Return to India – Opportunity or Payback?

I am heading out of home in a couple of hours from now but I thought I will complete the post that I started to write last week, and never came back to it. I have some interesting ideas to blog about in the coming days but that will have to wait until I catch up on the more important things.

A couple of days back, somebody from Hindustan Times contacted me to find out if I would be interested in contributing to a story she was doing on returning Indians who want to do their ‘payback bit’. I told her that the reason for my returning was definitely not to pay back the country (not to say that I am against the idea – but, quite honestly and not to take any credit, that was not the main intent) but was more to cash on the opportunity that currently exists in India. Realistically speaking – I am paying back the country by bringing down my learnings and best practices from the US and using that in bringing foreign currency to India, but that’s really incidental and not intentional.

This got me thinking – again – about the major reasons why somebody returns (or shoud return) back to India. Having stayed both in the US and then back in India – I think I am in a decent situation to comment on it.

  • Indian Opportunity and Global Citizenship: I think that in the competitive world that we all live in currently, it is rather naive to confine self to a nation’s border. One has to be ready to travel, stay at a particular country for a few years / month – according to the needs of the business / industry, a country’s economy growth and his / her ambitions. We all have to start believing in the concept of ‘Global citizenship’ and by that logic, India is a far more lucrative option for most industries – given that our GDP is growing by 8.5% every year which is higher than most other countries (with the important exception of China). And the opportunity is not only because of the outsourcing boom but also because that more and more VCs and big companies have realized the role of India and are willing to pump in more and more money.
  • Closer to Home: Agreed that this is one of the biggest plus. It’s always far more comfortable to stay with family because it provides a lot of different kind of support. Even if you are not staying with your family – you know that it’s much easier for your family to come meet you or for you to meet them – without thinking too much about the international travel rules, visas, etc.
  • Things have improved and it can only further improve: This has been said and talked about in numerous blogs, articles and the fact is that things have been continuously improving in India and there is no looking back. There is better infrastructure, better malls and restaurants, more foreign brands, higher salaries, more confident people,etc. In general, there is a lot of positive energy amongst the people – which makes the place all the more lively.
  • Life is more eventful: If you are in India – you can be sure of one thing that you will never be bored. Just switch on the TV, pick up a newspaper and you will see all kinds of events happening (positive and negative) and a lot of events will be those which you will be able to connect with. It’s because they have a history and the history connects you with your childhood. So, if there is a protest because of the reservations for a certain section of the society, you also notice a new fly-over opening up making traffic and driving little less painful than before. Not to say that it’s not eventful elsewhere but the events in India makes more sense to Indians because of the factors outlined above.
  • More satisfaction on serving the country: Having said all that I said above – when you see that what you do things that brings happiness in fellow countrymen, you feel so much nicer. Seeing others getting happier because of some of your actions always gives satisfaction but if you know that you can easily do things for somebody needier gives a lot more satisfaction.

So – yes – I am selfish enough to say that I came back to India because it is a more opportune place to be in but I am honest enough to say that my actions does pay back country in some way, even if it is indirect and not intentional.

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33 thoughts on “Return to India – Opportunity or Payback?

  1. Excellent post! One of the few useful things I learned in business school is that the individual pursuit of opportunity is the most efficient way to maximize collective well-being. This “indirect” pursuit of growth has proven to be the only way to achieve a sustained path to collective good. Sure, it is always easy and populist to discount this view as capitalistic, greedy, and selfish. But the evidence is irrefutable. Through Tekriti, even more than bringing in foreign cash, you are paying India back by creating jobs, innovation, optimism, and confidence with several dozen people. That is the truest meaning of empowerment. Keep on charging ahead!

  2. On one hand you are saying that you saw an oppurtunity in India and on the other hand you say that its very satisfying doing something for India. Isn’t your views contrasting each other?

  3. Hi,

    Your post justifies the Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

    And its good that Indian take benefit of opportunities coming up in their country.

    Good Luck

  4. hi ashish,

    interesting thoughts. think ‘payback’ is an entirely wrong term to use. almost negative, in fact. most of the people i know who’ve headed back home, young and old, have simply followed the opportunity, like they did when they went overseas in the first place. totally agree with you when you say that we live in a world without boundaries today. that’s the reason we have this new phenomenon of ‘micro multinationals’ — startups that are multinational from day one. you intend tekriti to evolve as one with time?

  5. Hi Ashish,

    It was really a nice. I think from your perspective it was a great move and you must have thought about it in past before moving. But being in to recruitment I have seen people those who want to relocate to US or other european countries not to do something amazing but just to early money in dollars.

    Iam used to talk to lot of people in US those who are planning to come back to India not to give something back to India but just that they didn’t get the green card or US citizenship. Please correct if I am wrong.

    Cheers,
    Vaibhav

  6. Going to US on H1B visa or returning back to India has got nothing to do with opportunity or payback to your motherland.Its a conscious decision based on certain ratinal and a few irrational factors.Rational factors can be summarised as in SWOT (strengths, weaknesses,opportunities and threats) analysis,and irrational factors are the one’s you have mentioned in your post as “neraer to home” or may be love and empathy.For most returning Indians,irrational factors somehow outweigh the rational factors.Otherwise staying and working in Singapore is nearer your home(it takes less time ) than working in Gurgaon,and that’s why your mother has rightly said that you were better of working in US.When I came back from Singapore and was being transferred to Goa on promotion,I worked out that I was better of working in Singapore,becoz if I wanted I could travel to Delhi once a week and spend a few days with my old father in Delhi.I fully agree with you that smart guys like you should have multi citizenships like be a PR in Singapore, a Green card holder in US,spend a few months in each place and make the whole world as your home.Inshaallah, I think its possible,and it will happen in your lifetime.

  7. It is nice to read about your experiences and views – specially because you seem to be happy about returning back and you have a positive approach towards it. There are others who have returned or not returned but do not have a positive approach.

    Isn’t it that you have found an opportunity here only because you WANTED to ? Opportunities are hardly served to anyone in a platter and even if it may be, how many recognise or utilise them?

    Congrats for what you have achieved already and all the best for more :)

  8. I have heard lot of people talking about returning to india, viewing all the +ves and -ves in India. What they will miss etc. There are opportunities back in Singapore/USA/UK and lot other places. From your post I just see only the +ves and I can see that getting to motherland is your first objective and ofcourse everyone needs to work to earn/keep themselves busy etc. India is a place where you are born and India is what it is. Getting back to your history, your land is all that matters. Nice decision and truthful feelings.

  9. Thank you Ashish, for this wonderful blog article and reinforcing my decision to return to India that much concrete! What’s becoming clearer to me day by day is that the decision to return can only be made by myself focusing on what I really want to do, regardless of numerous +ve and -ve reactions that you get from your family and friends.

    And to Vaibhav, I think you cannot generalize your conclusion as why people are coming back (not getting GC, etc.). I’m a US Citizen having stayed in US for about 20 years. Even then, I feel like I have to get back for the sake of my sanity. I only exist here physically but my mind is still in India and I’m already facing myself towards it. Wish me luck!! Thanks.

  10. a well thought-out article, Ashish. I am like you in the sense that I have also returned to India recently after studying for a while in the US. I wish I oculd say my decision to return had some motives like yours but I had to return as I could not get a visa even with a job. However, now that I’m back and with parents :D and eating home-made food and desi food and looking at the opportunities here, I don’t feel so bad about returning. On the contrary, I’m feeling rather chipper about it – esp. after reading blogs like yours and taking stock of opportunities here, not only for advancement but also to giv eback to the society that raised me. Thanks!

  11. I am a recent US citizen having lived in the US for 10 years now and seen more than a handful of my friends go back to India.

    The one thing to point out is that not one of them left at the top, meaning that there were some career/visa/family twists that forced their return back. The only exceptions to this rule being scions of well established mega businesses back home, for them living in America made no sense. They are definitly prospering in India. The rest of my friends are a mixed bag. They are happy but regretful, most seem to have compromised with their situation and are gradually forgetting their American past. I think it is one of those grass being greener things.

    For me personally, I think going back to India is well worth the try. It is ironic that I spent over 20 years growing up in India but not one day as a mature citizen who goes to work, pays taxes and owns his home in India. I often wonder how that would all be like.

    It certainly looks like fun from this distance. Imagine so many friends, friendly neighbors, relatives, festivals, weddings, parties, cricket, servants, chauffers, but then what are the true ground realities of settling back in India. What about traffic, the surrounding poverty, the crappy infrastructure, noise pollution, air pollution, the crime, goonda gardi, strikes, bandhs etc etc etc.

    But I’d love to give it a shot. The only reason I would however is because I am a US citizen now and can think that i have great downside protection if I cant digest India.

  12. Dear Mr. Tendulkar,

    You hv. nipped in the butt in ref to pollution, bandhs etc.. I have been in the US for past 16 years and had a concrete offer to move back to India last year (with Ok salary) I would say if you really really plan on moving back to India – I would make it a 3-5 year plan – wherein I would visit India atleast 2-3 times year during the 3-5 year phase for 3-4 weeks and exp. the life first hand. I have seen people who have gone thru this process get adapted to the shock of change with lot more ease. I am also amongst the countless NRI’s whos heart never left India. India is changing but not fast enuf for all of us yuppies – I think if india offers a trenmendous growth opputunities for professionals with advanced degrees – but one really has to evaluate his/her situation – like Married, Kids, cohabitating with in laws, intrusive family etc etc of course not to forget clean air???In my case the solution was straight forward ( Wait n See) – I am divorced father of 2 (living the american dream) so it was a moral issue for me – I am very close to my kids and think they need me at this tender age ( 9 and 5 ) I also feel my moral duty towards them.. one thing is for sure that If my family situation had not given in – i would be GONE! in a jiffy. Hope that helps…

  13. Returning to India is still perceived as a retrograde and unwise step by most of the N.R.Is. Maybe because the ones who can’t go back because of various reasons have to justify their decision to stay abroad. I am also coming back to India next month after a brief (7 months) stay in Australia. I am an Architect and came to Oz in search of better lifestyle, more salary and better education prospects. I got style but no life, got a good salary with equally high expenses and definitely inferior education system for my son. Though my NRI friends here criticized me for not giving ‘ENOUGH’ time to settle down but I can see that if you don’t feel good in the first six months then you would never do so in the future as well. The most common logic given of not returning to India is that the people are ‘uncourteous’, ‘corrupt’ and just ‘too many’. Yes maybe true but atleast they are not ‘biased’, ‘snobbish’ or ‘indifferent’.
    I am coming back as my ‘heart’ says so. No logic required. I would be happier there and that is the bottom line. Salaries…??? Well they may not be that high but are getting there. High GDP growth, controlled inflation and superfast salary rise with low expenses makes your lifestyle much superior to what you would get abroad. You have the family support and then do not forget the luxury of having domestic support ( maids, servants, drivers, guards etc.)
    Do you guys still want to stay abroad… go ahead I know why because you are ‘STUCK’ there and are not able to get out. Tough luck.
    Cheers!!!

  14. Returning to india is not the wisest step for most of the NRI’s.There are lots of pros & cons for this. as if you go than there is no back for the NRI to return on the main stream.

    thank

  15. I have lived in UK for 18 years & never felt accepted 100% at work or socially, despite the fact that I am in the category of top 10% of earners in the UK.

    I am planning to return to India in 2007 or 2008 as I’ve had enough of the high cost of living vis salary, high crime rate, lack of opportunity due to glass ceiling, cold attitude of the whites. I’m happy to give up the things I took for granted, namely fresh air, low pollution, good transport infrastructure.

    I love India in spite of the negative things. At least I wont get stared at on the tube or treated like a second rate citizen. In India I will be treated equally if not better.

  16. Yo,
    I have taken an career break and currently trialing out india with my family for 2 months. I have lived all my life in the uk, but i feel that i belong here with my people in india. I have now decided that i will return to UK shorlty, Work hard as F**K for 1yr or so and then settle in india with my family – thats the plan anyway! wish me luck.

  17. I have been in the US for 16 years and visit india every year and love the lifestyle that my friends enjoy there. Some are better to do than others but they just seem happier. Don’t get me wrong, they complain about things and a lot of them want to move abroad. But I have seen life from both viewpoints and given the +ves and -ves of both worlds, personally I feel India is better IF you can afford a good lifestyle(Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven).

    Right now I don’t have the balls to make the decision because wife does not want to but I think over time I can convince her. we’ll see

  18. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Return to India – Opportunity or Payback?, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  19. Guys,

    U cant generalize the decision on shiting back to India, everyone has different priorities and he lives accordingly, well I personally feel, life in US is good and no one to disturb u for anything.

    cheers
    alok.

  20. um Hi, i wanna go back to india, but i kept thinking about thigs that are…. welll dont really matter anymore and you have made me realize that india is a wonderful country and will be, sooo thank oyu soooooo much for making me feel better and couragous! :)

  21. Hi Ashish,

    Thanks for capturing your experience. It really helps anyone planning to go back.

    We have recently launched a social network IMRTI http://imrti.com for people thinking about going back to India and for thos who have recently returned. Would you be interested in sharing your story with our mebers? Do let me know.

    Thanks

  22. Ashish, I stand by your idea of serving oneself first in order for the country to improve.

    I am “paying back” as best as I can right here in the US by playing an integral part in American society. I have been successful in being a worthy ‘cultural ambassador’ from India as has been remarked. I think that everyday Indians here in the US can make a big mark in society here (more than we already are doing). This will help bridge gaps if any in American understanding of India. Not saying that this will help the development of India overnight, but it is an attempt.

  23. Hello All,

    Nice to read the article and I feel a piece of mind. I have been in the US for the past 4 yrs working on H1B visa for the past 2 yrs got MSEE and married last year. US is going through a lot of recession and nobody seems to care about us here(being immigrants). I am fighting everyday counting pennies buying groceries, checking each bill if its typed properly of not, anything more than 20$ for grocery seems so high. My wife sits at home she cant find a job. She tried hard but nothing worked out. We are trying for her Masters degree but she really does not want to do that. She had a nice job before and she wants to support her family who needs some support from her. You know in Indian tradition the boy’s cannot give his wife’s parents any money or support, I mean its in appropriate. Ever since I graduated my debt for some 5000$ has just not got of me. I am fighting so hard trying to cut down on everything but nothing is working.

    Quite often I come home and see my wife sad and missing home. I am the only boy child. All sisters are married. Its pretty hard to live like this and I have been living like this for a long time now. Almost 2 yrs.

    Its not that I like US or India or anything like that. I have stayed here and learned what I wanted to. I can go further, but looks like I might sacrifice my family life. It really pains when I hear that my mother cant walk properly and has pain in the leg and father takes care of everything.

    I am not sure how many of you love your family but this situation may be for some of you.

    There is no best place to be. There are positive things of being in US and negative too. People carry guns here and drive so fast you never know when you may die. If you fall sick the medical expense for even a single day in the hospital can be 7500$. I am already in debt. How can i fight this?

    I think if I go to India and not dream too big just get a simple job with my wife working my parents with me and my sisters all can meet me more often; If I stay in a not so big apt may be just 2 bedroom kitchen, vacations can be just going to a waterfall or a hike to a local mountain. I don’t want to travel in plane or AC train. I can go in sleeper and sit on the door edge and see the outside world. That’s my India. I miss it a lot when times are tough.

    Tomorrow anything happens here no one will give me money or support to do anything. I cant change jobs most people don’t like people on visa. If I get fired I am on my own I cant stay for 15 more days. Life is pretty hard here.

    Think about it.

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  25. I am in UK since 5 yeras I don’t have any reason to leave UK,I am not comparinging any pros and cons I am just going back to india because my heart say so..

  26. I think the decision to go back is mostly influenced by the family situations. Some people working abroad are the only son/daughters. They for sure miss their parents and want to move back.

    In terms of the job situation, the job market in India is really picking up. There is for sure; no doubts about that. However, I think the most important problem comes when you have to deal with the basic necessities of life. Electricity,water and roads are still a problem there. You would agree with me that they have improved but still lot needs to be done.

    As I have lived for almost 5 years, these basic necessities seem to be a part of life.

    However, it is a balance between the choice of family and the materialistic gains that we get by living abroad.

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  28. I am living in UK from last 12 years with my wife and 2 childrens. But recently we have planned to go back home, as it was always bothering me why can’t we live there with our own people, so you can share each moment of sorrow or happiness. As my wife and childrens are born and brought up here, it wouldn’t be easy, but wouldn’t be impossible too. We all are in this decision together and holding each other tightly if other person get any slippery thought. Thing have changed in India, they are more ahead then UK OR US. I was just living here, but wasn’t happy to be here, now we have decided to go back to India, if we get less there, will make it up with the happiness, which was lacking here. it’s worth a try otherwise I would never find out how it would be. But very possitive about this move and for the grace of the god it will happen for the good.

    Please wish me luck from the bottom of your heart, and never give up.

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