
urged the Convenience Stores Association to constitute
an advisory civil liberties committee so as to defend
themselves through attorneys and lawyers when needed.
Referring to a figure from the National Association
of Convenience Stores, Swamy said the gas retailers
lost $234 million in theft alone during 2004, double
the figure in 2003. There is an urgent need to reverse
the present trend, he felt.
A second-generation eminent Indo-American lawyer,
Nikhil Joshi, even came forward to help them in such
legal matters. A board member of Hindu American Foundation,
Joshi, has been helping those affected by the Operation
Among other important Indian community leaders were
Asian American Hotel Owners Association chairman,
M. P. Rama and the convenience store gain tog New
York, H. R. Shah. "All this signifies, how much
the Indo-American community cares for convenience
store owners," said Patel.
In fact this is for the first time that this unorganized
sector has been brought together on one platform,