According to the country’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Aff airs (MOIA), some 25 million people of Indian origin do not live in India, but abroad. Th e Indian government recognizes this Diaspora as People of Indian Origin (PIO). A high-profi le subset of this group (though, strictly speaking, it is a classifi cation for tax status) is the Nonresident Indian (NRI), which is loosely considered to mean Indians who still hold Indian passports and have not taken citizenship in their host countries. Th eir ranks include many highly successful scientists, entrepreneurs and corporate executives, including PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and Google chief business offi cer Nikesh Arora, to name a few. In this issue, we look at the problems and prospects for NRI entrepreneurs who wish to return to the home country to start their own ventures.
Sanjay Govil, founder and chairman of Infi nite Computer Systems, which provides mobility solutions and IT services to some of the world’s largest corporations, says that the most important factor for any entrepreneur is “believing in what they want to do.” Passion is a very important driving factor, he notes, adding that NRIs need to be focused on customer satisfaction. “As you pursue your dream, it is also very important that you are constantly evolving your concept because the marketplace is constantly changing,” he states. Munish Narula, who founded Tiffi n. com, Tashan Restaurant & Lounge and Tiffi n Bistro which is now part of the Narula Restaurant Group, was formerly an investment banker. He founded Tiffi n. com, a web-only and delivery-only restaurant concept that soon evolved into a multi-platform operation off ering a full e-commerce website, delivery and takeout, dine-in and catering. Following up on that success, Tiffi n has opened fi ve more locations in the Philadelphia market, and is exploring growth opportunities in both the US and India. Narula says that although the required skill-set and drive are the same whether you are an entrepreneur in India or an NRI, there is “a little bit of additional pressure” associated with being an NRI.
Narula began his US business career on Wall Street, but for all the wrong reasons, he notes. “I had a miserable time on Wall Street, because my only motivation was the money.” In his current career as a hospitality sector entrepreneur, “I found what I love, and I love what we do.” Like Govil, Narula sees entrepreneurship as an opportunity to pursue his own dreams. “Being an entrepreneur is following your dream, listening to your customers” and constantly reinventing your products and managerial strategies to respond to the needs of those customers, he notes. “If you are not adapting to the market needs and demands, your company will die at some point. I don’t think that being an NRI diff erentiates your skill-set from others, but it does give you a bit of an edge, and it gives a bit of additional pressure.” Prasad Setty, vice-president of people analytics and compensation at Google, has spearheaded the company’s wellknown data-driven approach to attract and retain the best talent by creating a positive and productive environment, and rewarding its employees in innovative ways. Although Setty believes that NRIs are playing an important role in Silicon Valley and in some Indian companies, he says that they could be playing an even more signifi cant role if more of India’s talented young NRIs were directed into research-focused careers. “If India wants to lead the world, there needs to be a lot more research that is done there,” Setty noted. “Last year, there were only 125 computer science PhDs” in India. Although the country produced a large volume of engineers, “very few PhDs were doing the hard-core research” that India needs.