Parramatta gets its first holi

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The editor of Hindi Gaurav brings Holi to Parramatta

Parramatta will have its first Holi on 7 March at Jeffrey Reserve, 108 Isabella Street, North Parramatta. The man behind the first “non-commercial, community Holi” is the publisher of Hindi Gaurav Anuj Kulshreshta. “Parramatta has been an Indian hub for quite a while now, yet we’ve never had a Holi in this area for the local Indian community,” says Anuj. “While the Indian population in Parramatta has been growing steadily in the last few years, most of us have to make a trip to other parts of Sydney for Holi. This is simply inconvenient,” he says.

Parramatta’s Holi is expected to draw thousands next month. Anuj says that there will be plenty of entertainment and activities for families and others looking for a fun Saturday. The event itself is, according to Anuj, the first non-commercial Holi organised by Indians living in and around Parramatta.

“This is how Holi is in India,” says Anuj. “It is not about sponsorships or about promoting businesses by getting huge crowds to an Indian festival. Nor is it about political patronage or funding,” he adds. “Holi in India is run by local communities as a local community affair, and that is how we plan to run our event in Jeffrey Reserve.”

Anuj has organised festivals like Karva Chauth and the recent kite festival. He has been active within the Indian communities in Parramatta, the western suburbs and the rest of Sydney for well over a decade now. He was instrumental in launching Indian-Australian Idol, and Indian Australian Dancing Star. He was one of the main organisers of Miss/Mrs India Australia 2013. Anuj has consistently organised and promoted events that showcase young talents in the Indian community.

 

First moves

Though he initially arrived in Adelaide in 2002, the entrepreneur and educationist in him sensed in his early days in Australia that Sydney was the city of opportunities for immigrants. Anuj had left a private college in Agra to join his wife Swechha in Austalia. A passionate advocate of small business and entrepreneurship, Anuj is also a trained accountant.

Speaking to The Indian Sun about his most recent venture, Anuj says that Holi at Parramatta will attempt to keep Indian associations and factionalism at bay. He says that the Parramatta Holi will not seek the support of associations although all are welcome as individuals. Several artistes from all over Sydney will be performing at the festival.

“Associations have nearly always fallen into the trap of regionalism. In the past regional associations with narrow interests have been organising Indian festivals solely to promote their own interests and regional culture. This will not be the case with Parramatta’s first Holi.”

Like his previous events, Anuj says that this Holi too will be a pan-Indian festival for everyone in Sydney. Anuj says that his previous festivals like Karva Chauth were organised in such a manner that all Indians found the event appealing and had some reason to be part of it. In the same spirit, Holi in Parramatta will reach out to the entire community in Parramatta. “This,” he says, “will be a good precedent and will encourage the local community to have a greater say in the organising of cultural events and festivals.”

 

For the people, by the people

This idea behind a community festival, organised by and for the community, and not for profit or political gains, is quite natural for someone who has been a part of the Indian community in the western suburbs for well over a decade now. When Anuj moved from Adelaide to Sydney he enrolled in the University of Western Sydney for an accounting degree and set up his first business in Parramatta Mall. Being an accountant and strong believer in small business Anuj says that the best opportunities for immigrants in Australia are in small business.

“Unfortunately many immigrants set up businesses hoping to make a quick fortune or to escape unemployment,” he says. “This is the reason why many businesses fail. They have no goals or vision. More importantly, they don’t organise their finances to get the best out of business. And they give up at the first sign of a challenge,” argues Anuj.

For someone who has tried his hands at mortgage broking, retail, publishing and events, Anuj’s arguments for small business seem convincing. “Retail, hospitality, restaurants, finance, services, real estate are all avenues for immigrants to build successful businesses in Sydney. The last decade has seen a real boom in the Indian market. Few of the successful South Asian businesses we see in the western suburbs today are more than 10 years old. In these last 10 years the level of activity in the Indian small business sector has been phenomenal, and there is every reason to believe that this boom will only continue into the foreseeable future.”

Why then is small business a risky game in Australia? Do immigrants bear the brunt of the difficulties of small business? Anuj says that starting a business without knowing the fundamentals of taxation, leasing, or lending, for example, is a sure recipe for trouble along the way. “Business, by its nature, is a challenging game. It is a lonely road to take, and it is harder to set something up on your own, compared to working for a wage. Very often entrepreneurs don’t have the right business model for the market they are in. Or they set up a restaurant or a migration business for dubious reasons,” he says. “If one looks at Harris Park and the number of successful Indian businesses here, there is no doubt that the time is right for entrepreneurship.”

 

How to succeed in business

“The thing about Indian businesses in Sydney is that one cannot open a business and live a quiet life expecting profits to come eventually.” Anuj argues that the nature of the “Indian/immigrant economy” is such that small businesses are interlinked and it is only through spreading oneself across a few different areas of business that success is likely to come. “This doesn’t mean that you lose your focus and run after every opportunity that presents itself,” he says. Anuj says that several Indian entrepreneurs face rough weather because they get carried away with the success of their first enterprise and then run off to invest in other businesses, or get into an “expansionary phase” that eventually overstretches their resources.

“This is one of the biggest pitfalls of Indian businesses. Many grocery store owners, restaurants, travel agents rush to expand as soon as they make a profit, and this leads to avoidable failures.”

All of these insights and concerns led Anuj to publish the popular magazine Hindi Gaurav. His efforts to promote Hindi in Australia and to provide the Indian audience with an Australian Hindi publication have earned him accolades from leading Indian organisations in Australia. Hindi Gaurav’s journalism and events, like Australian-Indian Idol, were pioneering and successful ventures.

In 2010, in the NSW parliament, the Bharti Vidya Bhavan honoured Anuj’s efforts in promoting Hindi through Hindi Gaurav. In recognition of his abilities as a media person he was honoured by Facebook at one of its big events in Agra in 2013.

One can be sure that Anuj and his team will deliver a memorable Holi in Parramatta, a festival that will be a new beginning for Indian festivals in Sydney.

 

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