For over three decades, Sayu has activated change in nonprofit and government settings, founding and leading three organizations, speaking across the country and internationally, and writing on how immigrants and women of color can shape the world we want to see.
Born in India, and raised in Belize, she is a proud New Yorker who served as the City’s first Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. As an immigrant woman of color, she now combines her real-life and professional experience to share advice, survival tips, and perspectives through her newsletter, No. 1 Immigrant Daughter.
Her career as a social entrepreneur began in the 1990s, when she started South Asian Youth Action (SAYA), the first organization in the United States specifically focused on supporting youth who trace their ancestry to the Indian subcontinent. In 2010, she founded New American Leaders to support first- and second-generation Americans to run, win, and lead in public office. In 2021, she founded Women’s Democracy Lab (WDL), to support women of color and Indigenous women, post-election.
Sayu began her academic journey as an English major and remains passionate about reading and writing fiction. She holds a PhD in Politics and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, is the author of People Like Us: The New Wave of Candidates Knocking at Democracy’s Door (New Press, 2018) and has been a TED speaker. She has been widely published in national news outlets and writes frequently on Medium and maintains a newsletter on Substack.
Her home base is New York City, where she lives with her partner and teenage child. She travels frequently and daydreams regularly of leisurely days by the Caribbean Sea.