How can India’s diaspora, both NRIs and PIOs, contribute further to the nation’s economic growth?
- Richie Santosdiaz and Rajesh Mehta
With the current economic situation of the Indian economy, the Indian diaspora can play a huge role in reviving the Indian economy. India is the world’s largest recipient of remittances at around $80 billion last year, with one of the largest diaspora populations in the world with over 15.6 million, according to the United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs. A Ministry of External Affairs report says that, as of last year, there were over 30 million Non-resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) residing outside of India.
From a recent visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he made a speech by sharing India’s “ambitious, yet achievable, path to be a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. We are targeting about $1.7 trillion worth of investments in the coming five years,” he said. How can India’s diaspora, both NRIs and PIOs, contribute further to the nation’s economic growth?
First, there is much of a diversified Indian portfolio abroad – from professionals as well as blue-collar. Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj noted “that the government’s aim is not to just export ‘manpower’ to the world, but to export ‘skills’. The current External Affairs Minister, Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, recently said, “As far as the Indian government is concerned, we value the diaspora enormously because we think in many ways they are the image of the country in the world. The success of the diaspora in different parts of the world leads to stronger connections with other societies.”
For instance, in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, whom the three have sizeable Indian communities, since the 1990s there has been a surge of highly-skilled professionals and students. Generally in the USA, for example, much of the Indian diaspora is living comfortably at least in the middle and upper-middle class categories, where particularly the highly-skilled migrants (and their children) are across various professional class career paths, particularly in academia, information technology and medicine. In fact, Indian-Americans are among the highest-earning ethnic groups per capita in the US, with almost two-thirds earning over $100,000 per annum; the average Indian-American household earns $107,000, doubling the US-born average of $56,000.
It is not only, as the more highly skilled the individual is the more money they can send via remittance, but how much more integrated they become in their adopted home countries. Entrepreneurship of Indians abroad creating businesses is a common experience found across much of the Indian diaspora globally – from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to large multinational corporations (MNCs). In the UAE, where there are 3.3 million NRIs residing, large-UAE companies Lulu International, NMC Healthcare, and Aster are actually NRI business and have recently announced major multimillion investment projects in India. And across various sectors, such as the tech industry in Silicon Valley, Indian entrepreneurs are playing a large role in technology and innovation. These include the likes of M.R. Rangaswami who is known for launching the Indiasapora, with the aim to “Transforming the success of Indian Americans into meaningful impact worldwide.”
In the political sphere abroad there are also Indian descendants who are in prominent positions, such as Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, Kamala Harris and Preet Bharara in the USA and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. The growing prominence of Indians in both business and politics abroad is definitely raising the profile of the country and potentially can further encourage future trade links.
Finally, it is worth noting that the remittances back to India should continue to be used not only to support families but in sustainable investment. In other words, much of remittances (not just in India but across the world) should be further encouraged to create further wealth, such as starting businesses. By doing this, further sustainable wealth could be generated and further help any developing economy.
India’s NRI and PIO populations clearly are making positive impacts across the world. Through their remittance in the past and present it has helped the country and with the evolution of the diaspora, such as in the USA where they are now one of the wealthiest ethnic groups, their growing business and political influence abroad can continue to help India as the country aims to be one of the world’s largest economies in the future.
(Richie Santosdiaz is an economic development expert and currently Head of Strategy for Dubai-based Rise Group ME and Rajesh Mehta is Founder/President of Entry-India, EU Gate India and Mehta Software Services. Views expressed are the author’s personal)