Please come back to India. Your country needs you

India OpportunitiesMy friend and Cambridge MBA graduate Neeraj Agarwal had the good fortune of meeting the Prime Minister of India Mr Manmohan Singh in Cambridge (UK). Neeraj was a student at the Judge Business School in 2006 when Mr Singh visited the University of Cambridge to accept his honorary degree in Law. Incidentally, Mr Singh already has Oxbridge credentials on his resume. He studied at Cambridge (St John’s College) and Oxford (Nuffield College).

After the formal speech, Neeraj approached the PM for a short, informal tete-a-tete. Mr Singh asked him what he was studying. As the PM started moving out, he had these words to say – ‘Please come back to India. Your country needs you’.

Simple words…yet, very powerful and thought-provoking!

Though I graduated 1 year before this incident, I still vividly recall the dilemma that I was struggling with. Should I take up one of the 2 UK based job offers I had in hand or should I get back to India to join a new company that was being set up?

I chose to come back to India and haven’t regretted that decision one bit.

But is it practical for Indians to even consider returning back home after they’ve spent many months / years preparing for an international degree, spent so much money on the university applications, the tuition fee?

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of working abroad versus getting back to India.

There are 3 main reasons why a job abroad might seem more attractive than one in India.

Post-graduation salaries
This is what makes it a no-brainer for most Indian students studying abroad. Compare an Indian Rupee salary with an American dollar job. No match, right?

Career opportunities
Except a few niche industries (like management consulting, investment banking), the value of an international degree might be under-estimated in India.

Standard of Living
Compared to the western countries, it is tough living in India. With all the evil that has permeated into almost every perceivable sphere, an overseas job seems like an excellent way to get away from it all.

There may be many other personal and professional reasons as well (that are far more complex to cover here) that make it tough to get back.

Also, it would be idealistic to expect anyone to ignore all that and get back to India immediately after graduation.

But consider this. Salaries in India for specialised roles have been rising dramatically. With that salary, maintaining a high standard of living in India isn’t difficult. When it comes to career opportunities, there’s more exciting stuff happening in India right now than anywhere else.

If you’ve spent over two decades growing up in India, getting pampered by a few years of a lavish international lifestyle shouldn’t discourage you from getting back home.

By all means, go abroad. Get the best education you can. Pick up new skills. Make international contacts. See what makes the western business ideas click. Earn some good money, reduce / pay off the education loan and save up a bit. These are your productive years. So do all you need to in order to secure your future. But do keep India on your To-do list.

Here’s the scary part. No matter how senior you are and what designation you have. When you are abroad, you are always at the mercy of your employer – not just for the job, but also to continue enjoying the privilege to stay in that country. During tough times (like recession or any unfortunate event), most international bosses may not bat an eyelid before asking their employees to pack their bags and leave.

Don’t wait till lethargy pushes you into a comfort zone from which it’ll be even more difficult to pick up your posterior and move on.

Be proactive. Start thinking right now, when the pressure isn’t there.

All you need is the right set of skills and the right attitude. Anything you can do in USA, UK, Singapore, you can do that in India too. Your work will have a greater commercial and social impact here than in any other country.

Before you leave this site, I have one small request for you. The message in this post needs to go out to a much bigger audience (not just students) and your little gesture will go a long way.

If you have friends and colleagues who’ve gone abroad for higher studies or for work, please share this post with them through your Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts or through your personal blog.

Tell your friends – ‘Please come back to India. Your country needs you.’

Read this related post on an NRI’s experience: Returning from USA to India – NRI Checklist


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here’s more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

29 Comments

  1. Vijay says:

    I think there is another criteria for some people. Culture. One of the main reasons for me to decide to move to the US apart from career opportunities, salaries and standards of living, is the ultra-conservative Indian culture – which I wanted to get away from. I think in those cases people may not wanna come back.

  2. Naveen says:

    Fantabulous Post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Naveen: Thank you, saar.

    @Vijay: You are right. There are many more reasons to go abroad and it’s not limited to the three mentioned here.

    Also, relocating abroad doesn’t make Indians any less patriotic. In fact, the NRI community has probably done more for India than many who stay back and do little more than filling up their own pockets.

    For instance, in terms of the remittance sent back to the home country, India tops the global list. The estimated number for 2012 was around 70 billion dollars.

    The Indian diaspora also plays huge role in influencing India’s brand image in the international community. That reflects positively on our cultural (soft power!) and economic growth.

    So those who’ve decided to settle abroad for a myriad of other reasons, you can still contribute back. But at some point of time, it’s always good to get back to home sweet home, naa? :-)

    Btw, Neeraj Agarwal (featured in this post) started ‘Tea People’ a social enterprise in the UK. He hails from Darjeeling known (among many things like the scenic beauty) for its tea. Neeraj uses the profits generated from the business to improve the educational facilities for communities living in the tea growing regions.

    P.S. Neeraj bhai, if you are reading this, any thoughts on the topic?

  4. nitin vig says:

    Reminded me of the ‘Swades’ song. I would like to add my 2 cents here. Life is not tough in India, in fact if you are earning a handsome salary, you can live a better life in India because of various reasons such as cost of living, domestic help and many other services are so cheap. A simple hair cut in the US costs $14 + tip. I can have 14 haircuts in that amount in India :)

    • Harshal says:

      Reading this post and its replies quite late. Perhaps $14 is cheap if you are earning a $100k+ salary post MBA in USA. In fact, I think cost of living vis-à-vis income earned in India is much higher than USA,UK…

  5. Sameer Kamat says:

    Good example, Nitin. Here’s a more impactful one to help address the Swades hangover.

    A vasectomy procedure costs $350 – $1000 in the US.

    In India, you’ll not only get it for free, but you will also get a monetary compensation from the government. And unlike the haircut, you’ll just need it once…and you’d be serving the nation too.

    But let’s keep life simple for now and go with the haircut rates example to make our point about living costs.

    P.S. For those whose jaw dropped to the floor on reading this, I have to let you know that Nitin is a good friend. That allows me to take liberties such as this.

  6. Sanjib says:

    Wonderful post Sameer. nicely written

  7. mbaroadie says:

    Sameer-bhai, this post struck a chord in my heart.

    As an international full time MBA student from a top business school in Europe, I support that strongly.

    My wife is calling, My parents are calling, My relatives, in-laws are calling and most importantly INDIA is calling!

  8. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Sanjib: Dhonnobad dada.

    @mbaroadie: Loved your response, bro!

    If this post is able to get even a single top bschool grad back to India, I’ll assume it has served its purpose.

  9. Neeraj says:

    I think Sameer has hit the nail on the head in terms of the contribution made by the NRI community and their unyielding sense of patriotism. Most of the current generation of immigrants that I have come across in the UK are fiercely patriotic and many of them do want to get back to India, including yours truly. For some, it’s the growth story and the commercial opportunities that India presents while for others it’s nothing more than the Swades factor – the pull of the motherland. However, only few are successful in breaking the mould and taking that big step. For many others it just remains a distant dream. The reasons for this could be manifold ranging from unwillingness to give up the security offered by current job to being put off by the latest corruption scandal or a crime incident so widely covered in international media, resistance from spouse and children or even culture as suggested by Vijay.

    Either way, the reasons for getting back or not are mostly personal and I am not sure a blanket call asking all NRIs to come back is desirable. Of course, any sops, guidance or assistance offered by the government or the industry to those contemplating a move are always welcome and I would personally encourage anyone thinking of getting back. However, efforts should be made towards building stronger links with the NRI community – giving them a proper voice, encouraging them to invest or expand their or their employer’s businesses into India and most of all treating them like family rather than an ex-Indian. India would gain much more by treating the diaspora as their ambassadors or extensions into the rest of the world rather than lamenting over them for causing the ‘brain drain’. Many NRIs add more value to the country from abroad than they would otherwise.

    BTW, I liked Sameer’s vasectomy example to compare cost of living :-) . But if you’re interested in a slightly more comprehensive comparison of life in India and US/UK then check out some of the top answers to the question ‘What are some of the things that you can do in India but not in the US?’ on Quora: http://www.quora.com/India/What-are-some-things-that-you-can-do-in-India-but-not-in-the-US

  10. lunatic dodo says:

    1000s of Indians are working abroad after, before MBA for Indian companies. These people contribute much more then $ remittance in several hard/soft/ tangible/ intangible ways, which benefit the Indian economy, society, people, culture, religion etc etc.

    1000s of Indians even after being fired, loosing job (working at top or bottom of pyramid) choose to remain in that country/ region (outside India). So definitely they perceive much more value, importance of living abroad, which is more then one particular job.

    1000s of highly qualified Indians ( Scientists, Doctors, Economists, Engineers etc), Artists etc though no matter how hard they try, cant find a job, career in India, which can do justice to their skills, meet their professional expectations.

    1000s of Indian MBAs (from IIMs, ISBs and other management colleges in India) still aspire to work abroad, or at least work for MNCs. This implies Indian companies like several German or Chinese companies, still do not offer most lucrative career prospects, opportunity to learn, earn, grow, contribute to the maximum possible like the MNCs from US, Aus, UK, Canada, Singapore ( 5 of the top MBA destinations for Indians) do.

    With all due respect to Indian b-schools, I dont think if Prof Raghuram Rajan, Deepak Jain or Vijay Govindarajan would have learned/ achieved/ contributed to Indian society, brand and to the world in general, if they were living in India, teaching full time at top notch Indian B-schools all throughout their career.

    The world we are living in today is highly globalized, wired, interconnected, interdependent. I think its high time Indian Bschools, Engineering unvis, Corporate houses understand this and take action to attract global talent and just non-resident Indians, to India.

  11. Tara says:

    @nitin vig and @lunatic dodo: Totally agree. Though most of us do realize that it is ultimately important to get a better education, network, work opportunities and experience a new (maybe better) life outside India, we should still remember we are going from India, and there should be a need to return at some point.

    As MBA applicants, we must stick to the original plan: if things like money, prestige/contacts and standard of living are what attract us to go abroad, once we accomplish that short to medium term goal of finishing a good education, paying back debts, saving a comfortable amount of money and getting an ideal mix of work experience and skills, we must get back, however hard it maybe to do so.

    After all, India does 100% need us, but other countries may change their policies any time. Never forget that we are going FROM HERE. There is no need to feel patriotic to understand this simple Funda.

    @Sameer: I’m really glad this post came out, at least now. Better late than never. :)

  12. lunatic dodo says:

    @Tara. You missed the point I was trying to make or perhaps I have not elaborated the point much. The moot question here – Indians abroad should come back, because India needs them, which implies all these NRIs can contribute much more while being in India then they are outside. I think its a very stereotypical approach. The point I’m making is – Indians abroad are making much diverse, long lasting contribution, then just $ remittance.

    The contribution of few iconic names I have mentioned above and several other 100s and 1000s of such Indians cant be belittled. Again back to moot question – would these Indians have been as successful as they are now, if they spent lives in India, the answer most likely would be No !

    The world is complex, globalized much more then ever. But we cant expect Rohm & Haas or Siemens or IBM to shift their entire R&D or HQ for that matter to India. So Indians are bound to work for such companies throughout their careers. So there’s no point in making those Indians feel guilty by releasing emotional appeal.

    Close to 30 million Indians work/live overseas. Of these even if 1 million (best of the best in terms of intellectual ability or wealth or hard-working capability) comes back to India in a mass migration, most of them will end-up being jobless or doing jobs much below their caliber or earning potential or professional satisfaction standards. Wastage of potential according to me is a crime and not acceptable for the sake of patriotism.

    The last point which I made above about Indian ecosystem (comprising of schools, colleges, universities, corporate, government). If we really want to grow, compete with China, Turkey or Brazil we will have to attract Global Talent (and NOT just NRIs) to India.

  13. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Neeraj: Thanks for sharing the Quora link. It does provide better examples than mine.

    @Tara: before going abroad, many do have a rough plan to spend X years abroad and then come back. However, things start getting a little complicated after that.

    @Lunatic dodo: What you predict (what might happen in case of a reverse mass migration) already happening during the recession. Many who were forced to come back (I know quite a few) are still unhappy with their careers. Mainly because it was forced, not planned.

    Then there are a few others who (I have no clue how they did it) managed to come back to India as expats and are now earning a dollar salary. But this was clearly a planned move. Highlights the dramatic differences between the two.

    I also agree that a country’s attraction has to go beyond just emotions and patriotism. Otherwise our movies would’ve got everyone back by now. There’s too much at stake for the individual. Which is why I mentioned 3 non-emotional reasons in the post.

    Also, like Neeraj and you point out, getting everyone back is hardly desirable and the NRI community with their (relatively) modest resources are doing more for India than many rich and powerful local junta.

    Thanks for raising some very relevant and interesting points, buddy. Good to have you on the site. So please stick around.

  14. Arun says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Very nice and thought-provoking post. I think there is an age and time when you can settle down abroad. Maybe someone who goes to do a BS or MS abroad can hack it. But for the MBA crowd i.e. those above 25 – it can be very hard to deal with the cultural shift.

    Arun

  15. Narendra Pathak says:

    Namskar Sameer Bhau!!!
    (I liked the way you respond to others starting with greetings in their own local language and thereby giving a nice personal touch – so tried to use the same on you with a hope that you are from Aamchi Mumbai)

    Articles such as the above are definitely have a emotional appeal and struck a chord with readers. In my opinion they do the job of planting a seed in individual’s mind as shown in movie “INCEPTION” but the decision mainly hinges upon “sense of achievement” for that individual. If one feels that he/she has achieved “something” and remains optimistic about ones own potential that even after returning back to India, he/she will crack the success code irrespective of the situation – those are the ones who decide to come back.

    But still the unanswered question is – how many who have returned back to India (strictly talking about planned cases) strongly believe that it was a good move? If we can bring such cases/success stories to the front (and by that I mean nothing high flying achievement but moderate success with sense of satisfaction about handling family responsibilities/duties), may be that will help stir more conscious efforts towards calling back all those who are living abroad without any further work vision.

  16. Bharath H says:

    Nice article. I was educated outside India all my life and came back last year. I am in the IT field and have about 9 years of experience in F500 companies.

    Although I had many personal reasons to come back to India such as wanting to be with family and having a support system that cannot be replicated in any other part of the world, it has made a lot of professional and monetary sense to me as well.

    When I was in the US, I lived paycheck-paycheck and was constantly worried about money. I knew that noone in India could help me out financially if trouble really struck. Healthcare was a huge deal for me esp. I remember waiting for my annual/bi-annual India trips to get my complete health check ups, including vision and dental. For example my health insurance did not cover dental and I forked out a handy amount of money to pay for one filling.

    My career growth has been phenomenal since I have returned. I have risen at least 3 positions in the period of one year in a F500 company in India due to my international experience. I have noticed that people return from abroad are usually better at communicating – having interacted with a diaspora of people abroad- and so are natural fits for more client facing roles in India.

    Yes… the salary seems very small compared to that you receive in the US and other places… but the quality of life you can have with a 15L/yr salary in India cannot be had even with a 100K USD salary in the US (believe me I’ve tried :)). I live in Bangalore btw. My apartment has 24 hr electricity and I get all the services I got in the US without much difference. The apt has parks for my kid and pretty much every other convenience you may avail abroad. The only pain I face is driving on the roads here…. but then you can’t really help that can you? You can always afford to hire a driver if you can’t drive here.

    You are so caught up in saving money in the US for trips back home that you never have any fun. Since I’ve returned I cannot count the number of trips I’ve made with family both abroad and within India. I have bought a nice house (something I could not even dream of on a single income in Boston/NY) and live life king size!

    There are tons of other things as well I love – wrt being with family.

  17. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Arun: True, the cultural shift can be tough for first generation immigrants. But there’s another glue that holds them back very quickly. The new generation imbibes the local culture so quickly, the relocation plans become tougher.

    @Narendra: Saprem namaskar vinanti vishesh, Narendra dada!
    Seed-beed kaahi nahi re baba. There is no ‘Inception’ effect intended or expected here.
    But yes, like you suggested it would be great to have more success stories. And the good news is Bharath who posted just after you has exactly that to offer.

    @Bharath: Thanks for taking the time to post this, buddy.
    Stories like yours show that it’s more than wishful thinking that we are talking about.

  18. Anjie says:

    Hi Sameer, must say a lovely heart-warming piece !!

    Well, as far as sharing it with friends abroad is fine..but when they don’t even bother to revert to their Indian buddies back home in India, needless to say what they would do about this beautifully crafted article of yours.

    Good luck Sameer !

  19. Jyotsna S says:

    I think some individuals are better cultural fits in US although they were born and raised in India. Every individual in different and comes with a different set of aspirations and lifestyle preferences. I have known Indians that live in the US that are more Indian than their Indian counterparts back home. Sometimes one’s only connection back home are parents, who are happy if their kids are happy, irrespective of where they reside. Both time and circumstances dictate one’s choices.

    I chose to go to a not so popular US school to get an MBA and i remember how a lot of people thought it was a bad move. It has been 6 years since then and i am extremely happy about the school i chose and how i could not have been to any other school. So, i really think you have to do what is best for you, no matter how logical or sensible any advice might seem. Also, i highly doubt that India has evolved so much that it can accommodate every kind of mind set. If it is purely for reasons of financial gain that one wants to come back, then they should by all means, but i doubt if a lot of folks are wired that way.

    It’s a whole different story that you will come back if you are meant to come back, but i would be cautious if someone gave me advice on what is the best thing to do. To each his own i guess.

    I mean no offense to anyone that reads my post.

    Thank you.

  20. Sameer Kamat says:

    Good perspectives, Jyotsna. You are right in saying that there’s no black and white here.

  21. Anshul says:

    I somehow still agree with whats written above. But in practice this is what I have seen….I have a ivy mba..one of my senior from IIT also had a ivy mba…and few others i know with strong mba or Phd degrees from the best known universities.

    When we came back – we found it a horrible experience. Recruiters here try to downplay you…you just dont feel it worth trying even to work in India because of this kind of attitude. Although we all love India to our core..its our Matribhumi….but people I met while networking showed us that how big asshols they could be trying to show that they do not give a shit about what kind of MBA degree you have or what kind of work experience and degrees you have before your MBA.
    That really does not affect as much because thats the part of recruiting game. What affects more is the meanness and comments I got from them.
    I am sure most of returning people are facing this kind of attitude. I have not seen this happening with my batchmates returning to their countries such as Philippines or Taiwan or China or even Vietnam. They are looked up to for their skills and the quality they bring in.
    This is what is stopping people to come back and try to bring value to our country. Its less about money as much as it is about the kind of behaviour you face from people.
    The primary reason why people who come back to India are going back to where they came from. I am one of them – returning back to where I came from. Where I get respectful behaviour for the contribution I make.
    I will still live and die for my India and will return once I am ready to have my own establishment.

  22. Sameer Kamat says:

    Hi Anshul,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s unfortunate how local recruiters treat folks with the skills and qualifications that the country and the companies need so desperately.

    We try to provide multiple perspectives to topics, even if we (or some of our readers) don’t like it. Your story deserves more than just a small comment entry.

    I tried contacting you using the email ID you’ve used. I wanted to check if you’d be willing to share your story in more detail. But the email bounced back. And I can understand why you wouldn’t want to share your personal details.

    Hope you are able to put these minor setbacks behind you and continue reaching for your goals. as you’ve mentioned, work towards building your own business and then come back to re-write the rules of the game.

    Good luck!

  23. rajat says:

    Hi, Read the interesting conversation above. Incidently i ,am 39, an egnr, got immigration from canada last month. Now retrospecting what we have here in India and canada. Quality of life, is something every one tell, whiwach is difference between two countries. Money is here but good life in canada. …. perhaps very difficult to predict untested waters.

  24. Vahini says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Firstly, just wanted to say that this is a pertinent topic you have raised. I agree with you when you say that indians who have moved out of india should consider coming back *at some point* to their roots and make their society of origin a better place.
    To the points you raised regarding better salary/career abroad, as an NRI, i can attest to the fact that the expenses in any of the popular immigrant cities like Singapore/London/NY/Bay area etc. are much more expensive compared to Indian cities (with the exception of Mumbai and even there, one can live a lavish or thrify lifestyle depending on need and choice). So the advantage of earning in the $ is only realised when NRIs send money back or save with the intention of eventually coming back to India. In terms of career oppurtunities again, I think one has to research on one’s area of interest and whether it has potential to grow in india. In several fields like technology ( here I am talking about product firms and not service firms) and consulting, india can offer as many oppurtunities as a place abroad. Finally, i do concur that the standard of living in terms of roads/water supply etc. has a long way to go in india and I hope it improves sooner rather than later.

  25. Chinmay says:

    I came to USA as a 23 year old and its been 7 years now. I am happy here work wise but there is this thought which keeps lingering and disturbing me to go back. I don’t know whats stopping me to go back probably the job satisfaction or monetary compensation. This year I went to Mexico for my anniversary and stayed in a luxurious 5-star hotel, this was my first visit to a 5-star hotel and I literally cried that day. Being brought up in a middle class household my parents never had the luxury to go even in 3 star restaurants let alone hotels. I wasn’t able to enjoy the luxury without them present. They toiled hard to see their son get the finest of the education and didn’t think twice while spending to send me abroad. Now when its my time to look after them I feel am betraying them. They were denied US visa thrice initially and finally they shall be coming to meet me here. I am planning to move back to India for good soon and won’t like to continue living with this heavy heart, its burning me internally.

  26. Sachin says:

    Sameer bhau, I can’t really emphasize how relevant this article is, personally to me. Perhaps for the same reason I’m reading this article for the umpteenth time today. Having already shared this article a few times on social media I try, in my own capacity, to get people thinking about it before they fall prey to ‘Plus one’ syndrome (when its already late). I could have given the most emotional touch to this article, but….

    How I wish to become the next success story on this article :)

  27. John Smith says:

    send all Indians back to India immediately India needs them more than USA

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