Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. While all ethnic groups are affected, the prevalence of T2DM in South Asians, both in their home countries and abroad, is extremely high and is continuing to rise rapidly. Innate biological susceptibilities coupled with rapid changes in physical activity, diet, and other lifestyle behaviors are contributing factors propelling the increased burden of disease in this population. The large scope of this problem calls for investigations into the cause of increased susceptibility and preventative efforts at both the individual and population level that are aggressive, culturally sensitive, and start early. In this review, we outline the biological and environmental factors that place South Asians at elevated risk for T2DM, compared with Caucasian and other ethnic groups.