Montreal-based Subhash Khanna is a ground-breaking Indo-Canadian in Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec.
Born at Shamchurasi in Hoshiarpur district where his family had moved from Jhang in Pakistan during the Partition, he came as a student to Montreal in 1976 to study accounting and supported himself by working part-time for a clothing importer.
“Since there were few jobs in those days and I had picked up a few tricks of the trade while working for the clothing importer, I started my own clothing business under the name of Trio Selection Inc. in 1980. We started both importing and manufacturing,’’ says Subhash Khanna.
Over the next two decades, his clothing company went on to become one of the largest importers in Canada.
“When we started our business, Canada was facing economic downturn in the early 1980s. Interest rates were very high and banks and government won’t lend us. But we survived – and thrived – to become one of the top importers from India, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere,’’ says Khanna.
Over period, he also branched into real estate investment.
In 2004, Khanna, with his two partners, went on to create Montreal’s landmark sports club Club CDL – or Club Cote De Liesse Cdl.
It is one of the largest indoor sporting arenas in Canada.
“The indoor sporting arena has a soccer facility which is the largest in Quebec. It also has 19 tennis courts and eight squash courts. Then there is a gym – again the biggest,’’ says Khanna.
He was also instrumental in building Montreal’s Hindu Mandir – which is the biggest in Quebec.
“We were a small Indo-Canadian community in Montreal at that time. We started building the Hindu Mandir in 1986 and completed it in 1987. I supervised its planning and construction. Our community has grown over the years and today we have about 50,000 Indians in and around Montreal,’’ says Khanna who is the chairman of Hindu Mandir.
This Punjabi Indo-Canadian also runs one of the biggest organic farms in Quebec.
“I run a 58-acre organic farm as a cooperative in Montreal. We have given patches of this farm to people – South Africans, French, Latin Americans, etc. – to grow whatever they like to cater to their communities,’’ says Khanna.
Back in his native India, he is paying back by working for two major charities.
“I am chairman of the Can Care Trust that runs Sheela Bal Bhavan for girls in Jaipur. Sheela Bal Bhavan houses 20-25 girls of any age at a given time. We take care of them till they complete their education. I have been involved with it since its inception about 25 years ago. The other Indian charity I work for is AIM for SEVA,’’ he says.
“Through the Canadian branch of AIM for SEVA, we are involved in building student hostels in rural India to give poor kids free accommodation and education. This April, we opened the Montreal chapter of AIM for SEVA and raised $200,000 for this cause,’’ adds Khanna who himself donated $75,000 to this charity.
Despite his busy business life, he says, visits India at least once each year.
“In India, my roots run from Shamchaurasi to Rohtak to Delhi and I go there each year to meet relatives and promote charitable works,’’ the Montreal businessman signs off.