New Americans, New Association

Entrepreneurial spirit evident in new Asian-American trade group

TAMPA, Fla. -- Last Saturday, the nation's Indian-American convenience store owners held their first convention, reported the St. Petersburg Times. The event was the idea of Tampa resident Satya Shaw, who has long been involved in the Association of Indian Physicians, a doctors' trade association, and the Asian-American Hotel Owners' Association, said the report.

There are a lot of Indian-American doctors, and a lot of Indian-American hoteliers, he saidbut there are far more Indian-American c-store owners, and yet there was no trade group for them. So [image-nocss] last year, Shaw started the Asian-American Convenience Store Association (AACSA).

It made sense, he told the newspaper. U.S. census numbers quoted on Shaw's website, www.aacsa.org, say that there are 132,000 c-stores in the country. Of those, Shaw claimed, about 80,000 are owned by Indian immigrants. And about 60,000 of those Indian-American store owners, he said, come from the same state in India: Gujarat.

The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in that province, said Chandra Patel, who chairs the association. "We Gujarati are very enterprising," he told the paper. "We are very aggressive."

But he also offered a more subtle theory. "When [Indian immigrants] come here, they have limited [English]," he said. That can make it tough to find a job, so they become their own boss. "They cannot be employees. What they can do is buy a business," he said. C-stores require only a small investment, he said, and they do not require much English to runonly good business skills.

Kirit Patel, a c-store owner who came to the convention from Gainesville, Fla., agreed. Like many c-store owners, he got into the business through a friend, he saidanother factor that helps bring people from the same place into the same business. C-stores "are not a very complicated business," he told the paper. "You buy things and you sell them. The only thing is to work hard and put in long hours."

Nisha Smith, a vendor at the convention, offered another reason for the trend. Indian-Americans work at c-stores because it's a job many people don't want to do, she said. "Most Americans are scared to work there," she told the Times.

And the report offers a final reason for the association coming togetherby banding together, they have greater purchasing power, and they can share strategies, tips and discounts, it said.

The mission of AACSA is to represent the industry and to assist retail members in increasing their current and future effectiveness and profitability by:

Providing knowledge, solutions and connections needed by the industry; Improving the image of the industry; Impacting government action beneficial to the industry through the active participation of its membership; Anticipating and facilitating change which ensures the long-term viability of the industry; Maintaining a financially independent association; and Fostering productive, efficient relationships with industry suppliers.

AACSA seeks to accomplish this mission through six focus statements, refined and developed by the retail membership:

We will understand, communicate and advance the customer's drivers for purchasing through the convenience store channel. We will seek to defend and grow the core categories by ensuring a level playing field and where possible rejuvenate and/or reinvent the way the industry goes to market. We will facilitate ways to generate sales/profits on our real estate (as nothing is permanent). We will define and promote (market) the characteristics of Employer of Choice and develop programs/tools/solutions in each component area.

We will assist the industry in lowering its costs of inventory acquisition and distribution thereby enabling convenience to be the determinative factor for customers.

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