Dissatisfied with what they say is a local focus on larger businesses, a group of south Asian business owners have come together to form their own chamber of commerce.

A group of about seven entrepreneurs have formed the South Asian Canadian Chamber of Commerce, a Hamilton-based organization that represents lawyers, realtors, accountants and about 60 others of South Asian descent.

Small South Asian businesses have their own struggles, including language barriers and discrimination, and they’re not being heard by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and other larger organizations, said Jasmeet Lyall, an interior designer and founding member.

With larger chambers, “you tell them something, they acknowledge it and it vanishes,” she said.

“Being a business community, we wanted to get our point across to government and other agencies.”

The chamber formed in the spring. It’s holding its inaugural dinner and gala, and official launch, at Narula’s Indian Eatery and Banquet Hall on Aug. 2. City representatives will attend.

Small business 'economic engine' of Hamilton

South Asian businesses owners have unique struggles. Language is a big one, Lyall said. So is racism.

“I have experienced personally that after 9/11, things got hard for us,” she said. “People have said things like ‘Go back to your country.’”

“That’s why we want to tell the South Asian community that we can stand strong together.”

Many chamber members are new immigrants, said Amandeep Narula, co-owner of Narula’s and a founding chamber member. And that puts them at a disadvantage.

“Anyone who has come here as an immigrant has left their own network behind,” she said. “Starting here, you need that network. You need that support group.

“Usually when a business starts, your first customers are people from your circle. When you come here as an immigrant, you leave that behind.”

Small businesses have unique problems with issues such as vendors and employees that larger businesses can hire people to deal with, Narula said. But small businesses are the “economic engine” of Hamilton, she said.

The chamber of commerce is based in Hamilton but its members come from throughout the GTHA, Lyall said.