A couple of years ago I met an American couple on a flight from New York to New Delhi. Keen on giving them friendly tips on travel in India, I asked them what they’d planned for the vacation. “Actually we live there,” said the lady, appearing quite amused.
I can’t say I blame her. Trips to India for Americans tend to conjure up memories of long-haired gurus and rock stars or back-packing “truth” seekers getting stoned on the beaches of Goa. What may have seemed unthinkable not so long ago – adult Westerners moving to India to live and do business – now seems to have become a trend, albeit a small one. Foreigners, especially students and fresh college graduates, are opting for jobs at well-known Indian companies to gain global experience and get the Indian stamp on their resumes. For the multi-national business elite, this isn’t that new; it’s just moved from Japan to Delhi or Bangalore.
But it’s not only about what looks good on a CV to prove you know your way around the global economy. There are those who are excited by what’s happening in India today and really want to be a part of the action, either by moving there or visiting frequently.
Arlington, Va.-based Americans Stacy and Daniel Kerzner are a case in point. They visited India in 2006, realized that there was this growing breed of fashionable and young Indian women who were busy with their work but loved to dress well and socialize, so they decided to make it simple for them and tell them what was trendy – be it clothes, fashion, films, art and culture, or a new bar in town. They did this by launching a lifestyle website, Trendylicious, targeted towards Indian women. It’s a clean, uncluttered “modern” design that will immediately remind any American of the popular site “Daily Candy.” And it’s meant to appeal to the same sort of women – the hip young ones living in cities – who need just log on to know what to do with their evenings. So far it seems to be doing well and has been launched in three cities – Delhi, Mumbai and, recently, Bangalore.
From multinational companies posting their employees in India, to individuals making the choice – sometimes almost on an impulse, to big Indian firms luring westerners to fill top jobs – this trend has been happening now for the past few years and though the trickle is far from becoming a waterfall, it is not a small number given the fact that, apart from the high management jobs, the others do not pay as well.
But increasingly India is being called the gap-year destination – that year between college and whatever – more school or “real life.” It’s the preferred place for bright students from around the world to take a year off, working and traveling before they go to grad school. This demand has led to the start of companies that help these gap-years find their way into India and once there, to find their way around India.
And they come from all over – the U.S. and U.K., France, Poland, Russia, Norway – the list feels endless. This, in itself, is not something new. Even earlier India was the place where many foreigners came to live– mostly in the sixties – as it was cheap and offered an exotic charm, a place where you could lie on a beach and survive on a dollar a day, and that was enough for the hippies to want to live there.
But the people heading towards India today could not be more different, the reasons for the choice being radically different too. Today, India is luring young professionals from all over the world who see it as an important part of the future, and regard Indian companies as having a solid global standing. For them India may still not be the place where they’d want to live for an extended period of time, but it’s a great place to gain experience which will go a long way in their professions as international companies start to recognize the value of “brand India”.