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A historic event for the Indian-American community in Atlanta

By Parthiv N. Parekh Email By Parthiv N. Parekh
December 2012
A historic event for the Indian-American community in Atlanta

 

 “Consul General Ajit Kumar comes to
Atlanta as a very distinguished
diplomat and if you look at his vast
experience, we could not have sent you
anybody better, anybody more qualified
and anybody who has such a capacity
to deal with all of the issues that
concern you today…”

October 22, 2012, was a historic day for the Indian-American community of Atlanta. The inauguration of the Consulate General of India in Atlanta, the sixth Indian consular office in the United States, marked the maturation of a community that not only claims a critical mass but is also distinguished in its qualitative makeup.

As per Census data, Indians make the largest Asian American group in Georgia. In just a decade the community doubled in size from 46,132 (in 2000) to 96,116 (in 2010). In years past, a profile by the Atlanta Regional Commission cited Indian-Americans as number one in household income as well as higher education, amongst all demographic groups in the region. Nothing seems to have changed in this distinction since then, and like the national community, the Georgia Indian community continues to produce leaders in disproportionately high numbers in various sectors such as academia, medicine, corporations, and small-business enterprise.

Many believe there are a higher number of professionals and entrepreneurs amongst the Indian community in the region thanks to a thriving IT hub. The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), one of the largest professional groups amongst Indian-Americans, is headquartered here. The community can brag of outliers like the highly inspiring Dr. Beheruz Sethna, who transformed a small-town college into the noteworthy University of West Georgia; thought leaders like Dr. Jagdish Sheth, a globally acclaimed guru in marketing and consumer habits; and the popular Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent of CNN.

In a robust community with so much going for it, the opening of the Consulate is not only a natural progression but also a validation that Atlanta has grown to be one of the nationally dominant centers of the Indian-American population.

While the opening of the Consulate is hardly a matter of luck, many would agree that the Atlanta community is indeed fortunate to have Ajit Kumar as our first Consul General. Considering his voluminous outreach in the community from the time he first arrived in Atlanta a little over a year ago, many from the community have had a chance to personally meet him. And most of them would easily relate to the words of Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the United States, who said at an Atlanta event earlier this year, “Consul General Ajit Kumar comes to Atlanta as a very distinguished diplomat and if you look at his vast experience, we could not have sent you anybody better, anybody more qualified and anybody who has such a capacity to deal with all of the issues that concern you today…”

Sure, there are some who have wondered, “All that is fine, but are my visas going to be processed in a timely manner? Ultimately, the job of the consular office is to process applications in a prompt and professional manner.”

So far all indications are positive. While the office is not yet fully operative in all areas (visa applications, for example, are still being processed by the Houston Consulate), it has started out with a good track record where applicants have reported prompt turnarounds and a streamlined process through VFS Global, the outsourced service provider for the Consulate.

The issue of prompt and professional service, it must be noted, is a two-way street. Broadly speaking, we Indians are both casual and familial in our interpersonal dealings; hence most of us don’t think twice about picking up the phone or dropping an email to inquire about the most routine of matters regarding the application process.

Approximately 330,000 Indians and Indian-Americans fall under the jurisdiction of the Atlanta Consulate, which serves Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands. That, along with the non-Indians looking to travel to India, constitutes a large pool of potential applicants. Under the circumstances even the best of the consular staff can be rendered ineffective when dozens, if not hundreds, of people call each day to find out, for example, the amount of a particular fee, or the working hours of the Consulate when such information is clearly posted on pertinent websites or forms.

Applying for a visa is a formal and important task that takes some time and attention, but too many of us seek shortcuts even when most answers can be found by carefully going over the instructions provided on both websites, that of the Consulate and of its outsourcing partner.

Together, we have the opportunity to make the Atlanta Consulate a shining example that challenges the stereotypes regarding service in Indian environments.

 


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