Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Patel Motels in the States

Tunku Varadarajan in NYTimes about the dominant presence of Indians -- and the Patels, in particular -- in the US hotel industry.

This statistic is revealing: "[S]lightly more than 50 percent of all motels in the United States are now owned by people of Indian origin."

And this one, even more so: "... [A]bout 70 percent of all Indian motel owners -- or a third of all motel owners in America -- are called Patel, a surname that indicates they are members of a Gujarati Hindu subcaste."

Here's a quick excerpt:

In the earlier days of the motel phenomenon, Indians tended mostly to buy mom-and-pop establishments. ''They liked the independence,'' Vilpesh Patel told me. ''We Patels, we Gujaratis, we don't like working for other people.'' But there were other, less romantic factors keeping Indians out of the franchise motel chains. According to Mit Amin, an independent hotelier himself, ''The big brands didn't really want us.''

Indeed, there was a time when Indians were the underdogs of the lodging sector. Mike Patel, the industry-relations chairman of the A.A.H.O.A., explains that some insurance companies thought Patels were scam artists who bought, insured and burned down the property and cashed in. He says that after a couple of fires in Tennessee in the early 1980's, Indian moteliers had trouble getting insurance coverage. The association was formed, he adds, ''in response to that prejudice.''