Washington: Azamgarh-born Indian American entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Islam has been awarded the inaugural UP Ratna award for his contribution as a son of Uttar Pradesh.
An Indian American friend, Dr. Fazal Khan, received the award on Islam's behalf from UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on the opening day of the inaugural UP Pravasi Diwas in Agra on Monday.
Islam, who came to the US in the early 1970s to study at University of Colorado, said the "award means much to me and I am most pleased to accept it with the humility that I have learned as a son of Uttar Pradesh."
Islam praised the Uttar Pradesh government for engaging the diaspora through the Pravasi Diwas and instituting a mechanism to engage the diaspora in a serious and meaningful way for the development of the state.
Offering to help the state especially in the field of education, an area that is close to his heart, Islam said: "I'm convinced that the best way for Uttar Pradesh to realize its vast potential is to empower people by education and economic mobility."
The entrepreneur last year announced a $2 million contribution to Aligarh Muslim University, for building a new school of management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.
Islam, who has also pledged to provide considerable financial support to develop a technical training school for women in Azamgarh, said he intends to support more such educational initiatives in UP
"Education is the best way that we can build an economy commensurate with the size and potential of the state," he said, pointing out that Uttar Pradesh, despite its massive size and population has a GDP of just $130 billion.
Washington DC, which has just 0.3 percent of UP's population, has an economy roughly the size of Uttar Pradesh.
Islam said creating an NRI department is a great first step towards engaging the diaspora. "Uttar Pradesh has not been able to harness the power of the diaspora the way states such as Gujarat and Kerala have been able to do," he said.
"Non-resident Gujaratis and Keralites have made significant and sustainable contributions to the development of their states. Similarly, let us also roll up our sleeves and step up to the plate."
Islam founded an information technology company, the QSS Company, in 1994 with him as the sole employee. He built the company to more than 2,000 employees and sales of $300 million before he sold it in 2007.