When Rajini Vaidyanathan was offered an opportunity to work at the BBC’s Mumbai office as a correspondent for six months, she was thrilled. “That was 18 months ago,” says the 33 year-old, who was born and raised in Milton Keynes, a new town about an hour away from London. “My job is fascinating and it’s amazing to be in India at a time of so much change.”
Vaidyanathan found she wasn’t the only such expat. “I met a lot of people, who, like me, had moved here reversing the journeys their parents made decades ago. I realised this was a growing trend. In 2010, nearly 30,000 people left the UK for India. And since 2005, 1.1 million Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards have been issued.”
Vaidyanathan, with producer Hasit Shah, decided to co-produce and direct a show on the subject. “I wanted to find out who was coming and why,” she says. A shout out on the web, the radio and on television revealed “loads of interesting responses”.
What Vaidyanathan found was that the people who had moved to India were pursuing a range of interests and occupations. “Everything from setting up cafes, making phone accessories, starting dating websites, acting, singing — all kinds of things. And it made me realise how India is attracting such a range of people from different fields,” she says.
It isn’t merely people of Indian origin who are looking East either. Adam Sachs, co-founder and CEO of the dating site StepOut, moved his business to Mumbai a month ago because he found that a large section of their clientele was from India.
“Even though we hadn’t stepped foot in the country we had over a million users here. We knew were onto something,” explains 29 year-old Sachs, who set up his company in New York at the end of 2007. Over the past 18 months, Sachs travelled to India repeatedly to set up the office. A month ago, he finally shifted base to Mumbai. “It is a tremendously vibrant city. If I had the time and the energy, I could go out and do something fun every night of the week,” says Sachs.
Language, luckily, isn’t much of a barrier in the business world. “In taxis, for example, it is a little more challenging, but it’s not prohibitive,” says Sachs, whose family has promised to come and visit him in Mumbai. “It wasn’t easy to leave them behind in New York, but this business is a huge opportunity,” he concludes.
“India may not be easy for entrepreneurs but those who come here for the ‘Indian dream’ see it as a place of immense opportunity,” believes Vaidyanathan. India’s growth rate, she says is far more attractive than the slowing western economies.