As they arrive, they find a world divided into niches
By ELLEN SIMON
NEW YORK - The story of how Cornelia Zicu came to start a
Fifth Avenue spa and the story of Abdul Wadud training his
cousin to sell fruit on a corner across from Madison Square
Garden are stories as old as immigration in America.
Just as some neighborhoods have a concentration of people
from one country, so do some jobs, as one family member
brings others from the old country and helps them find work.
For instance, Indians and their descendants own 50 percent
of the nation's economy lodging properties, 1 million rooms in
all, according to their trade group, the Asian-American Hotel
A 1997 report by the Carnegie Endowment said that in every
decennial census from 1880 to 1980, immigrants in the United
States were significantly more likely to be self-employed than
people born here. Their businesses are often small-scale, with
low startup costs, the report said.
Hasmukh Rama, 57, certainly started that way. Rama was
born to an Indian family living in Malawi in Africa. The family
sent him to India for school, then, in 1969, he came to the
United States with $2 in his pocket and an acceptance
from the MBA program at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
He started in the hotel business in Pomona, Calif., at age
25, at the urging of his maternal aunt's husband.
'They help each other'
"Most Indians are introduced that way," he said.
"They know some relative or friend already in the hotel
business. They learn from each other, they help
each other to locate the hotel or motel, and they also
He is now chairman and chief executive of JHM Hotels,
where his four brothers and a nephew also work.
The company owns 32 hotels and has 1,000 employees.
"I learned on my first property after I bought the hotel,"
he said. "I learned everything from making beds to
cleaning the parking lot to making minor repairs to
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