California-based hotel owner Sunil “Sunny” Tolani received the Nelson Mandela Leadership Award from the Non Resident Indian Welfare Society during The International Congress of Non-Resident Indians on Oct. 23. Tolani is being recognized for his work as CEO of the Prince Organization charity he founded.
The Nelson Mandela Leadership Award is given to Indians living abroad and was presented in a ceremony in the House of Commons in London, England, attended by representatives of the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Tolani was attending to a family emergency and could not receive the award in person.
“NRIs have been our brand ambassadors for decades. They are showcasing the image of India by culture, tradition, skills and style of life while dwelling in foreign countries,” Modi said in a statement. “They have always been in forefront to upload the dignity and cause of motherland.”
Mohammed Islam, the founder of the South Asian Biz Network, nominated Tolani for the award.
“Sunil has established himself as one of regular and generous donor and is poised to emerge as one of the most important philanthropists in the Indian-Hindu community,” Islam said. “The community embraces his national charity work, his generous treatment, fairness and respect of employees and international outlooks embodying his values and identity.”
Tolani gave credit to his mother for teaching him ethical behavior and that through the Prince Organization he wants to balance capitalism and compassion.
“I hope to inspire the young and next generation of hospitality CEOs to keep dreaming and continue building world-class organizations,” he said. “This honor is my biggest trophy and it feels like I have won the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup and the World Cup trophy all at once.”
In September the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management recognized one of Tolani’s properties, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alamosa in Alamosa, Colorado, for housing emergency workers during a wildfire in the state.
He previously joined numerous other Asian American hoteliers in donating to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, last year. Previously, he has supported Concordia University Irvine’s Teen Entrepreneur Academy, and, as a long-time member of AAHOA, he has supported several other causes.
“For me, it’s not just about dollars and cents,” Tolani said. “It’s about giving back to the community.”