Who Are Nikki Haley's Parents?

As an aspiring Republican presidential nominee, Nikki Haley's personal and political life continues to attract attention as people seek to learn more about her. Haley entered politics in 2004 when she was elected to the South Carolina State House. Six years later, she won South Carolina's gubernatorial election and became the first Asian American woman to become a governor in the U.S. 

In her 2012 memoir, "Can't Is Not an Option," Haley credits her parents for her success in life. "I am only an echo — an imperfect imitation — of my remarkable parents," she writes. "If I'm tough and determined, it's because of them." Haley's parents, Raj and Ajit Randhawa, hail from India's Punjab region. Raj, her mom, came from a prosperous background, with a large home and a staff to care for their house and family. She earned a law degree and was a prospective candidate to become India's first female judge.

Ajit, Haley's dad, came from a military family. Every year he spent two months of his summer break with his parents and resided with an uncle the rest of the time. Raj and Ajit's marriage was arranged by their families, although the couple did get to meet at a resort before their wedding. Their oldest child, Haley's brother Mitti, was born 19 months later.

Nikki's dad, Ajit Randhawa, emigrated for Ph.D opportunities

After earning a master's degree in biology, Nikki Haley's father, Ajit Randhawa, emigrated to Canada for his doctoral studies in 1964. His wife, Raj Randhawa, and son joined him a year later.  While she was pregnant with their second child, Raj worked multiple jobs at a post office, childcare, retail, and typed papers for college students. In 1969, the family moved to South Carolina when Ajit accepted a job teaching biology at Voorhees College. Haley's parents settled in Bamberg, South Carolina, a small town close to the Voorhees campus, where she and her younger brother were born. Ajit remained at the college for 29 years, and he was honored with the Governor's Distinguished Professor Award during his career. By the time he retired in 1998, Ajit was Chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences, Math and Computer Sciences at Voorhees College. 

Haley noted in her memoir that her parents have had a lifelong interest in religions in addition to their Sikh faith. According to his LinkedIn profile, Ajit is a member of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina. In 2009, he wrote "Evolution of Faith and Religion – An Exploration." Ajit describes his book as "an insight into six world religions anchored by faith – the common thread." 

In January 2024, Haley paused campaigning in the Republican Presidential Primary so she could return to South Carolina and visit Ajit, who is reported to have cancer, while he was in the hospital.  

Her mom, Raj Randhawa, is a retired teacher and business owner

After Nikki Haley's parents moved to the United States, her mom, Raj Randhawa, pursued a Masters in Education and spent seven years teaching social studies at the local school district. In 1976, four years after Haley was born,  her mom became an entrepreneur when she started Exotica International, Inc. After initially selling gift items, Raj later expanded her business to include handmade couture. Her gowns attracted clientele from all over, including gospel artist Shirley Caesar. By 2004, the business was earning $1.8 in annual revenue. Haley's parents also boosted local tourism when they created "International Fest," to celebrate global music and food.

Over the years, Raj's business became a family endeavor. Long before Haley became a famous politician, she worked for her mom providing bookkeeping services at age 13.  When the family closed their business and retired in 2008, Haley's husband, Michael Haley; her sister-in-law; and one of her nieces were working there. 

While her children were growing up, Raj expected her four kids to help her with housework on the weekends. An education enthusiast, she made sure her children experienced a variety of extracurricular activities. "For me it was charm school, dance classes, cooking classes, tennis lessons, and Girl Scouts," Haley wrote in her 2012 memoir, "Can't Is Not an Option." While Haley discovered a love of tennis, she never got the hang of cooking. Instead, she decided to leave that duty to her husband. Michael.