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BizBash C.E.O. David Adler: a Tribute to Baldev Duggal, American Dreamer

Through events, the immigrant owner of the Duggal Greenhouse got a front-row seat to American history.

Baldev Duggal at the Duggal Greenhouse
Baldev Duggal at the Duggal Greenhouse
Photo: Mike Lambert

Baldev Duggal became an event venue owner in the later years of his life, heeding a calling to build the Duggal Greenhouse, a first-class gathering space and town hall that served both for industry and community.

He and his team lavished love and purpose over every decision, including putting Brooklyn on the map as a destination for major events. He oversaw the transformation of the waterfront venue from a casualty of Hurricane Sandy into a gleaming beacon overlooking the Manhattan skyline. It was home to fashion shows, conferences, tournaments, galas, and rallies of all types.

On June 7, Duggal arrived at the Greenhouse for a historic night. He watched as Hillary Clinton declared that she would become the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States. With massive American flags and a cheering crowd, the pomp was intoxicating. It was probably one of the proudest moments of his life. An immigrant from India with no real resources, Duggal started a business 40 years ago that became one of the largest visual graphics companies in the United States. To see part of his enterprise serve as host to a historic moment truly demonstrated the American dream in action.

This week, I received the news that Duggal passed away unexpectedly after an 80th-birthday celebration this past week. We had been friends for just the past three months, but it was a true “bromance.” The youthful-looking Duggal was full vigor and was so proud of the company he'd built, that his son Michael was now firmly in charge of.

Constantly dreaming up new things, he was in the midst of new mission to start a something called “Solar Mamas.” The project would teach women in South American villages the skills of a solar engineer, to create sustainable sources of power and teach small-business skills. It was a project that felt like the right thing to do and seemed to give him the energy of a 30-year-old. 

We would have meetings to discuss the future, and I had agreed to help him shape the program. Lunches would take place at his favorite restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, and he was still excited picking me up in his Jaguar. He never forgot where he came from and how much work he had ahead to give back, in thanks for his own opportunity to realize the American dream.

While I’m saddened by his death, I remain inspired by his constant need to reinvent the future and his desire to use all the assets he created to build a better world. One thing that Duggal knew intuitively was that event spaces are becoming the new town square. They should be treated as sacred spaces because they are where we gather to create outcomes that can change the world.

David Adler (@DavidAdler) is the C.E.O. and founder of BizBash.

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