Thursday, July 20, 2006

Grass is always greener – on the other side!!

I'm in the U.S now for a short visit and met a person from India who has been living in the States for the past 17 years. He came to US for has post graduate studies and after college stayed on and started working. He is now married with two kids, has a very good job and makes pots of money – his house alone is valued at more than a million dollars. He also has as a side business, two Indian grocery shops, a catering service specializing in Indian cuisine and even is involved in import and distribution of certain food products from India.

With all this, he is still not satisfied. He wants to go back to India. Why? Because there are more "opportunities" in India !!. He has got caught in the hype about "India being the next big thing".

Yes, I too am a believer in the "India story" but a lot of it is just media hype. This person has not thought about the adjustments he and his family has to make by relocating to India after 17 years in US. It is easy to get lured into the hype only to realize later that things don't always work out the way you want them to be.

I recently read an interview of Wipro's Asif Premji in which he made an interesting observation – that Wipro gets scores of resumes from Indians living in the U.S for jobs back in India but usually as a policy does not recruit people who have been in the US for 10 years and more. Reason for this was that Wipro found that people who were in US for such a long time find relocation and adjustment to a life in India very difficult with the results that their careers suffer.

So my take on this is that though one may think that the grass looks greener on the other side, one has to think long and hard about any decision one might take and impact of that decision on ones life.


Steve Zavestoski said...

Prasanth, thanks for your comment over at The Curious Stall. I thought this was an interesting post. Do you think that the drive to amass more and more wealth that you observed in this Indian American is something that he acquired from his 17 years in the U.S.?

Some of the stories that I've read from the U.S. media about NRIs looking for work back in India tell the story a little differently. They make it sound like people like the friend you met were sort of "forced" out of India before the economic changes because there were no opportunities for them to develop their entrepreneurial or other business skills. As the story goes, such NRIs have always longed to return to India (understandably so since many still have most of their family in India), and it's only recently that they've felt that the opportunities exist to continue in India on the same career trajectory they began in the U.S.

Just a thought. I appreciated you relating your experience.

Prasanth said...

Hi Steve,
I do not think that the drive to amass more wealth was a direct consequence of him being in US for such a long time. Indian's in my opinion are very entrepreneurial.

Here the reason was different - i think the main reason has to do with job security/demand. He is in Michigan working for one of the big three automakers - and you know what they are going thru.

As for people who left India in the 60's 70's and 80's, yes, the main reason was the lack of opportunities in India at that time and now they may be feeling the pull to be back in India especially as the old socialist barriers have fallen and it is much easier to set up a business and make money.

My fathers collegue recently made a very interesting observation - he said that he and my father belonged to the "lost" generation. What he meant by that was that they did not have the opportunities that i have now - a vibrant economy, rising standard of life and more importantly, hope and optimism. In their youth, jobs were scarce and to get a job, you either had to know someone in the government or bribe your way thru. You could not dream of starting a business and succeeding in it. You would not get the "license" to start a business in the first place. All that is gone now.
BTW, if you want to understand what India went thru till the 1990, i suggest that you read "India Unbound" by Guru Charan Das. It is the best book i have read on the time between India's independence till the liberalization in the 1990's.



Nigel said...

Interesting post. I have met many people similar to your friend. It is hard to guess what his motivations are, but here are some thoughts.
- He may have a $1M house, but it doesn't mean much if he has a $900K mortgage on it.
- The business too, may not be worth that much if he has outstanding business loans.
- 17 years in the US may not mean much. My observation of immigrants in the US is that people do not change that much after the first 5-10 years.
- Many people talk about moving back to India, but only a small fraction actually does anything about it.

Premji's comment seems disingenuous to me. The real reason he doesn't want to hire these people may be that they are more demanding (in pay and other things).

Prasanth said...


What you say may very well be true (about having a lot of mortgage etc etc) but in this particular case, his house was paid off and he did not have any significant debt load.

As for Wipro, i think there is substance in what Premji says - I do not think that only overseas Indians are more demanding - I find guys back home as demanding as any body else.

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