Having his roots in the Ambala district of Haryana, Shalli, as Shalabh Kumar is best known to those who know him, is an expatriate Indian American entrepreneur, industrialist and a philanthropist who is based out of Chicago in the US. The tycoon, apart from being active philanthropically, is also a bourgeois interpreter, kinship mover-and-shaker and a political donor to boot. A conservative commentator, he is a community activist who often hits the news for his stands on various issues. NRI Achievers profiles this remarkable man, who has made it all by himself in his life …
Having graduated from the Punjab University in 1965, Shalabh Kumar is also an alumni of the Punjab Engineering College Chandigarh, with a BS in electronic engineering that he completed in 1969. It was from here that he cultivated his passion for electronics. In the US, Kumar went to the Illinois Institute of Technology, where apart from academics, his key role in organising an exhibition of rare vintage photographs of Indian freedom fighters like Subhash Chandra Bose, Chandrashekhar Azad and Sahid Bhagat Singh for the first ever time won him accolades.
He was instrumental in eventuating a company called “AVG Advanced Technology,” an enterprise that is into automation controls, semiconductors, telecommunications, thick-film hybrids, as also into electronic component manufacturing and distribution. Shalabh Kumar Kumar is the Chairman and CEO of the AVG Group of Companies, headquartered in Chicago with operations across the globe. He has also served several multinational companies in lead management roles – notably Circuit International Inc, Microfast Controls Corp, Electronic Support Systems, PEC Reliance, Lika Tandy Corporation, Mc Technologies, and Hi-Tech Systems Corporation.
Shalabh Kumar has, since his migration to the US in 1969, been politically active in the diaspora community. While during initial years he was a supporter of the Democrats, a coincidental meeting with President Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp impressed him so much that he jumped ship to evolve into a staunch Republican. Adding his standing and heft within the Indian-American community to Republican politics in 1983, he threw his weight behind Don Totten, Reagan’s mid-west campaign manager, successfully converting a significant segment of the community to form the first ever Indian American Republican organization in the US. He has also served on Reagan’s Small Business Advisory Council during the early eighties, apart from heading the Indian American Advisory Council of House Republican Conference, US Congress (Parliament).
During 2011-12, right after the Bin Laden affair in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Kumar became an active citizen lobbyist and power-broker on Capitol Hill, supporting Texas Congressman Ted Poe’s bill to cut-off all foreign aid to Pakistan. The bill was subsequently passed in August 2012. Kumar is also credited with founding the National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI), a think-tank focusing on issues relevant to Indian Americans. Apropos NIAPPI and Kumar even had the uncanny foresight to take a high level Congressional & Business delegation in March 2013 to visit the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and invite him to the United States. Modi, who was back then subject to ‘diplomatic isolation’ by the US Administration, literally swept the India General Elections in 2014 to become the Prime Minister.
Asked by the Indian electronic media his motives about this venture, Shalabh Kumar described Modi as his idol, who would architect a great future for India and US-India relationship. The Hindustan Times while reporting on this ‘ad-venture’ of Shalabh Kumar, ended up describing him as ‘the Punjabi Tycoon, the biggest supporter of Modi in the US.’
Kumar, energetically active in his self-assumed role of India lobbyist, has also been instrumental in raising voice against efforts to make legislation that is perceived to be detrimental to Indian interests. In 2014 for instance, it was Shalabh Kumar and Ramesh Patel, the Chairman of the FIA-Tristate NY (Federation of Indian Organizations), who were instrumental in preventing the ‘S-744’ bill passed by US Senate to be taken up by the House of Representatives. The S-744 Bill, it was felt, would adversely affect the economies of both India and the US, by putting uncalled-for restrictions on Indian IT professionals working on temporary work-visas in the US. The S-744 was also unequivocally opposed by US Chamber of Commerce.
Kumar has been closely working since the early eighties with Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House, and even ran the Gingrich Presidential Campaign in Scott County, Iowa in 2012. Of late, galvanized by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), Kumar is engaged in forming a Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), with Newt Gingrich as the honorary Chairman, and with support from the leadership and members of the US Congress as well as the RNC. Congressmen Ed Royce (Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee), Pete Sessions (Chairman, Rules Committee) and George Holding (Co-Chair of the India Caucus) are leading the effort.
So whatever he does, Shalabh Kumar is ‘big’ news – even if it be his son’s wedding. January 2011, his son Vikram Aditya tied the knot with Pooja Chitgopekar (2007 Miss Earth India). This ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ was touted as the biggest ever wedding extravaganza to take place in NZ history, featuring 9 helicopters forming the “Barat,” and a musical extravaganza that extended into 3-days – with Daler Mehndi, RDB Rhythm Dhol Bass of Canada and UK, and dance group Signature (of ‘Britain has Talent’ fame) from the UK.
He hit the news once again just last month, when he became a public supporter of Don Trump’s candidature in the upcoming 2016 US Presidential Elections. Kumar’s reading of Trump’s stance on Pakistan is positive, and well, he thinks that Trump could well prove to be the most Pro-Indian President that the US could have. Kumar views about Newt Gingrich’s calls for increased scrutiny of American Muslims and increased surveillance on mosques in the United States are also laudatory, views that have largely been getting negative press as ‘Islamophobia.’ The Hill, an American publication, quoted Kumar as specifically saying: “The policy setting is that we need to have a lot of scrutiny. I totally agree with [former Speaker] Newt Gingrich … Mosques ought to be monitored, … vetting should take place. … If you need to profile, what is the fuss?”
Shalabh Kumar was also in the news for his more recent pledge of US$ 2 Millions to Trump’s campaign from his own personal kitty, which would in fact be part of some US$ 10 million which the RHC and its members plan to donate to GOP candidates over the year, as it pushes Republicans to compete for the majority of Indian-Americans, who traditionally have been seen to lean towards the Democratic Party.
Have no doubt, Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar probably has more aces up his sleeve, and is likely to be in the news more often as momentum gathers on the race to Presidenthood in the United States of America.