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What foreigners like about working in India

March 31, 2008

A growing number of westerners want to work in India. Some years ago the only foreigners who found jobs in India were the “highly paid experts” from companies that had set up shop in India. But now middle-class foreigners are coming to India as well. India’s fast growing economy coupled with its growing shortage of people across industries has ensured the opportunities.

ht.jpgBut why should foreigners want to give up their comfortable life to want to come and work here, even if it is for a few years? They are trading a comfortable 9 to 5 existence with week-ends off with an alien place where people work long hours and in harsher conditions. So why do they do it?

An Hindustan Times article (no link available so sharing the shot of the article, which appeared in the paper yesterday) sheds some light on this. Apart from the obvious reason of satisfying a curiosity about an exotic land, the reasons have been summarized below, all of which the HT gave with live examples:

Update: A link to one of the articles in the story has sent by Joe, and this is the link.

  • For the sheer adventure of it, the novelty or and the thrill…some like the idea that they can see cows or elephants on the road, others relish the diversity of India’s different states, which can be like being in “different countries.” Others, simply like the sounds and colours and Indian weddings!
  • More challenges at work, the job is tougher but “dresses up’ the resume and gives great experience.
  • As India is growing, it means the chances of meeting targets are higher, and offers a chance to showcase one’s ability. Can lead to career growth back home.
  • A lack of a job or an opportunity to grow back home.
  • Opportunities to do things which cannot be done (or cannot be afforded) in their own country…some buy second hand bikes and say they wouldn’t have beena able to in their own home country. Good restaurants and clubs are affordable here on a regular basis. Sure, their salaries in pure money terms may be lower than what they get in the west, but their pay packets go a longer way here due to various fringe benefits.
  • They can get by with English, something that cannot be done in France or Italy or Spain.
  • More leisure time as household help is available. So are drivers.
  • Money is not the attraction as more money can be got back home although the foreigners do get various allowances like hardship allowances. But with free airfare to India and back, and often free accommodation and transport to the office, money can be saved. This money is usually spent on traveling within India.
  • At times an ordinary job back home can be exchanged for a great one in India if there is a talent for something and one can find one’s niche. An Austrian I met is teaching at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. But even those with lesser qualifications can manage…there are instances of ordinary phone operators coming to India and taking jobs of high paying call centre operators/supervisors/trainers.
  • And guess what, in certain cases the foreigners need not pay any taxes! This can happen if he/she works for a company which is doing business outside of India, for example someone who works in a call centre for a London based company would be exempted from taxes. There are other types of jobs which get them the tax holiday too, and you can read about it here.
  • Indian cities have large expatriate populations so expats are not lonely. They can meet up with people from back home and hang out with them.

ht3.jpgNo one knows exactly how many foreigners are working in India today but their number is growing. In fact if you take just the tech sector, and that too figures which are about 2 years old, it is believed that (by NASSCOM, National Association of Software & Services Companies) about 30,000 expats work here, and these figures have climbed three times from the previous two years.

In the future, by 2010, India will need about 160,000 workers with “top-notch foreign-language skills” estimates Evalueserve, a Delhi-based research services company with a world-wide client base. India will only be able to meet a quarter of the demand and the company estimates that foreign workers will make up the shortfall.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of why some NRI’s (Non-Resident Indians) are coming back as well. About 4000 NRI’s returned to India last year, and it is estimated that double this number will return this year. Why? According to yesterday’s HT article:

High growth potential
Slowdown in US and Europe
Appreciating rupee
Many top management openings
A need to be part of the India’s growth story.

HOT SECTORS: Infrastructure, Retail, Insurance, Consumer Goods, Equity Markets, Banking, Wealth Management, Pharmaceuticals, Education, IT

(Photo is from the Hindustan Times)

Related Reading: Will the reverse brain drain become a flood?
Skill shortages in India

Companies willing to hire from abroad
Illegal migrants from developed countries

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2008 7:30 am

    I find the article very interesting. I have managed indian developers here in the US and find as the standard of living and commercial growth continues in Indai that more and more plan on going home in 1-2 years. I wonder how that would impact the growth of foreign workers in India?

  2. March 31, 2008 7:38 am

    That’s an interesting angle your have brought out Mark, about foreign workers being in direct competition from NRI’s who are coming back to India. In fact there are some Indian americans who are choosing to spend a few years in India as well, not just NRI’s. Well, right now there seem to be enough jobs for all if the requisite skills are present,…but I guess this will dry up as companies will prefer those of Indian origin. This would not just be for business as well as cultural reasons, it will also be because there are some foreigners who cannot stand the harsh conditions here and go back. In fact we know a couple who came to look around to see if they could stay, took the job and left in one month! It left the company in a lurch but theirs were personal reasons as the wife could not adjust. I don’t know how common this is, but companies might feel that a person of Indian origin would be able to take the harder life better.

  3. March 31, 2008 8:43 am

    (Non-Resident Indians) are coming back as well.

    Nita, is this part of right’s Ghar Vapasi program? 😉 😀

    Looks like you have guessed my hidden agenda 🙂 Although I wouldn’t call myself right. 😉 – Nita.

  4. March 31, 2008 10:29 am

    I would love to live and work in India. I would make a trip to Bhopal to talk with the families who suffered incredible losses due to the the Union Carbide crime. I would visit the farmers and their families who suffered at the hands of the Montsanto capitalist pigs. I would share stories of human bondage and imperialism at the hands of the British slave-masters. Americans have much in common with the Indian people and their constant struggle against the minion of the Set forces. Enemies of the light will be denied their perpetual attempts at enslaving the human spirit which yearns to be free.

  5. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    March 31, 2008 10:44 am

    Amit, Nita:

    I believe the term “ghar vapsi” also includes reconversion of Muslims to Hinduism.

    I hope neither of you has that on your agenda.

    This one really made me laugh. There is some merit in your idea of not adding smilies. It’s like telling a joke with a straight face. I can never do that! – Nita.

  6. March 31, 2008 11:37 am

    most of the foreigners that r working are in the management positions and are here because either their entire team is in bangalore or because they got an irresistible job profile offer which they cannot resist (read promotion) or because their company forced them to

  7. talentty permalink
    March 31, 2008 3:55 pm

    I think world has realized that India has also a strong education foundation, open culture and proven workforce to work with.
    Also many comes to India to see the vibrant color 🙂

  8. March 31, 2008 4:19 pm

    I’d love also to live and work in India, at least, for some years.
    Not to see elephants and cows in the roads!
    For westerners its, of course, a very exotic place, but for me it’d be just to get deeply into the culture, meet indian friends and to live the experience of living in this country that I LOVE…


  9. March 31, 2008 4:30 pm

    A lot of my friends I know in Malaysia and Singapore actually want to make the move to India for a few years because they feel that is where the money is, and of course, opportunities.

    One of my friends shifted to Hyderabad with her husband, and now wants “curry powder” which she used to cook “Indian” dishes in Singapore! The real India and Indian curry is very different from how she had imagined it, but so far she seems to be enjoying herself.

  10. justopia permalink
    March 31, 2008 8:20 pm

    I lived and worked in India as a fully compensated expat for a Fortune 50. It was not my first expat assignment in the developing world, but it was the most difficult.

    Visions of an adventurous and comfortable life in an exotic location with sights, smells and sounds and tastes not experienced in Western cultures are what I’ve seen as the impetus for many an expat who make the big leap to other countries. It’s important to note, however, that it’s not all bells and whistles.

    Lading on distant shores when the move is more than a 2 week holiday is not a vacation. Culture shock is real and learning to cope with it is something that can’t be overlooked.

    Yes, there are opportunities to grow and to enrich your life and the lives of those around you, but it would be a mistake to think it happens as soon as the jet lag wears off.

  11. aquariius permalink
    March 31, 2008 8:35 pm

    hi nita, like mentioned already by some readers I am also one of the many NRIs looking to relocate to india in the coming 3 years (in 2011). having spent most of my life outside of india, it will be something extra-special to be back to my homeland – that is a feeling which cannot replicated any where else in the world.

    i think india offers a package, a lifestyle, which many countries in the world will be hard-pressed to match in terms of the sheer depth of the experience…

    all i can say is – looking forward to 2011 🙂

  12. lookinginside permalink
    March 31, 2008 9:53 pm

    I do not had that ideia of India having so many foreigners! very interesting! I do not live in India but I work with India 🙂

  13. March 31, 2008 10:15 pm

    I do agree with this, the number of people from outside specially America/Australia in India I know have increased a lot.. I mean I can spot so many working around in my own workplace.. its a confusing trend..does it mean they think India as a potential place to migrate to?..this is something worth thinking about i guess..

  14. March 31, 2008 11:06 pm

    francina, lookinginside, talentty thanks.

    Ankur, yeah I guess some companies will use all tactics to get their employees to work in India! There seems to no international company which doesn’t want a piece of the cake here!

    Johnnypeepers, thanks. I think you should make that trip to India then… 🙂 A lot of NGO’s do work here and fight for human rights issues.

    Rambler, I guess India will have to get more infrastructure friendly for foreigners to think of living here forever. However I think those who marry Indians, or those who cannot get a better job back in their home country will certainly have an additional motivation to stay on.

    aquariius, it’s always great to hear that someone is coming back. 2011 seems a long time away but 3 years doesn’t! And well to me at least there is no greater happiness than in living in my own country…welcome back in advance.

    justopia, yes life can be tough here specially for someone who is not used to it, and it’s best not to prepared. I am glad that despite the difficult times you came out of your India experience without bitterness.

    damyantig, for 2-3 years India can be an adventure, particularly if one has a fat pay packet and some of the foreigners have it all. I also think that overall foreigners are well recieved in India as we are a fairly hospitable nation. Overall people are friendly and talkative. In fact one American told me that one of the reason he likes India is the great social life and the general friendliness all around.

  15. Sanjay permalink
    April 1, 2008 2:54 pm

    there are too many of our indian women in our country, I think it’s ok for other to get closer to indian women as we indian men get close to women from other countries we live in.

  16. April 1, 2008 3:30 pm

    Nita, found this article in HT site: Inbound Outsourcing

    Hey Joe, thanks for the link. It is one of the four articles in that story and I have added it to the main post. – Nita

  17. April 2, 2008 6:14 am

    Nita, I’m not sure if foreigners want to voluntarily give up jobs and work in India, because of the improved job opportunities. I know the Indian newspapers and websites want us to believe that, but somehow, I find it very difficult to believe this. Seeing a new country, cultural diversity etc. is fine; but there are many other things that play an equally important role too.

    I would love to come back to India after a couple of years though. In fact, I’ve been seriously thinking about it since the past couple of months. The pay package in India is quite competitive these days.

    Ruhi, most of these people come on 1-2 years contracts. I do agree that it will be very difficult for them to adjust here for longer than that. Many would stay longer only for the sake of their career, but even they would eventually go back. I guess some of them would certainly be pressurized by their companies…
    As for you coming back, it’s wonderful that you are seriously thinking of it! Nothing like home to settle down in once you have some adventure under your belt! – Nita.

  18. April 2, 2008 10:44 am

    There are two foreigners working in my company too here in India. Earlier we used to think that they are here on a short assignment, but they are actually “working” here. It was quite amusing as I couldn’t understand how they are adjusting here. Even Indians are not able to adjust here after coming from Foreign lands. 🙂

  19. axinia permalink
    April 2, 2008 6:25 pm

    Nita, just love this article!

    As I metioned in my otehr comments, I would be happy to live and work in India. It was intresting to see the reasons you pointed out in your article. For me the reasons woudl be the following:

    – even if I would earn less that in Europe, I still can have a good standard of living and in fact, do not think of money so much (things are still much cheaper)

    – I believe Indian mindset is not very stress-oriented and I think that working in India would be less stressful and more pleasant for many reasons

    – it would give another sense of quatlity of life (which is apparently very hight here in the West, but which is being smashed by the pressure to perform)

    – apart from that all I can enjoy my light head (it gets incredibly lighter when in India) and have my deep spiritual experiences (which is difficult when in the West! 🙂

    Thanks Axinia. Yes here we do have a different attitude to things, but there certainly is a stress though of a different kind than in the west. The stress of not being able to get things done fast enough and this is due to the system itself. About spirituality I think you are right as I believe that all those brought up in India have some deep feeling of the divine in themselves. It’s part and parcel of Hinduism, this belief in/of a divine consciousness within oneself, and even people who are not religious seem to have an understanding of it. As I was growing up I was always told that God lay within me and all I needed to find peace and spirituality was within myself and not in an external force. This according to me is the essence of Hinduism. – Nita.

    • puyopuyoman3977 permalink
      December 13, 2010 8:48 pm

      Hi Axinia,

      I am just new to this community. Are you still working in EU right now?

      I would like to ask for your European insight about working aboard in India nowadays.

  20. April 4, 2008 1:01 pm

    I hope by now all of you on this blog have become to know about the Millenium Development initiative in India this year. Along with the foreigners its better that we Indians also with both the arms spread welcome the UN and do our bit there.

    This will help all you people on this blog to do something along with the United Nations in your locality.
    Check this

  21. April 6, 2008 9:39 pm

    I look forward to the inevitable backlash against foreigners coming to India and taking away Indian jobs.

    Well, this already exists in a way, but not just against ‘foreigners.’ India being very culturally diverse there are those from other states who are also resented. And sure if foreigners start taking up jobs in a big way, sure it will happen. But I have a feeling this may not happen (foreigners coming here in very large numbers) as life in India is no bed of roses. Only the adventurous sort will venture out! – Nita.

  22. esskay1983 permalink
    April 7, 2008 4:10 am

    Hi Nita,
    Luv this post. I agree that the best thing that foreigners enjoy about india is the variety and diversity of indian life.
    Take a look at where its contributors post one photo of mumbai everyday attached with their view on the photo. On reading everyone of their captions, I begin wondering why I have never seen india this way.

  23. April 8, 2008 3:06 pm

    now that is enlightening.
    now i know what to tell my father-in-law the next time he asks us to move to US !!

  24. anon permalink
    November 22, 2008 1:00 am

    I have been in the US for over a decade and so I guess I would be called an NRI, though I dislike like the term. One year back I had the opportunity to live and work for 1 year. Though tainting the rosy picture, I have been trying my best to put down my experiences.

    1. Salaries and positions have to be negotiated. It is just like buying a used car in America

    2. People grow in career, by the number of years they have put in at work

    3. People who grow at a faster pace are masters in living up to the politics at work and sucking up to the boss!

    4. Young girls are generally hit at all the time and have learned to live with it

    5. All the people are desperate to go to America and only the best suck ups succeed to get an H1 visa and second best get L1 visas

    6. American accent is what the consultants aspire for to learn when they are sent on a project

    7. NRI liars who complain about the working and living conditions in India are those who have failed miserably in the US

    8. NRI liars are primarily responsible for creating the rosy picture of America

    9. 98% of resumes from Indian Consultants are fake

    10. Nepotism is part of Indian culture and tradition

    11. Castism can never be uprooted

    Whatever it is I hope the growth, if it is growth in any way will help the world in some way at some time.

  25. someone permalink
    October 10, 2011 12:37 am

    Picturing a country as a heaven, where a Maoist rebellion is growing out of hand, mass killings, communal riots, corruption, sexual harassment with impunity, burning of women alive, killing of ethnic minorities , armed forces special provisions act, shooting people without trial in north eastern states….its not money or “wealth” that matters…even the Devil and his minions of hell can have lots of wealth to give…court systems drag on for years, poor have virtually no rights.

    Foreigners being treated as kings, when own Indians are treated like dogs, is it fair on those Indians the very foreigners come praising ? Which India have they really been living the air conditioned, high rises comfortable make believe artificial world with eyes shut tight is it ?

  26. nuni permalink
    September 1, 2012 7:07 pm

    a friend of mine moved to India after she graduated University and instead of staying for the two years she planned she came back after six months because of the sexist treatment at work and the lack of social moral. Its really not what you think people dont be fooled.

  27. September 2, 2012 8:54 pm

    Oh…REALLY? I heard a lot of negative comment about how white women are sexually harassed everyday in India.

  28. Carlos permalink
    November 25, 2012 2:45 pm

    why nobody mentions women when its an obvious reason?I love evrtything about the country planning to go

  29. joker permalink
    April 9, 2013 12:10 am

    sexual harrasments..its common in every counties these days..

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