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Ambitious Indians Seek to Make Mark in Home Country

FILE - Employees stand outside the Start-up Village in Kinfra High Tech Park in the southern Indian city of Kochi.
FILE - Employees stand outside the Start-up Village in Kinfra High Tech Park in the southern Indian city of Kochi.

When Google announced this month that Indian-American Sundar Pichai would become the company’s next CEO, the technology executive joined an elite club of Indian-born businessmen who now head global companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, Mastercard, Nokia, Pepsico and Softbank. These executives moved abroad and started their career climb decades ago, but younger Indians today are more likely to explore opportunities in their home country.

Saumya Vardhan, 32, spent seven years studying and working with global consulting firms in London before she returned to New Delhi two and a half years ago to launch an online venture. Her inspiration: to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams in India.

“I saw the growth of ventures started by friends back home. I felt the economy is opening up, I found access to highly technical, skilled and enterprising people in India to work with and I even found access to people as mentors and advisers,” said Vardhan.

Like Vardhan, tens of thousands of young Indians have returned from the United States, Britain and other countries over the past decade to either take up senior jobs in multinationals or start their own ventures.

That is a marked shift from a previous generation which looked to Western countries for better paid jobs, and higher living standards.

Many of those who migrated in the 1980s and 90s have risen to the top rung of global companies including Google’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

In a study, a global firm of business psychologists, YSC, found the qualities that catapulted Indians to the top include education, high achievement drive, ambition, comfort with diversity and intellectual flexibility.

However many Indians are now using these same qualities to carve out success stories at home.

Gurnek Bains, cofounder and chairman of YSC, said that across India and other emerging markets a number of talented and skilled people are tapping opportunities offered by their rising economies. India for example has witnessed a dramatic transformation with economic growth averaging seven percent growth over the last decade.

“Increasingly we find in China, in India and in Africa and Latin America, increasingly people are thinking, that the Western economies are slower growth, offer lesser opportunities, and also in multinationals, the emerging market divisions are growing more strongly, so they feel they can have quite a strong career without leaving their domestic environment,” said Bains.

Nowhere is the buzz more apparent than in the technology sector, where Indians are famed for their skills.

T.V. Mohandas Pai, who was a former top executive at Indian technology company Infosys, said “India is on the cusp of a fantastic upsurge on new entrepreneurships.”

“Every year now we have a 3500 to 4000 start ups coming up in India. And we envisage over the next 10 years, India will have 100,000 start-ups, 500 to a trillion dollars of value being created, and three and a three and a half million people being employed in this industry,” he said.

Sangeeta Gupta at the National Association of Software and Service Companies points to several Indian ventures which made it to the billion dollar club last year. These companies span from online retail to mobile advertising platforms.

“You are seeing the new birth of role models in India with the Flipkart and the Inmobi story or the birth of the Indian Unicorn, clearly people are recognizing that you can build more successful, new age companies out of India also and make them successful,” said Gupta.

Vardhan too hopes to achieve similar success with her venture,, which helps clients organize religious rituals and ceremonies and offers astrological and other services in a country with a firm belief in star power. She is confident of carving a niche in India’s spiritual and religious market estimated at $30 billion.

“It has not been easy, there’ve been lots of ups and downs. There is a still long way to go, lots to be done, but I am way more than happy. Obviously the biggest contributing factor is having your family and friends, who are your biggest support system,” she said.

Observers say young Indians will continue to head overseas for a quality education, but many will prefer to return to make their mark at home.