Sunday, March 22, 2009

India : Up, Close and Personal

I am back in India for a few days. This is going to be my last trip for a while - not planning to come back again before end-May - and I am going around the country this time. I am covering at least six cities - Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai and Delhi - and meeting as many people as I can. I am now committed to spread the channel of Direct English, and hopefully I shall now make some major inroads this time around. So, the object of my visit is to review all that we have done so far, reconsider all the assumptions we have made, and see how we can now play the game by the market rules.

In a way, also, this visit of mine is the prelude to my eventual return, as I try to judge the mood and assess the opportunity in India. Interestingly, I have already seen that there is a quite a bit of resentment towards the returnees, the thousands of people who are now returning from the west and taking up jobs in India. While I was celebrating the import of competitiveness, enterprise and innovation into India on this blog, quite a few people thought the opposite - they saw this returning crowd as opportunity seeking prospectors, who left India when times were good and now trying to come back and take the jobs when times are bad.


As I came across such criticisms and be alarmed to some extent, there is indeed some truth in this stance. Especially where the resentment is targeted at the returnees demanding/ expecting special treatment, as there should be no reason to offer a higher salary to someone just because s/he lived in America for a while unless that specific attribute adds value to the ability to do the job in question. But, I must mention at the same breath, in most cases the global exposure does add value to the jobs that these people will do. No one is expecting them to take over government jobs - even though some of the government roles will do well with some perspective and save money for the exchequer by not having to send executives abroad on familiarisation visits - and most jobs today are global in scope and multicultural in content.


However, what is particularly annoying is that the resenting professionals, in more than occasion, stated that they have stayed back in India for the love of their country. Agreed, this may actually be true for some people, but I shall doubt that patriotism is actually so pervasive among Indian middle classes. Many people stayed back because of family reasons, or the life in India for them was comfortable enough not to seek an opportunity abroad. To pass that as patriotism is surely not right, as one can be equally patriotic wherever in the world s/he lives. [Remember Kipling - who saw England everywhere in the world wherever an English soldier was buried] Most people who claimed to have stayed back in India for patriotic reasons evaded taxes whenever they could, participated little in community life and never looked beyond their windows and saw a slum. To resent the returnees on account that they are less patriotic looked shamefully hypocritical to me.

Well, I am sure I am biased on this one, but the resentment towards returnees caught me by complete surprise. I am not sure whether this can actually be the same in any other society - people are returning now to every country from wherever they were working - and whether this will be socially acceptable to voice these resentments so openly in any other place. I think this is the bit about India - the privileged are so used to privileges and so uncomfortable with any sort of competition - that keeps us where we are. But more importantly, there is another trait here, which makes it even more interesting to watch. We are so unused to failure! The perception that these returnees have failed - this is a completely wrong perception because many of them could rot in where they were but instead chose to take the plunge - is making us close the door. If we perceived that these people are actually coming back with pots of money and connections, which they usually are, we would have the first to be at the airport with a garland.

Obviously, I think the reverse brain drain will happen: the engineers, the software coders, the marketers and the teachers will return. I shall join the ranks, at some point of time, because I also love my family as much as anyone else, and would love to have the comforts of living at home. I am hoping that by then, we shall get used to the idea of return - someone could actually leave Europe and come and live in India by choice!

For a long time, we have been an wounded and insecure country. It is time that we now start thinking like a big and prosperous country and embrace these people, who have much to offer, with confidence.

2 comments:

pratyay lahiri said...

hello Sir,
I am one of your daily blog reader. First time i write a comment. i don't know so much but you are right. but as per my opinion, these people are really hypocrite. when somebody offer them big packages, they leave the country and in recession they are returning because of job lose. there are so many IIMs, IITs student don't want to stay in India and don't want to work in India. why because of low package. is Packages is everything. why they don't want to serve for our nation. I must comment that they are shameless people and returning back to INDIA for another opportunity. Like they only take ad a consider to our country.

Pratyay Lahiri

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Thanks Pratay, but you see I believe there is nothing wrong in this. When you are working for money, you are working for money: Where you will be gets determined by pure economic logic - where is the best opportunity. This is same as deciding between two jobs and taking the one which offers best remuneration. Why don't the most brilliant students become professors, civil servants or politicians? Because a corporate career offers a lot more money. So, there - the country goes out of the window. Going abroad for work is just an extension of it. I don't condone or condemn it, but it is just the way it is. Yes, I would love to think we become more responsible as a nation, but we are not getting better.

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