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Should Indians Be Proud Of Achievements Of The Non Resident Indians?

By on Feb 12, 2009 | 7 comments

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Here is the official definition of NRI on Wikipedia:

A non-resident Indian (NRI) is an Indian citizen who has migrated to another country, a person of Indian origin who is born outside India, or a person of Indian origin who resides outside India. Other terms with the same meaning are overseas Indian and expatriate Indian. In common usage, this often includes Indian born individuals (and also people of other nations with Indian blood) who have taken the citizenship of other countries.

Vinod Khosla Kalpana Chawla Lakshmi Mittal
Salman RushdieNoureen DeWulfSunita WilliamsBobby Jindal

There is a huge list of NRIs who made it big after leaving India. The list includes businessmen, CEOs, artists, authors, politicians.

Whenever someone who has an Indian name or Indian Origin makes it big in the West, Indian Media goes ga-ga over them. Suddenly they are famous in India. Media goes crazy and interviews everyone including their childhood friends (who are in India), school teachers, neighbours, pets – everyone. Indian government then goes on to give them the best awards possible. We all watch it on television, discuss and forget. Some of us feel we’re doing absolutely great and indirectly tell our next generation to leave the mess here (in India) and make it big in the west.

Even if I try, I don’t feel proud whenever any NRI makes it big. I don’t understand why should Indians be proud of achievements of the NRIs.

Then, there are NRIs who come back to India after making it big in life. But the number is still abysmally low (correct me here, if I’m wrong). I’m not even proud of old folks who spend their lifetime out of India and then come back to India because they miss the ‘soil’ here.

My real hope lies in young Indians who stay in India against all odds and try to succeed. I am proud of Tata, Bharti and Ambanis who stayed in India and made it big; created employment here, generated wealth here and are now conquering the outer world.

What’s your take?

The Big K


  1. Gawran Pundit

    February 12, 2009

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    I totally agree with you.But i feel that young Indian Engineers should stay in developed countries for 2-3 years to gain experience from the way those guys over there operate and also should try to inculcate the proffessional values of people in the west.Then, these experiences will help to create a better India in a more fast manner.

    But, the MOST important thing is that today’s youth should take part in politics and also support or choose leaders who are young, dynamic and capable of creating a new, vibrant India.

    How many of young indians are ready to create a new party or joining politics in existing parties to change India ?

    The number is extremely low.Not even 0.000000001 %


  2. The Big K

    February 12, 2009

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    [quote]But i feel that young Indian Engineers should stay in developed countries for 2-3 years to gain experience from the way those guys over there operate and also should try to inculcate the proffessional values of people in the west[/quote]

    This is something that has been taught to us. Spend time in the west, learn what they do and bring it here. What the heck!

    Why can’t we think on our own? Why should we learn the professionalism from someone else? Where did the people in the west go to learn the professionalism? Huh?

    Sad it is; but most of my Indian fellows have stopped to think on their own.

    Joining politics may not be the best way for everyone. It is not for me. But I can do my own work honestly and do a great help to the country. I can choose not to break traffic signals and make two others stop on the red-signal.

    We’ve learned to blame our surroundings. But guess what, we have to look at ourselves first. Couple of days ago, I had a discussion on why couldn’t an Indian win the Mumbai Marathon (in fact first 10 were non-Indians!). Friends said, the Government doesn’t help the athletes. Give me a break. What help do the marathon runners require? Nice shoes? People who won the marathon won it because of their dedication and hard-work and honesty in efforts.

    Anyway, I guess my words will fall on deaf, intellectual ears.

  3. Net Comment

    February 12, 2009

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    Ha-Ha!! after our other discussion I had thought that someone should write about this and was happy to see you bring this up.

    I think NRIs should admire the achievements of other NRIs as they share a common experience and would know how difficult it is to break the glass ceiling here for a non-white (“…the color of success is blond” as they say at my office), as well as for the fact that it demonstrates to the West what Indians are capable of achieving in their turf.

    Should the Indian media go ga-ga over them? – I don’t know. One can choose to switch the channel and maybe watch how the Haryana deputy CM converted to Islam to marry Fiza, or ponder the question – is SRK a bigger star than “Big B” or something equally inane on a slow news day. It is a democracy and media will show not only what is important, but also news that will cater to the lowest common denominator in us, the sensational, the stupid and the entertaining!!!

    The achievements of NRIs or of professionals who can go abroad if they want to, or of the educated middle class or even of the Ambanis and Tatas – have no meaning to the masses of Indians who are uneducated, impoverished, downtrodden and oppressed and can not even meet their basic needs. Unfortunately that is the majority in India and that is what the world sees primarily.

    The fact is that the %age of Indians who get a college education is so small that they are what would be called the “Elite” of India. Their experience and achievements in India or abroad do not change the lives of the Indian masses in any significant way – so we are all elites who all demonstrate varied degree of smugness – for the fact that we live or not live in India or the US, or that we teach our kids shlokas or Bollywood dance, or we chose to go to IIT and turned down MIT, or about the cars, planes, boats we own, or for the fact that we pay for the education of the son of our maid or our driver, or that we planted a tree on “environment day”…the list goes on and on.

    Anyways – looking at your profile I know that you are a young engineer, live in a big city, have access to internet and other technologies of communication, know about the world, and if you were to be transported to an office in US you would be right in place! So – you could easily come to the US and do the job I am doing – but you choose to be in India. That makes you and me different from the majority in India who would never ever have a snowball’s chance in hell to even come close to an airport to take that plane to US of A. So – the NRI achievement holds no meaning to the majority of Indians…since nothing is “shining” for them – neither India nor the world!!!

  4. The Big K

    February 13, 2009

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    @Net Comment: I must tell you you write very good comments. Very well informed and balanced.

    I don’t look down on achievements of the NRIs. No doubt they’ve done a great job. It might remotely affect the poorest of the poor in India.

    I haven’t worked in US, so don’t know for sure if the ‘glass ceiling’ exists. I bet it does and it’s obvious. No one would like any outsider to come and eat my lunch. It’s very well justified.

    I agree with what you say about the Indian media – they’ve gone insane. Indian business, or most of it, is about trading in quantity; not quality. Why? Maybe because our talented people decided not to work in India. Maybe we don’t have it in our blood.

    I believe Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas have helped India in many ways. Look at how many lives/families they support through their businesses. I’ve tremendous respect for Indian businessmen who made it big in India. [Surprisingly, I’m not a big fan of Mr. Narayan Murthy]. They created employment and that have raised the spending power of the middle-class. This in turn affects the small businesses and entrepreneurs make a living for themselves.

    NRIs should be proud of the NRIs. They belong to the same community. My question is whether Indians (the residing ones) should be proud of achievements of the NRIs. My answer is – no.

    What we need to ensure is that we create many role models in India: People who lived in India against all odds; helped India in their own ways and made a significant contribution to India’s growth.

  5. Net Comment

    February 13, 2009

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    Thanks “big K” for the compliment. I think maybe the topic is closed but I still want to air some of my thoughts here – and I bet I am really going to reveal the generation gap here. Sorry for the long blogs!

    Let’s start with the reality of two India – 1) An educated, informed class which includes the lower middle class and up (let’s say it’s 20%) and 2) a completely illiterate and poverty stricken India (80%)

    Within the first group of people – there are many -many grades – clerks, taxi drivers, IIT engineers, Politicians, media, Ambanis, Rakhi Sawant, NRIs, Professionals, Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Prasad etc. So whenever there is an opportunity to prosper this group benefits to varying degree. So a taxidriver buys Reliance shares and can marry his daughters off (ok – this example is from “Guru”) – and wealth creation by Ambani percolates down. But my point is this Taxi driver knew enough to buy shares – unlike 80% of the masses. Progress will bypass the majority 80% because some basic engagement from what we would like to think of as “mainstream” is lacking.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that the ranks of middle class is swelling as well as that there is more upward mobility amongst the middle class – which is letting people know that there is opportunity in India and people are staying in India or returning to India. This progress makes sense for the 20% and should happen because that let’s India be a world player and is good for not only India’s economy but also security. A stable India, with it’s BPOs and outsourcing, it’s growing market potential and buying power and it’s capital is important for the western economy now – and thus they have a stake in our stability and security!!. Since in a way, India’s economy is linked more closely to the west (thanks to Manmohan Singh for opening India to multinationals and privatization), they have more of a stake in preserving this nation (like forcing Pakistan to cooperate with India over the Mumbai attack. LOL). Someone recently commented about the frontpage coverage of “Satyam” in Wall Street Journal – saying “Good to know -that India matters now – 10 years ago – this would be no news”.

    So in that sense I am not really making a distinction between those elites who stay in India and those who come to US, since in the end they are helping the 20% only. Except for one exception – the uneducated sikh farmers who migrated around the time of partition – they were still connected to the village sufficiently that they were able to send back capital to Punjab for agricultural reforms. Out of all the NRIs – the sikhs remain to this date most comfortable about going and settling down back to their villages and not in a city with all the modern amenities, since most of the villages boast of brick homes, electricity and running water.

    Now let’s take the second group – the 80%. The economists would think that the progress will eventually percolate down if we let the free market run it’s course, and the potential of this 80% becoming potential consumers is very attractive. But in reality this version of western progress is going to be an economic, social and ecological disaster (imagine if Indians produced the same amount of trash the Americans do – India would be a giant trash heap like that shown in WALL-e!!). With the recent worldwide recession – and to see how Indians were affected – in call centers, BPOs, Surat diamond workers, textile workers – I am hoping that for the rest of the 80% of population there will be a rethinking of the western model of progress.

    Almost 15 years ago – I saw a picture in an article about the Indian space program in a western magazine- it showed some parts for the space program being transported in a bullock cart! At that time I had a pang in my heart -“OMG – we will never catch up, we are doomed”. Today I think of that picture and think – “Brilliant! we could use a bullock cart and reduce our carbon foot print – only in India!!” This was the kind of partnership between the 20% and 80% that we need to see more.

    The progress model for this 80% have to come from a masterful blend of our traditions, of being environmentally conscious to reduce our carbon footprint (yes- I am talking about gobar gas, solar power, better designed bullock carts, cottage industries,composting) along with better roads, means of communication, health care, education, family planning. The villages have to really be made self-sufficient and their products – food, handicrafts, herbal products need to find a larger market within India. These are things which have been worked for the longest time by the Indian Govt and their programs and quite a few scientists too, but were never implemented well.

    Today – your generation – that is technology savvy and has a better sense of what is marketable and how to go about this transformation and more importantly have more pride to be Indian than any generation alive today, need to look deep at the Indian traditions, the environment and all the lessons learnt from the failed govt. programs and come up with a plan – get some corporate sponsorship (how about a Mukesh Ambani village?) – get some like minded people together and see if that is a model that can be successful and can that success be replicated and easily modified to fit other communities around the country. The objective should be to be green, to be self sufficient, to be profitable, to be Indian (by having an industry or profession, ecotourism, historical tourism etc), to have the amenities of housing, water, healthcare and education (so providing employment to medical, eductional staff). To make it worthwhile for people to want to stay in that village.

    That’s my take. The elite 20% (and hopefully more in near future) needs to keep innovating, prospering, experimenting, debating, competing in India and abroad – that needs to continue to happen. The 80% need to have a sustainable model of progress that they can own and identify with, with a little help from people who are passionate about it.

    Anything less than that will create in India, a terrible model similar to what America is with the world today. The 20% will become like America – just consuming and using all the natural resources, and the 80% will be like the rest of the world, blinded by what they see as the affluent life style of the 20%, squandering what they have and being dissatisfied by their lot.

    BTW – That’s what I mean that what the NRIs or resident Indians do is immaterial to 80%, unless they are doing something for the 80% that will help them have a better life, be self sufficient, be green, reduce the carbon footprint and create something truly uniquely Indian – something that resonates with them!
    BUT – that does not mean that what the rest of the 20% is doing for the 20% only, has any less meaning. It really does not matter where they live – I say this because India is now a land of opportunity and people who go abroad now do that because they want to and they can. I think even the fact that you can have a discussion about the NRI achievements and the resident achievements and actually present solid evidence of both shows that India has come a long way and have achievements both at home and abroad – for an oldtimer like me – that’s worth celebrating.

  6. RamK

    August 29, 2009

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    I agree with your opinons expressed in the blog and also in the comments section.

    A country is nothing but its citizens. Good quality citzens need to make up the majority if a nation is to be prosperous. One doesnt need to become a politician or entrepreneur to help the country progress. He/she just needs to do a good job of whatever he/she does.

    Regarding the NRIs…its now common knowledge that the IITians and the like went to US in 60s and 70s because of lack of opportunities here and prospered like anything. They proved to the west that the indians are a capable lot though it was not their initial intention. Nevertheless, India benefitted from their success and was able to attract lot of investements when we opened up the economy.

    What troubles me most is that indians still go abroad today even when the big MNCs from the west are setting up offices here. Any talented person working in these companies would easily make lakhs and lakhs of rupees. By doing a good job here, he will help the country with the high amount of taxes that he pays and also enhace the brand of indians which would attract more investment and more jobs for the fellow countrymen. But still people want to go to US , make more money and if possible , settle there. This exposes the selfish and greed of NRIs.

    It would be nice if those talented people stay back, but given that they wont, I just wish that all the people in India who just want to go to the west would go once and for all. The country would then be left only those who love it and there you would have a great nation. (P.S. I know its unrealistic , but its just a wish)

  7. RamK

    August 29, 2009

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    You got your facts totally wrong about 20% and 80%. See and But I will use those numbers to represent the respective sections of the society for the sake of clarity.

    Its true that the progress of 20% doesnt help the rest 80%. But it doesnt have to because their respective progress are unrelated. The 20% prosper because of the investments from western high tech industries. Understandably, only skilled workders..i.e. engineers and english speaking graduates are able to get jobs those in those companies and that explains the 20% number.

    The rest 80% are still backward because there are no big investments from foreign countries in their area of work,i.e unskilled labour. Once investments in manufacturing sector starts to happen they too WILL PROSPER since it is only the manufacturing companies which can offer jobs to many many millions of unskilled workers as opposed to the service & hig tech industries which require only few thousands skilled workers.

    The reasons for the lack of investment in manufacturing sector is obvious. Poor roads, poor airports, no facility to mass transport industrial materials in short time and other reasons rooted in poor infrastructure.

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