JANUARY 2018
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

India Republic Day

FLORIDA CELEBRATES INDIA REPUBLIC DAY

By NITISH S. RELE - editor@khaasbaat.com

Here are some of the Florida communities celebrating India’s Republic Day.

SOUTH FLORIDA (LAUDERHILL): The Indian Religious and Cultural Center (IRCC) will hold its Lohri/Republic Day/Kite Flying/Anand Bazaar from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28, at Central Broward Regional Park, Corporate Shelter No. 1, 3700 N.W. 11th Place, Lauderhill. Kites will be available for sale. For information on the event, which is free to attend, e-mail board@irccflorida.com or visit http://www.irccflorida.com/

TAMPA: The Federation of India Associations (FIA) of Tampa Bay will hold its Republic Day event on Sunday, Feb. 11, at India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road, Tampa. Festivities will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with flag hoisting at 1:30 and cultural talent shows from 2.15 to 7. For details, call Jai Chandran at (813) 992-2014 or Jigisha Desai at (813) 731-7747. Booths by member associations in respective regional languages will be set up. Food/vendor booths will be day long. For more information, call FIA President Ramnarayanan Mani at (201) 238-4263.    

FIA has several other activities associated with Republic Day planned.

JACKSONVILLE: Indian Cultural Society of Jacksonville will hold Republic Day celebrations, first one from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20 at Hindu Society of North East Florida, 4968 Greenland Road. Poster competition for kids and a flower arrangement competition for adults will be held. A bigger celebration will follow on Jan. 27. For information, email Republicday@jaxics.org or visit www.jaxics.org


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PALM BEACH: The Palm Beach India Association will hold its kite flying event on Jan. 14. For details, visit www.gopbia.org

TAMPA BAY: The Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay will celebrate Uttarayan from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14, at Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 N., Tampa. For more information, call Manish Patel at (813) 270-9896 or Ravi Patel at (727) 692-6399.

And on Sunday, Jan. 14, Sanatan Mandir, 311 E. Palm Ave., Tampa, will hold a Lohri/Uttarayan with Surya Narayan Punjan from 4 to 6 p.m. For information, call the temple at (813) 221-4482.

Also, Ambaji Mandir will hold Vishnu Sahasranaman Paath at 6 p.m. on Jan. 14. Ambaji Mandir is at 10991 58th St. in Pinellas. For more information, call the mandir at (727) 388-6685 or visit www.ambajimandir.org

Laxmi Narayan Mandir, 4615 George Road, Tampa, will hold Vishnu Sahasranaman at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 as part of its Makarsankranti celebrations. For information, call (813) 444-9786 or visit www.srilaxminarayanmandir.org

The Hindu Temple of Florida will celebrate Pongal at 7 p.m. on Jan. 14. The mandir is at 5509 Lynn Road, Tampa. For information, call (813) 962-6890.

Also, the Maayboli Melawa Tampa Bay (MMTB) will hold its annual Makar Sankrant program from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27, at HCC Dale Mabry, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa. For information, call Ram Padte at (813) 770-4854 or visit www.mmtbusa.org

ORLANDO: The Gujarati Society of Central Florida will celebrate Uttarayan from 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 14 at Barnett Park, 4801 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. Admission is free for members; non-members pay $35 per person. For information, call (407) 460-2020 or email info@gujaratisocietycfl.com

Lohri bonfire celebrations will be held from 6 to 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 13 by the Hindu Society of Central Florida, 1994 Lake Drive, in Casselberry. Admission is free. For details, call Neema Vedi at (407) 415-8501, email pkvedi@gmail.com or visit www.hindutempleorlando.org

Orlando Marathi Mandal will hold its Sankrant picnic from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 27 at Barnett Park, pavilion 1, 4801 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. For details, email orlandomarathi@yahoo.com or visit www.orlandomarathi.com/

BARTOW/WINTER HAVEN: The Bhartiya Samaj of Central Florida will celebrate Uttarayan from 9 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14, at Bartow Ball Park, County Road 555, Bartow. Tickets are $25. For information, call Vinoobhai Patel at (863) 293-0942 or visit www.bscfl.com

MELBOURNE/COCOA (SPACE COAST AREA): The Indian Association of the Space Coast (IASC) will hold Uttarayan from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14, at Fox Lake Park, 4400 Fox Lake Road, Titusville. Kites and string will be available for purchase. For information, e-mail iascbrevard@gmail.com or visit www.iascbrevard.com

JACKSONVILLE/ELKTON: The Gujarati Samaj of Northeast Florida will celebrate Uttarayan from 10 a.m. Jan. 21 at Saint Johns Fairgrounds, 5840 State Road 207, Elkton. The event is sponsored by Vrundavan Dham (ISSO). Visit www.gsnef.org and RSVP.


 

PROFILE

PUNIT SHAH OF TAMPA’S LIBERTY GROUP PART OWNER OF MIAMI MARLINS

By NITISH S. RELE – editor@khaasbaat.com

Punit and his wife Carla with Derek Jeter

He is the first Indian American owner of a professional baseball team. Punit Shah of Tampa’s Liberty Group, part of an investment group led by former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, recently bought the Miami Marlins Major League Baseball team. Price is a cool $1.2 billion.

“I always knew I couldn’t be an athlete,” admits Shah. “But the business aspect intrigued me. When I heard the Marlins were for sale, I reached out to Jeter who was nice enough to have me join him. Besides, there’s no better person than him as a partner. I am a passive investor for the team with Jeter as CEO and Bruce Sherman as manager. Miami is a gateway city to Latin America and baseball is the most popular sport.”

More than three decades ago, Punit’s father, Raxit, founded the Liberty Group, which has owned and managed more than $425 million in commercial real estate, including multi-family developments, senior living facilities, and 55 hotels in the United States. It has also raised two private equity real estate funds, Liberty Hospitality Fund I & II, with over $250 million in combined debt and equity capital. 

Brother Prem is responsible for developing and managing all senior living facilities. Their father is chairman and is involved in every major decision in an advisory capacity. And Punit as CEO is responsible for investment and management divisions, including private equity funds. “We had 27 hotels but have been slowly selling them and are now down to 18 in the United States,” says Punit. “We just broke ground on a dual-branded mixed-use project featuring a Hampton Inn by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton, and Starbucks Coffee in downtown Tampa. The development will break ground in January 2018 and open in mid-2019.” Incidentally, the Liberty Group is developing the Starbucks on Harbour Island in Tampa.

The $40 million Channel District project will be within walking distance of the new USF Health building, Water Street, Amalie Arena, Publix, Tampa History Museum and Port Tampa Bay. Punit’s friend Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is also a limited investor in the project.

Punit and his wife Carla with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

What does Shah think about the relocation debate going on with the Tampa Bay Rays, a possible move to Tampa? “I advocate the team to be on our side, here in Tampa,” he says. ‘We are pushing for it to be in downtown.”

Born in Toronto, Shah and his family moved to Ohio, then on to Boston where he earned an undergrad at the Boston University School of Hospitality. He also serves as an advisory board member and established the Punit & Carla Shah Family scholarship. He is an alumnus of the Harvard University Economics Honors program, and Political Science and Executive Real Estate Development & Leadership programs at Cornell University and Emory University.

In 2004, the Shahs finally settled in Tampa with both brothers working alongside their father, gaining experience and knowledge of Liberty Group operations. “Dad is incredible, a great mentor, and we continue to bond over work every day. It has taken me 10 years to be able to run the business, became CEO in 2014.”

Punit Shah

Shah has received the Florida’s Governor’s Enterprise award, Tampa Business Journal “Under 30” award, Florida Business Review “Under 40” and Entrepreneur of the Year awards, having been named as 25 People to Watch in Florida, Boston University Alumni of the Year award, and serves on the Global Board of Directors of the Intercontinental Hotels Group Owner’s Association.

Punit and his wife, Carla, are thankful to be a part of the Tampa Bay community. “It is unique, a growing city,” he says. “It has given me an opportunity to advance my career. The Indian community especially has welcomed us. We are just grateful to be here at the right time.”


YOGI GOSWAMI OF TAMPA INVENTS MOLEKULE AIR PURIFIER

By NITISH S. RELEeditor@khaasbaat.com

He was asthmatic from birth, recalls Dr. Yogi Goswami about his son Dilip. “We took care of his food allergies but triggers in the air, I figured, were causing allergies. We looked around for air cleaners, tried them, back in the early 1990s but none helped. All were HEPA filters, developed in the 1940s as a part of the Manhattan Project in response to nuclear fallout.”

Dr. Goswami, director of the Clean Energy Research Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, pondered on the solar technology he’d developed to clean up contaminated water. “So, why not apply it to air?” he asks. “Instead of sunlight, use artificial light.” He came up with Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO). It is this technology in the making for 20 years that has gone into making Molekule, which breaks down pollutants on a molecular level. PECO works when a nanoparticle-coated filter is activated by light generating a reaction on the surface of the filter, breaking down pollutants including allergens, bacteria, viruses, mold and VOCs. That makes it a lifesaver for those with asthma and allergy symptoms. Between 40 to 50 million people in the United States suffer from asthma and even more fight allergies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the air indoors can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. On average, people spend 90 percent of their time indoors and are exposed to harmful pollutants that affect everyone.

“It was Dilip who suggested that we should actually commercialize PECO and that’s how Molekule came into being,” says Dr. Goswami. And the going has been positive from day one since its launch in July last year. Local and national investors have joined hands to raise $15 million. Essentially, if you leave out the HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, there is no competition for the product. However, HEPA filters capture and collect pollutants, where they can accumulate and multiply, but are then eventually released back into the air.

A key component of the all-aluminum Molekule is its look. “We had the best team designing it,” says the clean energy exert. “We wanted to make sure people were proud to display it in their house, not try to hide it.” Vogue magazine featured it for design. And the Museum of Modern Art Design Store has Molekule in its gift catalog. Lest we forget, TIME magazine featured the air filter among top 25 inventions of 2017.

There are three settings on Molekule: boost, auto and silent. “Others simply filter contaminants but our purifier doesn’t just filter but also destroy the contaminants,” says Dr. Goswami. “Nothing is left of all sorts of micro-organisms such as spores, bacteria.”

Available at $799 (www.molekule.com), Molekule includes replacement of filters for the first year. Then a $99 yearly subscription is offered for replacement filters. “It can be connected to Wi-Fi for the device to become smarter over time and respond to the individual needs of people’s household,” says Dr. Goswami. The companion iOS app allows user to control the device remotely and seamlessly manage filter replacements.

Production takes place in different places with the final assembly in California. Dilip is CEO and his sister, Jaya Rao, who is the COO, are both based in San Francisco.

“Clean air is an absolute necessity to our health and well-being, and access to clean air is a basic human right,” says Dr. Goswami. “I have personally seen the impact clear air can have as I saw my son growing up with asthma and allergies and finally being able to feel some relief with the air purifier. I hope this technology brings this gift to every family and every home.”

A priceless gift, indeed, we must add for asthma and allergy sufferers.

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