The inspiration for this column came from the account I heard of the encounter of an applicant for US visa with a US official at one of the consular offices in India. During the customary interview, to a question by the official, the applicant assured him that she was determined to return to India after completing her education.
To which, the official’s rude riposte was: “I don’t think you ever will. For people like you, going to the US is like a villager going to town!” The poor applicant had to lump this lest any rejoinder on her part should result in refusal of the visa. (She got the visa!) It cannot be denied that the rude remark contains a grain of truth. Indeed, Indians consider themselves lucky to get away from all the travails and tribulations which, in their view, living in India entails.
As against the story of the visa applicant, I have the behaviour of the middle-aged son of my relative, who has settled down as an American citizen and a highly paid professional. When I asked him to come back to India, he was furious. He flatly dismissed the idea, exclaiming, “Who will come back to the squalor, inefficiency, corruption and the daily torture of pitting himself against public officials for getting even little things done?”
Till recently, this more or less reflected the attitude of the Indian diaspora which is the largest in the world, estimated at 25 million, (or two per cent of India’s population). Its total estimated income is $160 billion, or 35 per cent of India’s GDP, as against $700 billion, or 66 per cent of China’s GDP, in the case of the Chinese diaspora, representing four per cent of its population.
According to a paper published under the auspices of the London School of Economics, in respect of the FDI also, Indian diaspora accounts for only 4.18 per cent of the total, whereas the Chinese diaspora has directly invested close to 70 per cent in the country of their origin.
Some recent reports and surveys suggest a reverse migration brought on by the increasing attractiveness of India on several counts: The vast strides it has made in the post-liberalisation era; conditions similar to those in rich countries in the form of humongous malls awash with the same kind and quality of products and displayed in the same glittering manner; and the reputation India has acquired as an emerging economic giant, which the world powers are eager to welcome as their strategic partner.
When these features are set against the shrinking opportunities for employment and continuing layoffs in industrial countries following the havoc caused by global recession, it is no surprise that Indians settled abroad should want to give India a try.
Both the Association of Executive Search Consultants, a global association of executive search and leadership consulting firms, and the US-based Kelly Services, which undertakes comprehensive studies of preferences, patterns of mobility and problems of the workforce, are predicting the return of a large number of expat Indians to India in view of the scope for their talents and experience provided by openings in all sectors of the domestic economy.
Kelly Services, in fact, is projecting that three lakh Indian professionals employed overseas will be coming back by 2015. It is a projection that is impossible to either contest or accept, since no progressive official figures are available, as far as I can make out, from the Internet, including the Web site of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA).
But, from what is evident to perceptive observers in the fields of industry and business, the numbers of Indians returning, and preparing to return, to India are undoubtedly showing rising trends. India can certainly do with their talents and expertise.
In a commendable move, the Ministry has already brought out an impressive publication, Returning Indians – All that you need to know’ put together by Deloitte on behalf of the Overseas Indians Facilitation Centre and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
(Interestingly, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Overseas Indians’ Day), sponsored by MOIA, is being celebrated on January 9 each year, a date that commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa!)
Welcome back, overseas Indians, India wants you!