Pittsburgh Regional Alliance

As the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh prepare to welcome Ambassador of India Meera Shankar to Pittsburgh on April 28-29, 2011, this feature recognizes a unique relationship between India and Pittsburgh and showcases several Indian men and women - or those of Indian ancestry - who have contributed to the Pittsburgh region's globally recognized economic transformation. Read the World Affairs Council release detailing the Ambassador's visit.



The India-Pittsburgh Connection

Knowledge sharing and partnership-building generate bilateral economic growth

(PITTSBURGH – April 25, 2011) – Ten of the Pittsburgh region's 25 largest minority-owned companies are owned by individuals who are from India or of Indian ancestry. This may be a surprising statistic to some, but the fact of the matter is that the region's globally recognized economic transformation, spanning the past 30 years, has been significantly influenced by Indian knowledge workers and innovators.

The groundwork for this influence was laid when Indians began their migration to Pittsburgh in the 1970s, responding to Westinghouse Electric Company's recruitment of engineers from the subcontinent. As the years went by, more and more of their countrymen and women were attracted to work for large Pittsburgh companies, to study at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and to engage in research at the growing University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

Since then, many of those engineers, computer scientists and researchers who initially were just passing through chose Pittsburgh as the place where they could turn their ideas into enterprises, and those enterprises into job generators. Sunil Wadhwani is one of them. In the 1970s he earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon, and never left. He co-founded IT/business solutions firm iGateCorp., the largest Indian-owned business based in the region in terms of employment, with more than 8,000 workers worldwide.

Similarly, Venkee Sharma and his father have been trailblazers for the India-Pittsburgh connection. The elder Sharma immigrated to work for U.S. Steel, but struck out on his own some three decades ago to design industrial water treatment systems.  Venkee Sharma has seized the opportunities in the Pittsburgh region to expand that company, Aquatech, from serving primarily steelmakers to a spectrum of industrial customers worldwide. Headquartered in Canonsburg, Washington County, Aquatech now employs more than 200 people, and continues to grow.

Many leaders among Pittsburgh's Indian community contribute at the university level, and in a big way. Raj Reddy, computer science professor and founder of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, has earned the prestigious A.M. Turing Award – the computer science equivalent to the Nobel Prize. Pradeep Khosla is dean of the university's school of engineering and founding director of CyLab, one of the largest university-based cyber security research and education centers in the United States. And Priya Narasimhan is president and founder of YinzCam, Inc., a CMU spin out focused on mobile live streaming and experiential technologies for live events. A die-hard hockey fan since her move to Pittsburgh in 2001, Dr. Narasimhan has garnered national acclaim for providing Penguins fans with engaging new in-game experiences on their smartphones and on displays in arena suites.

Born in Shimla, India, award-winning artist and scholar, Dr. Prajna Paramita Parasher was educated in Paris as a filmmaker before coming to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. Today she calls Pittsburgh home as director of the Film and Digital Technology program at Chatham University as well as an associate professor of art, film and cultural studies. Her highly-acclaimed, visionary achievements have been presented at world-class venues including the Smithsonian Institution, the Nehru Center in London and the Tagore Center in Berlin.

Vijay Gorantla is a surgery professor for the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and administrative medical director of UPMC's Reconstructive Transplantation Program. In April 2011, he hosted a team of medical professionals from one of India's most revered teaching hospitals, the Government Stanley Hospital, who will launch a similar program back home in Chennai (formerly Madras) based on what they learned in Pittsburgh.

Typically the Pittsburgh region has trailed the rest of the country in demographic diversity, with far fewer ethnic minorities than the national average. That's not the case with the Indian community, however. With one percent of the Pittsburgh area's population claiming Indian heritage, the region is in line with the rest of the country.

There's a payoff in terms of economic development. Six Indian-owned firms are operating in the Pittsburgh region, including global energy giant Reliance Industries, Ltd. – India's largest company by market value

Last year Reliance acquired a 60 percent stake in the Marcellus Shale natural gas holding of Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc. The $392 million deal will go toward drilling 1,000 wells over the next decade. Reliance also forged a $1.7 million joint venture with Atlas Energy, acquiring a 40 percent stake in that company's 300,000 net acres of Marcellus Shale holdings. That venture was expected to create 500 new jobs and double Atlas's footprint in Moon Township.

Pittsburgh-based employers, in turn, have reached out to India with exports and investment. India has become the 15th largest importer of Pennsylvania goods in the world, buying $522.4 million in products and services in 2010 – a 19 percent increase from 2009. Twenty-eight local companies have operations in India, with 42 facilities in various Indian cities, ranging from Development Dimensions International (DDI) in Mumbai to H.J. Heinz Co.

Heinz entered the Indian market in 1994 by acquiring the family products division of what was then Glaxo, maker of such popular nutritional drinks as Complan and Glucon-D. India has since been fully integrated into Heinz's operations, with a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Uttar Pradesh producing the tomato ketchup that is still globally synonymous with The 'Burgh.

More recently, Westinghouse last year established a center to develop nuclear-specific skills and expertise at engineering services firm Infotech Enterprises Ltd. in Hyderabad. And PPG Industries is in the midst of expanding its industrial coatings venture with Asian Paints Ltd. in Mumbai.

Bilateral partnerships like these have increased trade and investment and are strengthening vital economic and cultural ties. Indian and American innovators, entrepreneurs and workers – here at home in the Pittsburgh region or half a world away – have benefits to reap from the Pittsburgh-India connection.


Philip Cynar
Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
412-281-4783, ext. 4573


Sunil Wadhawani
Pradeep K. Khosla, PhD.
Prajna P. Parasher
Vijay S. Gorantia, M.D., PhD. Sunil Wadhwani
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