NEW YORK, October 27, 2011 (AFP) – Rajat Gupta, who stands accused of insider trading, was a pillar of New York society, courted by charities, corporations and wealthy individuals seeking ways and means to make even more money. But just as his friends and influence grew exponentially during a dizzying climb to the top of the cut-throat world of American finance, he has lost many of his illustrious business contacts and associations on the way down.

The Indian-born executive’s humble origins made his rise to a prized seat in the boardroom of Goldman Sachs in late 2006 seem particularly remarkable.

While many of his contemporaries relied on family connections, Gupta, now 62, had lost both his parents before he exited his teenage years, and had to plot his own path, relying only on himself and friends to make it in Manhattan.

One such friend of recent years was Raj Rajaratnam, a hedge fund boss about to start an 11-year jail sentence, whom Gupta is accused of providing a pipeline of insider tips that culminated in millions of dollars of illicit trading profits. The pair’s South Asian roots — Rajaratnam is Sri-Lankan born — are a striking reminder of the increasingly prominent role of South Asians in US business.