Kamal Dandona has perhaps done more to bring India and the US closer than legions of diplomats and political hacks. Here’s how he works his charm
By Arnelle Hartenstein
in New York
He has consistently defied the odds to
accomplish what has been universally considered
impossible. He has brought people to a world they did not
know existed. He has opened the eyes and ears of a
sleeping world. He has walked among a multitude of people.
He has broken bread with the rich and famous. He has sat
with heads of state.
Meet the amazing Kamal Dandona, who tries to test his
limits and seems to always succeed in his endeavours. He
wears several hats: businessman, entrepreneur, chairman,
politician, gracious host, and most importantly husband
and father. And when it comes to grits, Dandona doesn’t
hesitate to roll up his sleeves and jump headlong into his
Dandona attended school in Bombay until he was 16. Like
most Indian youths he played cricket and enjoyed
socialising and was even considered a ‘party animal’.
He then went to London, where his father was now posted
and finished his A-levels. He received admission in an
aeronautical engineering programme. He has a flying
In 1979, at the age of 32, he landed in America. Kamal
took root in Old Westbury, New York, an area best known
for its excellent school system, prestigious location and
closeness to New York City. Dandona certainly wanted the
best for his family.
The amazing part of Dandona’s life began with his
first business venture. He took a risk by becoming a
trader of branded electronics. In his first year of
business in the US he posted a cool $25 million in sales.
He held the honour of being Sony’s largest distributor
of tapes, earning the title of The Electronics King.
Not content with just one business enterprise, Dandona
stuck his neck out in the movie world. A friend, Anupam
Kher, dared him to start an awards show that would bring
the Indian stars in the limelight, both in the US and the
rest of the world. He accepted this bet, not knowing the
challenges and pitfalls that lay ahead. "Anupam
challenged me to do an awards function in the US and the
crazy Punjabi that I am, took him on, not having an idea
of what I was getting myself involved with," he says.