The Return of the Natives: Global Indians are Returning Home

Global Indians are wooing and are being wooed by top Indian corporates to return home to India. It is not just techies but Indians working in different sectors of industry are homeward bound to be part of a booming Indian economy. The number of returning non-resident Indians (NRIs) has swelled in the past one year as expatriates find better job offers in India.

'Moving back' has always been a much-debated topic of conversation at NRI gatherings, but it has now taken on an added piquancy with the buzz about the kind of jobs and opportunities being offered in India. Indian expatriates are in demand because of the huge growth in some sectors that has led to a shortage of skilled and trained professionals. The demand extends to entry-level jobs as well. A few about-to-graduate youngsters travelling to India to visit their families this summer were surprised at the ease with which they could line up job interviews at a couple of leading newspapers, market research agencies and NGOs.

Placement agencies and Web sites that specialise in finding jobs for NRIs have sprung up in recent months. One such site proudly claims to have located about 200 senior and top management jobs for NRIs. Job fairs in American towns for jobs in India have proved highly successful and evoked great interest in the NRI community. Prime salaries, company accommodation, comfortable lifestyle in familiar surroundings and an all expenses paid relocation for the family are some of the attractions bringing home the expatriate Indians.

New sectors or those that have opened up in recent times such as retail and realty have been looking at the global Indian community for recruiting experienced professionals. If it was IT professionals who were returning to India to work or set up on their own earlier, it is now managerial and white collar jobs that are on offer in India.

Indian expatriates as well as people of Indian origin have found or been headhunted for jobs in the middle and senior echelons of a wide variety of companies in India in sectors as varying as construction, shipping and the newspaper industry. In healthcare, specialised marketing, biotechnology, aerospace and defence-related areas, companies are looking for people with experience in specific fields of operation.

The expatriates are valued for their international exposure and knowledge of work practices abroad by companies competing in the world market. Business enterprises looking to set up shop in India have also turned to the global Indian community as a rich source of professionals familiar with the conditions in India. Multinational companies such as Motorola, which have development centres in cities around the world including India and China, have set up 'Return to India' programmes for their development centres.

Indians who have lived abroad for several years have for some time been returning home. Delays in obtaining a work visa or green card have also

contributed to this process. According to an estimate by the Returned Non-Residents Association, over 30,000 IT professionals returned to Bangalore in 2005. Said an HR consultant at a placement agency: "There is a buzz about India's economic growth. Top international companies are operating in India and Indian firms are competing worldwide. It is a good time to come to India. It is mainly people in the mid-30s or 40s who are considering a return to India."

During earlier times, Indian companies would recruit at NRI association gatherings or overseas reunions of Indian technical colleges, but now it has become a two-way process. Headhunters in India are receiving a steady stream of inquires from Indians abroad about job prospects in India. Indian placement agencies and job-related Web sites have sections on 'jobs for NRIs'.

Job fairs held in American cities are finding a good response among Indian expatriates or even American citizens of Indian origin. Major IT companies in India report that about 12 percent of the job resumes they receive are of NRIs with some level of experience of working overseas.

As the number of Indians returning home has increased, it has led to a sharp increase in the Web sites that deal with the problems associated with moving back to India and blogs that offer advice to prospective returnees. The animated exchanges on Web sites such as garamchai, return2india and business4india are indicative of how the question of return is exercising the expatriate community.

One blogger who returned after 14 years in the US to a senior middle management position in Hyderabad wrote: "Food habits, topics of conversation, ways of recreation are quite different. The cultural adjustment was a much longer one and ultimately there are very few who are totally at ease with the American culture."

Another referred to his unease at the prospect of younger, more aggressive Americans moving up faster through the management chain. A third blogger advised NRIs that it was easier to return when the children are younger while one writer's advice was to stop comparing lifestyles in India with what they left behind for it is "like comparing apples with oranges".

Indians list several reasons for their move to India: attractive remuneration packages which allow a comfortable lifestyle comparable with life overseas, greater opportunities of advancement, and family reasons such as aging parents or growing children. Sometimes it is a combination of all these reasons that triggers the homecoming.

(Shubha Singh is a writer on the Indian diaspora and international affairs. She can be reached at


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