My 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.
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?
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