John Hammond defies categorization. He won’t volunteer information on his country of origin, religion, or political affiliation. He listened to his parents’ pleas for him to become a doctor or engineer and started businesses instead. He passed all of his CPA exams without studying, launched IT companies, and, ironically, a test prep academy. His marriage, a seemingly happy and successful one at that, was arranged; he would not have his children do the same. And in 2002, he started a business with one Indian movie theater and no comparison model to think of. It quickly expanded to a magazine, radio stations, banquet halls, and event services. He called it FunAsia. Why?
“Well, it’s part of the South Asian community, so Asia comes from there,” Hammond says. “And fun is because that’s where you go and have fun.”
It’s that simple. Kind of.
Hammond was witnessing tremendous growth in the South Asian community, with people emigrating directly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, as well as from the coasts, often moving to Dallas for jobs as, you guessed it, doctors and engineers. Of North Texas’ foreign-born population today, nearly 8 percent is South Asian. Numbers were so small in 1970 that the census didn’t even break out these countries. With that growth, Hammond saw his opening.
On his radio stations, each country and religion are granted programming, as long as they don’t talk about any other country or religion. And any candidate can get support. Hammond threw fundraisers for both gubernatorial hopefuls, Gregg Abbott and Wendy Davis, and has pictures in his office with President Obama.
“Why do we want to limit ourselves?” Hammond asks. “We don’t. We want to stay involved. On both sides.”
The model has worked. Twelve years after the first Indian movie theater opened in Richardson, FunAsia has found more than its footing in the community, with Hammond at the helm, creating a powerful network of South Asians.
“I’ve always firmly believed that I have a very short life to live,” Hammond says. “When I’m ready to achieve, I have a limited amount of time to achieve. Luckily I’m alive, so I have more to achieve.”