south asian creative summit speakers


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Aishwarya Iyer

Aishwarya Iyer is the Founder and CEO of Brightland, a modern California extra virgin olive oil company. A graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study,Aishwarya started her career in L’Oreal’s luxury products division at Lancôme, which sparked her interest in the definition of luxury and passion for building memorable consumer brands. Prior to Brightland, Aishwarya spent nearly a in the start-up and technology industries. In 2017, inspired by her personal entrepreneurial vision to bring new energy and change to the American olive oil industry, Aishwarya began conceptualizing and building Brightland, with the mission to craft premium, custom-blended extra virgin olive oil that is nourishing for the body, heart and soul.


Ajay Relan

Los Angeles raised Entrepreneur, Investor, Community Organizer. Currently owner/operator of popular Los Angeles sports bar + restaurant The Parlor Hollywood, as well as The Parlor LAX. Recently opened the first of several Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen in South LA to bring healthier options and good vibes to underserved communities. Former venture capital investor at Queensbridge Venture Partners (with rapper, Nas). Co-creator of #HashtagLunchbag, social media based movement that empowers individuals in their local communities to organize parties with a purpose and feed those in need.

"I believe that everyone has the power to do whatever they can, wherever they are, with whatever they've got. If everyone took responsibility for their immediate surroundings, the sum of all these small actions by lots of people can create the change we all strive for in our every day life. Ripples have the power to turn into big waves! You never know who's watching"

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Badmaash: Arjun & Nakul Mahendro

Nakul and Arjun Mahendro are the co-founders and owners of Badmaash LA.


Babneet Lakhesar

Babbuthepainter is a Toronto based creative entrepreneur and the founder of her globally recognized style of modern desi diaspora pop-art.

Babbu has manifested the unheard voice of South Asian millennials in her artwork worldwide. And has made a name for herself and for her artwork across North America being featured in shows such as The Mindy Project. She recently helped launch the Converse Platform Chuck Taylor by taking part in their Canadian wide campaign in collaboration with Footlocker. Babbu has collaborated with brands; Canon, Fenty Beauty, Adidas, VICE. And on the look out list of Mindy Kalin, Riz Ahmed, Rhea Kapoor and more.


garima verma

Garima Verma is currently an Assistant Manager in the Digital Marketing department at Paramount Pictures where she develops digital campaigns utilizing traditional social media platforms along with cutting-edge digital technology for theatrical titles such as Annihilation, Overlord, Instant Family and Mission Impossible. She played a part in creating the first ever 360 GIFs with Gfycat for Mission Impossible and the Paramount AR app. Prior to her current position, she worked in digital marketing and media for ABC on shows and events including The Oscars and Speechless and for Freeform (formerly ABC Family) on shows including Pretty Little Liars and Shadowhunters. When she's not working, you can find her volunteering with PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), the Make-A-Wish Foundation and The Facing Project.

Keertana Sastry

Keertana Sastry has worked in film and television casting for more than 5 years, most recently at 20th Century Fox Feature Films, and currently at Bialy/Thomas & Associates, which casts illustrious series such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Barry,” and “Better Call Saul.” She is also immersed in the production world, having helped associate produce and cast the upcoming documentary feature, “Invisible,” which chronicles the lives of 4 women with fibromyalgia and how it has impacted relationships, finances, and every aspect of their lives.
Keertana has also worked as the Entertainment Editor of Brown Girl Magazine for the past two years; she’s been with the publication since 2010, as writer and social media/Facebook manager. Having lived in Texas, Missouri, New York and now Los Angeles, Keertana has a unique perspective on being Indian in different parts of America. She is passionate about infusing this experience into her work by promoting women of color (especially South Asians) in front of and behind the camera, both in Hollywood and the South Asian entertainment industries.

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Payal Kadakia Pujji

Payal is the Executive Chairman & Founder of ClassPass and the Artistic Director of The Sa Dance Company.

Payal has been a “dancetrepreneur” since the age of 3 when she started training in Indian classical and folk styles of dance. It was her passion for dance, entrepreneurship, and making the world a more active, happy place that led to the founding of Classpass. ClassPass is a membership program for fitness classes across multiple gyms and studios, making working out more engaging, accessible, and affordable.

With over 25 years of dance experience, Payal also founded The Sa Dance Company, a contemporary Indian dance company. She has led the company to achieve tremendous community support, soldout performance, celebrity endorsements, and positive reviews in The New York Times, MTV, and prominent South Asian publications. Payal has been quoted as “the dancer possessing not only the stand-out talent, but the undying passion, congenial disposition and sharp business savvy to be truly a force to be reckoned with” as the South Asian culture continues its inevitable integration into America.

Prior to founding ClassPass, Payal worked as a consultant at Bain & Company and in Warner Music Group’s Digital Strategy and Business Development Group. Payal also has a degree from MIT in Operations Research and Economics.

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Reena Bhansali

Reena Bhansali is the founder of RB Communications. With almost a decade of experience in public relations, Reena has worked on some of the world’s biggest brands including Disney, Barbie, Doritos, Starbucks and more. At RB Communications, she helps startups navigate brand messaging, press materials, influencer relations, crisis management and media relations.


Saniya Waghray

Saniya Waghray is a brand and marketing strategist with industry experiences ranging from finance to tech to advertising to entertainment. She currently shapes global marketing strategy at The Walt Disney Company, developing campaigns for films such as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Moana, and Beauty and the Beast. She concurrently holds a leadership position on Women@Disney, the largest employee resource group at the company, empowering members to own their careers. Beyond her Disney experience, Saniya has helped shape brands from the ground up, and believes in the power of authentic connections. She sits on the Board of Directors of B-STEM Project, a local nonprofit empowering youth in STEM, and continues to live her passion for dance through teaching weekly Bollywood Fitness classes @BollySoulDance. She is a proud New Jersian, California transplant, first-generation Indian-American, and Babson College grad.


Shawn Kalsi

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Stella Simona

Co-Owner & Creative Director of fine jewelry brands Amarilo and Haati Chai, Stella Simona is known for mantra of building an intentional life. An expert at visual storytelling and authentic content, she uses her platforms to tell her story of balance as a creative, business owner, and mother. Her original content captures her audience and she has worked with high-end brands like Dior and Calvin Klein.


Zarna Surti

With over a decade of experience, Zarna Surti has helped craft and implement successful creative and content strategies for brands and artists. She's currently the founder of Tonal Studios, a Los Angeles-based creative studio with resources in New York, London, and Nashville. Offering creative direction, branding, graphic + web design, and content services, Tonal Studios works with clients who align with their value system of diversity and female-leadership to make creative visions come to life. Current and past clients include Halle Berry, Refinery29, Barrymore Brands, CAA-GBG’s The Braintrust, and many more.

Prior to founding Tonal Journal and Tonal Studios, Zarna was the Editorial Director at The dFm, where she launched their online platform WestwoodWestwood. She was also the Managing Editor at Nasty Gal and helped shape their digital and editorial strategy across their respective e-commerce and content platforms. She also has written for Vogue India, Refinery29, Girlboss, and Lisa Says Gah, among others.


Zeel Shah

Senior Manager of Partnerships and Live at Saavn, the leading South Asian audio and music streaming service. Zeel joined Saavn in 2014 and has been working with creatives, businesses and consumers in the South Asian diaspora for the past 6 years. In her current role, Zeel focuses on building collaborative relationships that help elevate the South Asian music and entertainment scene, bringing them to a global stage.