Thousands of people from India are calling Northwest Arkansas home. Many have moved here because of job opportunities.
5NEWS reporter Jocelyne Pruna explores the Indian community and culture, and how it’s changing the face of the region.
The influx began a couple of years ago, and the reason? Walmart.
Hanahmahn Kanaparti’s, whose brother worked at Walmart, said many in the local Indian community work in the retail giant’s information technology department.
When Kanaparti visited the area himself, he was surprised to find such a large Indian population. By some estimates as many at 4,000 Indian families have moved to Northwest Arkansas in recent years.
Kanaparti followed his brother to Northwest Arkansas, and opened Chutny’s Indian Restaurant in Rogers. He’s been open about two years now, and getting great reviews for his food.
The spicy dishes he serves bring something new to the local culture, and make other Indian natives feel at home.
“A lot of people say, ‘I miss my India if I’m here, do you have a special buffet?’” Kanaparti said. “Traditional this, everybody loves to come eat here and they thank me a lot.”
When Rekha Kotha, the owner of the Indian Plaza grocery store, moved here six years ago, she couldn’t find the cooking ingredients she was used to, like garam masala powder and cumin powder.
“So, they’ll get all the spices, all the snacks, sweets, all the fresh vegetables. We get a lot of Indian vegetables actually that we don’t get in Walmart or other stores,” she said.
Kotha moved here with her two children and husband, who works in the Walmart IT department.
“Every Indian comes to the U.S., they look for an Indian grocery store first,” she said, laughing. “They go online: Where is the Indian store?”