Amit Virmani ’95
To say Amit Virmani ’95 is a man of a million interests is an overstatement. To say he is a man of many accomplishments is not. From directing two critically acclaimed documentaries to founding a virtual-reality company focused on improving aging-related health outcomes, Virmani has attained the kind of success most people only dream of in not one, not two, but multiple fields.
Born in India and raised in Indonesia, Virmani double majored in business and women’s studies at Southwestern University. He was active with international and multicultural organizations, and with his unique perspective and strong academic ability, he earned the admiration and respect of both his classmates and the faculty. Sensing a need on campus, he created an alternative journal named Vision, which showcased the excellent writing of individuals throughout the Southwestern community as well as Virmani’s own interviews with such noted academics as Noam Chomsky and bell hooks. He also made time to visit nearby Austin, which had a burgeoning film scene. Virmani soon decided he wanted to make his own film someday.
After graduating from Southwestern, Virmani moved to Singapore and began a career in advertising. He eventually founded his own successful agency, Coup Communications, where his clients included Lockheed Martin, the United Nations, and the Singapore Tourism Board. But he never forgot his desire to make movies. His interest in feminism and microeconomics in developing nations fueled his motivation to produce and direct two documentaries, Cowboys in Paradise (2009) and Menstrual Man (2013). Cowboys in Paradise explores the phenomenon of gender role reversal of the sex trade in the beaches of Bali and generated international press coverage for highlighting the exploitative aspects of tourism. The film was inspired by a conversation Virmani had with a 12-year-old boy who said he wanted to be a male escort for wealthy women when he grew up. Menstrual Man is an engaging account of a social entrepreneur whose invention empowered women across rural India to manufacture low-cost sanitary pads. The film, which was nominated for Best Feature Documentary at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and voted an audience favorite at both the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, underscores the power residing in every individual to make a difference. Virmani and his coproducer used the film as a platform to generate employment for women in Indian villages.
“Through his entertaining, thought-provoking documentary films, Amit promotes the ideals of inclusion, diversity, and achievement promoted by Southwestern University,” says Scott Ruffcorn ’96.
In 2017, Virmani was nominated for a UN Women HeforShe Everyday Hero Award. That same year, he cofounded Alo VR, a virtual-reality company that works to improve the health and well-being of older adults. Through the immersive power of virtual reality, Alo VR aims to give seniors access to experiences that may no longer be available to them, such as visiting new places or going to the theater, thereby alleviating feelings of social isolation and depression.
For his dedication to raising awareness of important social issues and his embodiment of the values of a liberal arts education, the Southwestern University Alumni Association is proud to honor Amit Virmani with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award.