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A street vendor turned entrepreneur who shared high table with Obama

Monday, May 10, 2010 03:41:20 PM, Arun Kumar, IANS

Sirajuddin Qureshi

Washington: From a street vendor kid to sharing the high table at a presidential summit on entrepreneurship hosted by President Barack Obama to deepen America’s ties with Muslim communities, Sirajuddin Qureshi has indeed come a long way.

“The experience of coming here was great because we never expected what happened here,” said Qureshi who started his schooling at a Delhi madrassa, earned a degree in law and then went on to establish the Hind group of industries with interests ranging from meat processing to fast food to aviation.

As 200 delegates mostly from Muslim countries shared their experiences at the summit here last month about starting their businesses, Obama told them that America is an open society and offered his support to them “particularly young entrepreneurs from India”, Qureshi told IANS in an interview here.

Obama encouraged entrepreneurs from Muslim countries to come forward, he said while noting so many high officials from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke came to meet them and learn about their problems. “It was a unique venture,” he said.

Qureshi, who was elected president of the India Islamic Cultural Centre in New Delhi in 2004, also took the opportunity to invite Obama to address the centre designed to be a “platform to promote peace and brotherhood” when he visits India later this year.

“I believe Obama’s intentions are very clear,” Qureshi said. “He wants to open America to all particularly the Muslim countries. He has offered his support, we should also help him and try to support him.”

Qureshi had an humble beginning by selling odd and ends bought from the market.

“When I was very young, I used to earn money by just sitting on the pavement as a vendor, bringing something from the market and selling. I was very happy to make money,” he said.

His group of industries is today “a name trusted in 50 countries” with interests in agro processing, abattoirs, livestock development, engineering, education, hospitality and power.

The Indian entrepreneur said: “(Muslim) people were a little reluctant to associate with America. Now, I believe, Muslim states are coming forward to listen to Obama and they want to do things with the US.”

“Whatever Obama indicated during his speech in Cairo last June reaching out to Muslims around the world, he is trying to implement it,” Qureshi said. “All the delegates who came were appreciative of his views, his initiative.”

“So I believe he is on the right track. And a few things that he has already done have proved to be good for Muslim communities and they will come forward to support him. And he will also support Muslim people.”

Obama, Qureshi said, was very appreciative of India, its enterprise and its business people, and expressed his desire to further strengthen relationship with India calling it an emerging world power and one of the special countries for the US.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at







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