The CulturalConnect (www.theculturalconnect.com) is a new watering hole for young South Asians in search of something beyond an online social venue. The website offers readers the choice of four different e-magazines, each packaged to offer you a “weekly dose of success.” The DesiConnect, LatinConnect, MideastConnect and AsiaConnect all offer a forum for mostly 20-35-year-olds looking for cultural and professional exchange with their peers. Twenty-four-year-old Sumaya Kazi started the venture along with co-founders Raymond Rouf and Kaiser Shahid. All three are Bangladeshi Americans. Kazi was named one of Business Week’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25 in 2006. “We are a destination point for young professionals of all ethnic backgrounds,” says Kazi. “… By profiling young, inspiring, motivating, young professionals under 35, both in the professional and nonprofit world we are kick-starting our generation of young professionals by showing them what others are doing and more importantly, connecting our readers to them.” Kazi also believes that South Asians outside the typical desi careers—doctor, lawyer, engineer—are not recognized for their choices, dedication, and achievements. Recent profiles on DesiConnect have featured Indian-American filmmaker Nisha Ganatra; artist and animator Sanjay Patel; NHL hockey star Manny Malhotra … you get the picture. In addition to reading about successful young professionals, a tool on the website called The ConnectionPoint allows readers to connect with the profilees. “… We all can benefit from other people’s knowledge,” says Kazi. The MideastConnect, LatinConnect and AsiaConnect were launched following the success of DesiConnect. The new e-magazines caught on, too, and website statistics soon revealed that subscribers were subscribing to more than one e-magazine and connecting with peers outside their own ethnic communities. Professional motivation and mentoring apart, the CulturalConnect also showcases the silent do-gooders in the nonprofit world. “There is an unfortunate gap between young professionals actively participating in the non profit world,” laments Kazi. The CulturalConnect is actively trying to bridge that gap. Kazi has more to lament about. Although she expresses joy at the recognition from Business Week, she confesses dismay that only two women made the list. “It brings to stark reality the vast differences of gender in entrepreneurship even in this day and age,” she says. Kazi works full-time as a marketing manager in her division for the Global Communications Group at Sun Microsystems. The CulturalConnect is only a part-time passion that she pursues with full devotion and drive outside her day job.
Vandana Kumar | Feb 19, 2007