EDCUtah is highlighting a Utah community organization or multicultural resource group each month. This is part of an effort to inform our investors about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) best practices and resources in Utah.
We spoke to Balaji Sudabattula, current president of the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple and the Indian Cultural Center (ICC), based in South Jordan, UT.
The Temple serves as a place of worship for the Utah Hindu community, while the ICC is a non-profit wholly owned subsidiary with the primary function of promoting the heritage, arts, crafts, sports, and culture of India.
What is the role of the Temple in Utah’s Hindu community?
In general, the Indian community in Utah is drawn to the Temple, since it’s the center for gathering for festivals. For example, if somebody moves to Utah, and they follow Hindu traditions, invariably they will come to the Temple in the first few days. The Sri Ganesha Temple has the biggest Hindu congregation in the state.
We have festivals almost every single day. For us Hindus, birth is a festival, a baby going into the cradle for the first time is a festival, a baby eating for the first time is a festival, and when a child writes for the first time, it is a festival. We celebrate when the days get longer. We basically celebrate everything!
The Temple was dedicated in 2003 and expanded in 2015 to support the substantial increase in the Asian Indian population in the valley. The effects of the pandemic have increased the Indian population in Utah further. A lot of Indians who used to work in software in California have moved here to work remotely. I think the Census data hasn’t caught up with the increase in our population.
The Temple is a welcoming place. When I see someone new at the Temple, I ask them where they are from, and try to make them as comfortable as possible so they feel part of the community. There was a professor who had come for an interview at the University of Utah, and he visited the Temple. We spoke together in passing, and I met him later, after he had taken the job. “You’re the reason I’m here,” he said.
“How is that?” I asked.
“The way you talked, the way you made me feel welcome,” he said.
How is the ICC a tool in the Temple’s “welcoming” toolkit?
The Cultural Center is the non-religious wing of the Temple. On a regular basis, we have musicians and dance troupes from India that are touring in the U.S., and we bring them to Utah. Their performances are well attended and are also a great way to reach out to the greater Utah community.
We publish these events in Now Playing Utah so anyone can attend.
For our business readers, what are some best practices in recruiting and retaining talent of an Indian background?
One of our big festivals is called Diwali. At Adobe several years ago, for example, the company sponsored celebrations of the festival at their offices. The Indians working at Adobe dressed up in their traditional clothing, decorated the halls, and brought Indian food in for all employees. That approach is interesting. It was the first time I had heard of that in Utah. I think Ancestry followed suit.
If a company does something like that, it will make people more comfortable. It feels great to know a company is receptive to different cultures.
Gov. Herbert has celebrated Diwali in the Governor’s Mansion. Gov. Huntsman started the tradition. Coming from the top – from the governor of a state – that brings a lot of recognition of the contributions of Indians to the local economy.
The Festival of Colors, another big event for our community, is a good opportunity for companies to get involved with celebrating Hindu culture as well.
How can HR managers find talent of Indian background?
We have a newsletter that goes to our entire community, and we’re willing to post job openings in it. The Cultural Center also has sponsorship opportunities which are a good way for companies to build visibility within our community. Zions Bank, for example, is a long-time sponsor.
What are some characteristics of the Hindu community that our readership should know about?
The Indian community has high levels of education and most people in the valley are professionals. The Hindu community is fairly entrepreneurial and a lot of the immigrants have started their own businesses. We network well and help each other find opportunities.
About 50 to 60 percent of our community resides along the Wasatch Front, and we have many of what I call the “floating community” that migrate in and out of the state. These are generally consultants in technology companies who come to the area on a visa for a limited work engagement. They’re reticent to get involved with our own anchored Indian community. But the community that is anchored, they can be influenced to get involved with the broader Utah community.
The 911 Day of Service sponsored by South Jordan is an example of a project where we joined the larger community.
From your standpoint, what is Utah doing well vis a vis the Indian community?
I came from a state in the southeast, and I had instances where people would look at me differently. I don’t get that in Utah. I came here to stay for maybe a year or two, but that was 17 years ago, so that tells you something. The fact that we’re welcome in the community, and nobody looks at us differently, that provides a great sense that we’re part of this community. We don’t feel alienated from others. Utah also has solid family values that are very common with the Indian community. Indians who migrate to the area feel welcome here quickly. We constantly have visitors from the local schools, colleges and community who are curious to know about the Hindu culture. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was very helpful when we built our Temple and the church even made a monetary contribution to the Temple.
For more information, visit: https://www.utahganeshatemple.org/