Reverse Brain Drain and Start Ups by the Diaspora
Surbhi Kapila January-February 2017
Seeping Innovations and Ideas
Indian entrepreneurs returning from overseas are bringing back international experience and expertise with them. They are developing innovative working platforms, connecting India to the world and filling the professional vacuum in the Indian industry.
“I was always attracted by my dad’s home country and started a trading company in 2010 in Paris. I used to come to India during my childhood and after completing my business school, I decided to start my business believing that India would be the country for me to be in,” recollects Nil Gandhi, founder of Sourcing World Products (SWP), a textile buying agency based in France with its operations in India
After building a client base in France, Gandhi decided to come to India in 2013 to start his own buying agency, SWP. Gandhi is amongst those several people with an Indian lineage who return to India fascinated by the country’s rich heritage, culture and with a wish to explore their roots furthermore or simply to be at home. These people are also aware of the several untapped career opportunities here that are waiting to be explored by someone with the right kind of skills and expertise. With the desired attributes in their bags, these NRIs and PIOs are discovering new and distinctive opportunities in India. With more and more of overseas Indians returning to the nation, India is witnessing a reverse in the trend of brain-drain.
“Earlier there used to be brain drain. Now a reverse trend has started. Around 175-180 scientists have returned to India in the recent past,” Harsh Vardhan, the union home minister for science and technology was quoted saying earlier this year by an Indian daily.
Not just professionals offering services and skilled expertise in fields of science or technology but other sectors like banking, finance, automobile, textile, travel, hospitality et al are seeing an increasing trend of an NRI workforce. Entrepreneurs and businessmen with unique ideas are paving their way into the Indian work environment and creating business platforms which are bridging the work gap between India and the world and connecting different cultures.
“Organisations like mine are very important as there is a big gap between both work cultures and I have seen lots of miss understandings or miss communication between French and Indian companies. In short our company bridges these gaps,” says Gandhi talking about how SWP is contributing towards strengthening IndoEurope trade relations.
“SWP is getting fashion brands to produce in India by promoting the Indian know how and techniques such as embroidery, tie and dyes, block printing, ikat, handlooms, etc.,” explains Gandhi who was born and brought up in Paris.
Gandhi, who manages work across borders, credits the managing of a diverse and multinational clientele to his understanding of the two cultures. He understands his clients and their needs and is able to deliver up-to-the mark international services and products. With unique offerings being put upfront, consumers are also looking upto the deliveries from a foreign land.
A burst of new businesses
There seems to be a surge in the establishment of such enterprises that are working between two nations. There is more and more global talent flowing in the Indian market, uplifting it with an international modus operandi. The migration to greener pastures which had scaled-up in the 1990s is now reducing and people who had once fled India, in search of better lifestyles or career opportunities are now returning as they are seeing the country as a potential destination for their businesses. In some cases, the reasons to return might be personal as well, but a business angle is always there and is an added advantage.
“Nature and love of nature brought me back and mentally, I had never left as my parents were here in India. Before leaving for Germany I had founded a new company in India, Idee Globus Tours Pvt. Ltd. with partners and followed it up with a company in Germany, Idee Globus Reisen GmbH. It was just the feeling to get back to my roots that moved me back to India and the possibility of working out of India for my enterprise was something that I was looking for. I ended up making a safari lodge in Bandipur (Dholesden.com) and a designer guest house (Daveystownhouse.com) in Mysore which are now offered to guests from Europe when they book a tour to India with us,” says Karthik Davey, an Indo-German businessman who also runs a travel company that works between an Indian and European clientele.
“We see us as a bridge to understand how a European client thinks. Years of work and experience allow us to be a source of information and help our partners in understanding the needs and concerns of a European clientele,” explains Davey.
With innovative concepts for startups and businesses, these platforms in themselves are their USP. They are also reducing the gap between customers or buyers and targeted destinations, like Europe and India in these instances.
“Foreign enterprises need to understand India and India needs foreign competences. They need to understand the systems and enter them without pushing around too much. Once this step is achieved, all that could be changed should be done in a surgical manner, with a lot of reflection, discussion, and pedagogy. Everyone should be winning something from it, and the golden rule is always the interest of the client. India has a lot of scope of rewriting a new page of her history but it should reinvent, which can only be done by exchanging,” says Segiyane Sylvain Paquiry, an Indo-French businessman who runs two hotels in the south Indian territory of Pondicherry.
Paquiry came back to India after completing his studies in France and built the La Villa Shanti and La Villa, his two hotels which he has modelled keeping international standards in mind. With his family’s linkages to both India and France, he has an understanding of both cultures and knows what new or different he needs to bring on the table to run a successful business in India. Juggling work life between two diverse work-cultures has also made Paquiry a better manager and ingested in him patience and a calm nature which he thinks is a ‘huge quality’. Paquiry also sees India as an opportunistic destination for his company’s growth. “The work environment is not limited and there is a huge liberty to work that the Europe is slowly losing. One believes that all is possible here,” he says.
“India often makes you feel that everything is possible and this is a great feeling as an entrepreneur. It offers a lot of flexibility and a lot of possibilities,” agrees Gandhi.
The Indian marketplace suffers from lack of adequately skilled professionals and which is slowly being filled by the international work-ethics, skills and expertise that the diaspora is bringing back home.
While the country is gaining a whole lot from the arrival of fresh talent, it also offers work space and time to entrepreneurs that they wouldn’t find abroad. A huge market, India with its big consumer base, is a good source for manpower and huge pool of youth and potential intellectual capital. The diaspora returnees could herald the beginning of the reverse brain drain and finally give something back to the society to which they or their ancestors belong.