Three South Asian Graphic Artists You Should Know About

Image: @hatecopy

If you’ve been reading our columns on the regular (we highly recommend you do) chances are you’ve figured our undying love for Desi Twitter. And why wouldn’t we love it? It’s where all our favorite Desi people converge. But it’s not only a community for the Desi around the world (we are a tight-knit bunch), but Desi twitter is also a platform for talented creative to showcase their work and even translate it into a business. Many of our favorite South Asian beauty bloggers got their start off YouTube and Instagram. But today we want to introduce you to our favorite graphic artists, who not only filter their art through a uniquely Desi lens but also aren’t afraid to poke fun at harmful prejudices within the community while they’re at it.

Maria Qamar @hatecopy – With the level of fame and recognition this 26-year old Canadian-Pakistani artist has achieved, it’s hard to believe that she started showing her art only a little over four years ago. Known for her Roy Lichtenstein inspired ‘Desi-pop’ style, her art often features dramatically drawn South Asian women with full red lips, dangling chandelier earrings and a huge bindi taking on a prickly South Asian aunty. Her recent book, Trust No Aunty deals in more detail with the topic of South Asian aunties who make sure that everyone’s business is their business. While her website carries merch based on her art, Qamar has also lent her artistic style to several brands, including Saavn, one of the biggest streaming services for Hindi, Bollywood and regional South Asian music. One of the most visible South Asian graphic artists of the moment, it’s no surprise that Qamar’s found fans in Mindy Kaling (she even featured her art in The Mindy Project), Hasan Minaj, Kal Penn, and Lena Dunham.
IG: 150K

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My other all time fav. What else would they go down for? 😂 #it #parody

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Saher Sohail @The PakistaniMarthaStewart – Growing up desi in America can be challenging, especially for those of us who did that before #desipride materialized online. Saher Sohail, a Pakistani-American artist based in Virginia uses that dichotomy as an inspiration for her art. Her illustration based Instagram account highlights the life of a Pakistani-American girl, where Sohail navigates her identity through pop-culture inspired desi memes and features links to her extremely popular Etsy page. In Sohail’s world, Winifred Sanderson from Hocus Pocus does kaala jadoo (Desi black magic) while Drake wears a skullcap and deals with ‘Zee TV (popular Indian channel) and Chill’. Even as Sohail’s humor orbits around the desification of Instagram meme culture, her unique perspective and recognizable style make sure she stands out in a crowd.
IG: 97.4K

Nidhi Chanani @nidhiart — Nidhi started out in non-profits before she launched Every Day Art, an online art store that features her musings on everyday life. While Pashmina, Chanani’s award-winning graphic novel that centers on the life of a first-generation Indian American girl, is fairly recent, this SF based artist has been making waves for much longer. In 2012, the White House honored Nidhi Chanani as a Champion of Change for her groundbreaking Asian American illustrations. Currently, she has two more graphic novels in the works including a Disney commissioned feature based on Aladdin. But no matter the genre or topic, Chanani admits that her ‘Indian-ness’ comes through her work, either as a motif, setting or characters. Additionally, her work has been featured on The Nib, Paramount Pictures, and Disney.
IG: 16.5K

 

Words// Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director

Why Asian Americans are an Exciting Customer Group for Financial Management

On a fall weekday night in an artsy district of Long Island City, New York, a group of well-dressed young Asians walked into the sales room of GALERIE, a new luxury condominium located right across the street from MoMa PS1. Their tour of the building blueprint was guided by Ting Ko, an experienced bilingual Chinese American real estate broker. After the tour, the visitors and Ting friended each other on WeChat, a hugely popular Chinese social media app, to continue the sales conversation online. “We’ve got a lot of interests from Asian American buyers. This is a new generation of buyers that is investment-savvy yet values lifestyle and quality. Their confidence and sophistication are very impressive,” Ting summarized.

This is true. We’ve seen numerous headlines about how Asian buyers snap up pricy homes in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Asian Americans, on average, are indeed buying more expensive homes and paying a higher percentage of down payment than other customer groups in the U.S. Financially stable and investment savvy, Asian Americans are indeed an exciting customer group for luxury properties. What other industry should not miss this group? Financial management.
This customer group has some strong and unique financial characteristics.

1. Young
Generally in the U.S. Baby Boomers and older generations hold the most wealth, but interestingly, Asian Americans’ wealth is more in the hands of the 20s-to-40s demographics.

Close to 70% of Asian Americans are born in Asia where private wealth has seen an explosive increase in the past few decades. As a result, we’ve seen an influx of self-funded Asian international students, tourists and investors coming to the U.S., especially Chinese. Due to the One Child Policy, most Millennials and Gen Z Chinese American immigrants are the only heir to their families’ assets accumulated through generations. Just imagine a wealth pyramid, but flip it upside down.

2. Inherent savers
Perhaps it’s genetic? 86% of Asian Americans hold a savings account, compared to 76% of the general population, and their average balances are much higher ($63,800 vs. $40,100). So when financial hardships strike, Asians are more confident and prepared to handle it – over 60% believe they could maintain their current lifestyle for a year or more if their household lost all its regular monthly income, versus 27% of the general population.

Asians on average save more than their general population counterparts.

One particular saving purpose for Asian Americans is kids’ education. Even though college tuition fees are at historical high, close to half of Chinese American and 33% of Asian Indian parents still intend to contribute at least three quarters or full college expenses for their kids, compared to 27% of general population. And they act on it – majority of young parents have already started to contribute to college saving account before their kids turn 5. Chinese American families’ rank amongst the highest savings, way above general population ($29,219 vs. $19,124).

3. Avid and prudent investors
Asian Americans don’t just over-index by general population by 1.3 times in real estate investment. They are also more inclined to own individual stocks, corporate and municipal bonds and various types of annuities.

They are a research-oriented and well-informed customer group, keeping up with happenings in the financial market, both locally and abroad, and tend to use analyst reports when making investment decisions. At the same time, Asian Americans demonstrate a higher propensity to consume financial information from less traditional sources, such as social media, and rather place significant trust in family and friends for financial advice.

Aside from gathering and digesting a great deal of financial information, Asian Americans also demand control on their own finances. Being intimately familiar with the companies or stocks they invest in helps boost their sense of security.

4. Early adopters of digital financial management
Over-indexing in internet and smartphone ownership and usage, Asian Americans are changing how they bank growing more open to exploring and using digital tools for their financial needs such as mobile banking.

Such behavior is also driven by Asia’s blossoming digital wealth management.. In addition to the prevalence of mobile payment such as WeChat Pay and Kakao Pay, the surge of digital investment services like Alibaba’s Yu’E Bao are shaping people’s views and expectations on financial management in Asia, which drive the digital transformation of some of the most established financial institutions. For instance, Citibank in Korea has reduced its physical branches to 44 from 133 in 2017, and plans to double the size of its wealth management business in Korea in the next few years. “The way people are measuring the accessibility of their bank is changing. It’s a completely different game now,” said Brendan Carney, Citibank Korea Inc.’s consumer banking head.

Curious to know more about how to engage this customer group? Drop us a call.

Written by Selina Guo
Planning Director, Admerasia

Sources: Asian Americans: Digital Lives and Growing Influence, Nielsen, 2018; Significant, Sophisticated, and Savvy: The Asian American Consumer, Nielsen 2013; Wealth management in an era of robots, regulation, and new money, McKinsey, 2018; Chinese American High-Net-Worth Investors, CTBC, 2015; College Saving Study, MassMutual, 2017; Asian American Financial Experience, Prudential, 2016; Citigroup Shifts to Wealth Management in Hyper-Digital South Korea, Bloomberg, 2018

Innovation and Disruption in Asia: Mobile Payment

This post is part of an ongoing series on Innovation and Disruption in Asia.

SOFTWARE-BASED MOBILE PAYMENT AS AN ENGAGEMENT TOOL FOR BRANDS

In the U.S., Apple had to convince retailers to update their payment system and adopt Apple Pay. Retailers didn’t like it. The case in Asia is much simpler – mobile payment platforms like Alipay, WeChat Pay or LINE Pay run primarily on software, not hardware. This simple distinction is the key to everything from accelerating the spread of payment transactions to unlocking deep customer interactions1.

In-Store Payment: Imagine you walked into a McDonald’s in Shanghai. To buy a meal, consumers simply pull up a QR code from WeChat or Alipay that’s connected to their credit or debit card. Once the cashier scans the code, that’s it — no further action is needed. The transaction is instant.

If you used WeChat, after the payment completes, you are offered a chance to follow McDonald’s official social account. Mobile payment in Asia has evolved from being a simple transaction tool to a way to increase sales, collect data and enhance customer engagement2.

Can’t Be Convenience: Accustomed to the convenience of mobile payment, 80% of Chinese consumers still prefer to use mobile payment when they travel or live overseas15. That same behavior also applies to recent immigrants from South Korea and Japan. The mobile-first mindset has driven Asian Americans to use mobile shopping, payment platforms and mobile banking at a higher frequency than the general market3.

Don’t stop here. We’ve broken down Asian Innovation and Disruption into more Key Industries: Automobile, Info & Communication Tech, E-Commerce, New Retail, Smart Home Tech, E-Sports and Entertainment, and beyond. Click here to download and read the entire report.

Written by Selina Guo
Planning Director, Admerasia

1The Washington Post, The Incredibly Brilliant Way People are Now Buying Things in Asia, 2016
2Prnewswire, WeChat Pay Duplicates Domestic Lifestyle Overseas, 2018
3Nielsen, Asian American Women: Digitally Fluent With an Intercultural Mindset, 2017

Innovation and Disruption in Asia: e-Commerce

This post is part of an ongoing series on Innovation and Disruption in Asia.

ASIA, DOMINATING IN GLOBAL E-COMMERCE

From restaurant orders, to laundry pick-up, to live lobster–the proliferation and convenience of e-commerce in many Asian cities has made “leaving the apartment” a choice. If you have a craving and an internet connection, many services and consumer goods can be delivered to your door in an hour or less.

Asia is Growing FAST: In 2017, Asia accounted for close to 60% of global e-commerce sales. By 2020, Asia’s e-commerce market is predicted to be twice the size of Western Europe and North America combined1. E-commerce characteristics vary in different Asian countries, and are affected by the local infrastructure and consumer demand.

Online Grocery Shopping: South Korea is the absolute world leader of online grocery shopping – e-commerce accounted for almost 20% of its total grocery sales, far ahead of any other country2.

Retail Shopping: In China, 2017 Singles’ Day, an online shopping frenzy on November 11th, has generated sales bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined3.

Though Singles’ Day started as an event in China, it is now making inroads in the U.S., as Chinese Americans embrace the shopping holiday. Mainstream retailers have started harnessing the opportunity by launching Singles’ Day promotions, and it is only a matter of time before Singles’ Day is a part of American shopping calendar.

Don’t stop here. We’ve broken down Asian Innovation and Disruption into more Key Industries: Automobile, Info & Communication Tech, Mobile Payment, New Retail, Smart Home Tech, E-Sports and Entertainment, and beyond. Click here to download and read the entire report.

Written by Selina Guo
Planning Director, Admerasia

1IPC, State of e-commerce: global outlook 2016-21
2World Economic Forum, 2017
3Forbes, Singles’ Day Has Eclipsed Cyber Monday And Black Friday, 2017

Breaking Stereotypes: 8 Asian Americans in Careers Outside the “Norm”

Writer Jennifer Lee, of the Guardian, said in a 2014 op-ed, “We need more Asian American kids growing up to be artists, not doctors”. That sentiment was expressed while battling a long-held stereotype (both among main-stream America and Asian Americans) that little Asian babies grow up into doctors, lawyers, science, and tech employees… and that there is little room for anything else.

That, of course, is a grossly inaccurate stereotype. Now, in 2018, we are seeing Asian Americans break into a variety of fields in entertainment, sports, literature and more. That’s not “new news” – we’ve been in these fields for generations. Just new to the majority of America with preconceived notions of Asian life.

So now that (some of) us have finally realized Asians can be actors, writers, chefs, politicians and rappers – what are a few industries and careers we’re still finding ZERO recognition and representation? The fields that, not only white America would be surprised we work in, but other Asian Americans as well?

We listed some great people doing some great things out there. Because, just like the rest of the world, no two Asians are alike.

1. Farming

When we picture the American farming industry, we picture blond-hair, blue-eyed men in overalls, sowing their fields. But the farming industry for Asian Americans goes back generations. Each community has their own origin story. Some are products of Japanese-American imprisonment during WWII who found little choice but to enter the farming industry to avoid concentration camps. Some are more recent, immigrants from rural Asia who found kinship in California fields. And some others are stories of love for the land.

Ken Lee left engineering in 1992 to grow food. Ken’s Top Notch Produce (above) has been growing ever since – both literally and figuratively.

But whatever the origin may be, Asian Americans are running some pretty awesome farms with some amazing health initiatives.

2. Environmental Community Outreach

And speaking of farming, there are some amazing Asian American focused groups that are striving to bring organic and healthy foods to the tables of those in need. Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement (APIFM), a non-profit organization in CA, does just that, while working closely with local farmers.

3. Sci-Fi and Erotica 

Yes, literature does have its Asian American stars. From Amy Tan and Celeste Ng to Jhumpa Lahiri and Khaled Hosseini, for decades, Asian American writers have constructed beautiful worlds around Asian culture and experience. But what of the little sections beyond “Fiction”? Would it surprise you that Asian Americans have taken Sci-Fi by storm? Writers like Marie Lu of the YA Legend series and Nebula/Hugo award winner Ken Liu have diverted from the usual path. Or even more so, what about Erotica writers? That’s right – EROTICA! Writers like Suleikha Snyder and Solace Ames like to steam up your reading glasses.

4. Rock

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Honored to celebrate the #JapaneseAmerican community and the heritage of our awesome bassist Scott Okamoto at the 2017 #NiseiWeek Japanese Festival in the #JACCC Plaza in #LittleTokyo on Sunday, August 20th! A note from Scott on the importance of this historic festival to him: "I grew up going to Nissei Week in Los Angeles with my family. Along with the Obon Festivals, it was one of the rare public displays of our heritage. Despite losing most of our culture and heritage in the aftermath of the incarceration camps of World War II, Obon festivals and Nissei Week somehow survived and thrived. I am so glad they did because I spent the rest of the year trying to assimilate to the, then, white culture of the San Gabriel Valley. Nissei Week and the Obon festivals were my only connection to my #Japanese heritage, and I eventually built on those experiences as I developed my identity through the years. I started playing bass with my friends in Doctors & Engineers about 18 months ago, and at the time, the idea of a Japanese-American joining a South Asian band seemed novel. I’ve taken every opportunity to learn more about my friends and their cultures, often marveling at the similarities and differences with my own. This year we’ve learned that Japanese and Indian histories have ties that date back 1200 years (as far as I know). Japanese curry comes direct from India. Buddhism comes from India, and Indian priests helped to dedicate the famous shrine in Nara in the year 800. More recently, a group of women in the Ginza district of Tokyo have created a sub-culture where they wear colorful saris. All this to say that I am thrilled to play with Doctors & Engineers at this year’s Nissei Week Festival. We are apparently continuing a rich tradition of collaborations between two parts of the world. I can’t wait to rock in front of everyone, including much of my family. I’ll bring earplugs for them." -Scott PC: @joshuakphoto for @kollaborationla

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America, for the most part, has accepted that Asian Americans can deviate from classical violinists and become hip hop or pop stars. (Thank you K-Pop and Awkwafina). But even though we’ve been in Indie Rock since Indie Rock began, people are still shocked to see an Asian American behind a guitar or a set of drums. Japanese Breakfast, Mitski, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (all female driven bands), and punk-rock groups like Doctors & Engineers and The Kominas, are fighting the misconception that Asians can’t rock.

5. Home & Interior Design

Asian Americans (especially women) have still found hurdles and barriers when entering the design industry, including home and interiors. Nao Tamura, Syrette Lew of Moving Mountains, Mimi Jung of Early Work, and Shamir Shah Design have been striving to make your houses a home (and a piece of art).

6. Psychology

Drum circle by Filipino Mental Health Initiative – San Francisco

Posted by Asian American Psychological Association on Sunday, January 28, 2018

If you haven’t heard, there’s a stigma against psychology and behavioral studies in traditional Asian communities. That stigma, in turn, has ignored an alarming rate of mental illness, depression and suicide. All racial communities have these issues, but in Asian American communities, those issues are more likely to be ignored. According to the American Psychological Association, Asians are 3-times less likely to reach out for help compared to their white counterparts. It’s a sad thing but luckily those walls built by conservative privacy are starting to crumble and groups like the Asian American Psychology Association (AAPA), The Asian American Federation and NYC’s Hamilton-Madison House are there to help.

7. Baking

We know Asians can cook. But did you know we also can bake? And I don’t mean chiffon cakes with cantaloupe and kiwi on top. I mean what we think of as quintessentially American and European Baking. Dianna Daoheung has received TWO James Beard Nominations. Her bagels at Black Seed have quickly become NYC-famous. Uri Scheft has been knocking challah, and his other central-Asian fusion baked goods, out of the park in NYC. Breadbelly and La Chinoiserie, two bakery-cafes in the Bay Area, will make you everything from Kaya toast and cheesy brioche to black sesame croissants and multi-tiered unicorn cakes. Yum!

8. Firefighters

 

Like most public service positions that require life-threatening situations, firefighters have found it hard to recruit Asian Americans. The FDNY reported in 2017 that only 1.3% of firefighters are Asian American. But folks like Sarinya Srisakul (featured above), New York’s first female Asian American firefighter, were ready for the task. Brooklyn Firefighter Chi Ho Li though he would do engineering when he was young, but was attracted to “being there for the people of his city”. These guys and gals don’t have links or IG accounts to follow. Just know they’re out there for you.

We are confident in saying that this is just a pebble off of the mountain of Asian Americans pushing boundaries and challenging tropes. Who are some of your favorites? We’d love to hear about them.

Why We Have High Hopes for I Feel Bad

 

The Asian summer – or the summer of 2018 as it was formerly known – might be over, but Asian representation on screen is far from showing any signs of slowing down. After the mega success of Crazy Rich Asians – now the highest grossing romantic comedy of the last decade – and the ever-growing appeal of Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before among teens and non-teens alike, looks like it’s time for Asian fall. As Crazy Rich Asians star and New York’s homegrown comic and DJ, Awkafina, becomes only the second Asian woman ever to host SNL (the first in 20 years), NBC is set to premiere Amy Poehler-backed I Feel Bad that revolves around the lives of a multi-generational Asian Indian family. Sarayu Blue, the Indian-origin actress you might have seen on The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy and Veep, stars in the show as a second-generation Indian video game head designer trying not to “feel bad” as she manages her parents, husband, and three children.

Carrying forward the genre of family sitcoms, which in recent years has finally become more inclusive with Blackish (featuring an African-American family), One Day at a Time (Cuban-American) and our office fan-favorite Fresh Off The Boat (Chinese-American), I Feel Bad puts the inside jokes and family dynamics of an Asian Indian family on mainstream TV. While South Asian representation is at an all-time high with Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project and Champions, Priyanka Chopra’s Quantico and Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Master of None, I Feel Bad showcases Desi families in the way that so far has only been seen in comedy sketches and online videos. Unlike Blackish or Fresh off the Boat, I Feel Bad’s family is not exclusively Asian Indian – Blue’s on-screen husband is played by Paul Adelstein, who is white. Yet, the show does an excellent job of portraying real life dynamics without straying into stereotypes and really hopes that you would notice how hard it’s worked to do that.

Sarayu Blue and Paul Adelstein star in I Feel Bad.

In a particularly telling scene with the grandparents, adorable cast members Madhur Jaffrey and Brian George spend a night with the kids and decide to dig into the sweet nostalgia of their youth. As George, the grandfather, starts his story with, “When I was in the village”, you think he is going to launch into a Master of None-style heartfelt story turned into a hardened lesson from his childhood, like so many characters of color on television in the recent past. But instead he and Madhur Jaffrey, as grandma, quickly assume a dance pose to reveal that the village in their story was in fact, Greenwich at the height of the disco era, much to their Gen-Z tween grandchildren’s disgust. What makes the show even more endearing is that the Asian Indian stories feel authentic and lived-in, seemingly written by Desi writers who have experienced them at some point in their own lives. The pilot, for example, revolves around Blue trying really hard to not turn into her mother, who would often reprimand her as a child by flinging a shoe in her direction — a hilarious but also somewhat disturbing reality for most people who have grown up in Desi households. In a later episode, one cabinet in their kitchen is dedicated to storing used plastic bags (often tucked away in another, much larger plastic bag in hopes of being recycled at some point) while other is just ‘spices’.

So far, the sitcom does a good job of showing that Emet and her family are like any other American household, just with their own set of quirks and mannerisms. But luckily for us, it does that without flattening the nuance of their Desi-ness or heritage. In fact, the show makes a concerted effort to not depict the characters as caricatures, especially from a mainstream point of view – we especially appreciate that despite being Indian, Emet is not some zen-Namaste brand of yogini. In fact, she has no interest in yoga at all. These subtleties in the writing, coming from comedic powerhouse Aseem Batra – best known for her work in Scrubs, give us hope for the rightful Desi representation on TV. We do have one question though. Where does one find Desi grandparents who kiss and slap each other’s butts when their children are in the house? Only on TV, of course!

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director