Back to contents

Shrina Kurani wants representation for all!

1 year ago / by ABHIJIT MASIH
Shrina Kurani
Shrina Kurani

Shrina Kurani, the daughter of immigrant Gujaratis, has made a name as an engineer, and a serial entrepreneur. Soon she also could be the first Indian American Congresswoman from Southern California.

Barely 30, Kurani, a Democrat, is taking on the incumbent, 30-year Republican veteran Ken Calvert, in District 41 of the state, which leans Republican. The Democratic Party of Riverside, California, is taking the fight to Calvert, who has been in office since 1993 from the old District 42.

“We need representation for our community,” Kurani told SEEMA from her home in Riverside. “You can count on one hand how many representatives we have in Congress. That needs to change.”

District maps have been redrawn in California, and District 41, which Kurani is fighting from, has been traditionally been a GOP district. However, she sees opportunity in the fact that a quarter of the voter base is Latino, Asian American or Pacific Islander. 

“So we have the ability to say, hey, we deserve representation,” Kuraii said. “This has never had a female representative has never had a person of color representative. And so it’s time.”

Kurani’s district is located in Southern California, which has never had a female South Asian representative. If she wins, beating a host of other Democratic contenders, including former federal prosecutor Will Rollins, she could also become the first woman of color to represent the district on Capitol Hill. 

What makes her eligible – and dis she stand up?

Kurani responds emphatically, “Well, someone has to, right? Someone’s going to be able to bring a fresh perspective, an an immigrant perspective, someone who has gone through what we’ve gone through, but also comes from our value background.”

Kurani’s parents immigrated to the US in the 1980s from Mumbai. Though her father had a degree in chemistry, he had to settle for a job as a pool boy. The days were tough, but he worked hard. Ultimately, his Mumbai mettle and native business acumen came to the fore and he bought over the pool supply store where he worked. The family now owns over a dozen such stores.

“I grew up in my parent’s small business. We started off with just one store and my parents worked seven days a week. My grandparents lived with us when I was younger, and they would take care of me. When I started growing up, I spent all of my days after school, and my summers helping out at the store.”

She credits her father with instilling in her the sense of serving the community, since he himself showed her the way by getting involved pretty early on with the planning commission of the local chamber of commerce. He also ran for office for city council when Kurani was about 12 years old. She recalls being part of her father’s campaign.

“That was my first time getting politically involved – knocking on doors, making phone calls, and talking to members of our community and saying, Hey! You should vote for my dad,” she said.

‘I’m ready to flip CA41’ is Kurani’s call to action now. She feels that there is a large majority of people that have a lot of fear and are misinformed. She acknowledges that there is the need to change a lot of things that plagues her district. 

According to Kurani, “The incumbent has sort of left behind the community. He is not supporting small businesses, he is voting against the environment, voting against health care, voting against all of these things that are very important to the voters in our community. So we need to make sure that he needs to go, [one] who has been in office for 30 years. Time’s up, and it’s time to flip the 41nd district.”

Kurani, a valedictorian in high school, earned her degree in mechanical engineering at UC Riverside, and worked through school as an engineering consultant in energy efficiency. She has also worked on a design project for NASA’s Johnson Space Center team in Houston to design and test a heat rejection system for a lunar outpost in the Shackleton crater on the moon. She went on to get a master’s degree in sustainability in Sweden, with a focus on climate change mitigation. 

Besides working over the past few years to start clean technology companies, Kurani has also been actively involved in helping underrepresented women entrepreneurs get access to capital. She states she realized “that the capital formation and capital industries across the US are just kind of broken, and that a lot of people are being left out of that both in terms of who’s getting funded, but also who’s doing the funding. So we were able to facilitate quite a bit of a capital to companies across the country.” A big part of her focus is towards empowering and finding funding for women-led companies, people of color founders, and people who come from backgrounds that don’t traditionally have access to capital.

Her political aspirations, wholeheartedly supported by her family, has been on the table for quite some time. It makes sense, given the struggles her parents endured to make a place for themselves, and for her and her brother Ravi. 

Kurani wants to be an instrument to change, as the same experiences are not cutting it for families anymore. It is not enough. It is not acceptable to her. In her bid, she wants to throw light on the issues of good quality jobs, to ensure people have access to a healthy and a safe community.

So the Kurani family is pitching in however they can: posting, texting, conducting baking sessions, writing letters… Her mother works the phone lines to garner support. 

Marius, her husband, is also an integral part of the support system. Kurani met him while they were on the same program while pursuing their master’s degrees in Sweden.

Despite being built on the bedrock of a close-knit family the campaign has faced problems, the primary one being a dearth of funding. Kurani realized that finding funding for others was easier than getting people to donate for her own campaign. 

“If you are an older candidate that has established networks of people, then everyone’s writing them checks and rallying in their support,” Kurani said. |And here I have to talk to aunties and uncles, dozens of times saying, Hey, look, this is why this is important. This is why I need your support. This is why I need you to do this now and show that our community is strong. I have to convince our community to make them understand why this is so important, and why we need them to show up and show the strength of our community.”

The nascent politician though is employing the latest tech in her campaign with the use of NFTs ( Non-Fungible Token). It is perhaps the first time that NFTs are being used in a political campaign as merchandise. It has been proving to be a great asset in reaching out to a new, digitally native population. 

“When we talk about who’s not voting, it’s the younger people and its people of color,” Kurani explains. “So if we can find ways to reach people in new ways, then I think it makes a huge difference. It takes hustle, it takes being resourceful and saying how can we get this done.”

And if all that works out, it would mean the next desi candidate in Congress.