Indian culture is what has always kept Barjinder Sodhi, a Berlin-based NRI, attached to his roots. He left India in 1984 to pursue higher studies there. He has proved right the oft-quoted nostalgic statement made by NRIs that you can take an Indian out of India but you cannot take India out of an Indian. He was here as a representative of various associations, including the Indian Cultural Centre, Berlin; Bharat Majlis; Sikh Association and Jawan Bharti Centre Youth Association. Sodhi plans to start some venture in India.
What measures do you feel the Indian government needs to take for the NRIs ?
The NRIs are very happy with the dual citizenship announcement made by the Prime Minister at the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas. Much more, however, remains to be done. Simplification of procedures relating to setting up of new ventures by NRIs or constituting a special cell to facilitate NRI investments, better infrastructural facilities are a few other steps that are required. We have to accept this fact that once they have settled abroad, a majority of Indians are wary of the idea of returning due to the quality of life, which is far better, abroad. The opportunities here come after much struggle.
Since you are planning to set up a venture in India, how do you find India as an investment destination vis a vis China?
Investment decisions taken by the NRIs are based on information provided to them about business opportunities in various countries. Such information is also provided by different organisations. Regarding India, the general opinion is that the country is slow in implementing economic reforms. Though India holds tremendous potential, the opportunities that China is offering are much attractive and the hassles involved in setting up a venture there are negligible, unlike India. Even those who are keen on investing here are many times not able to do so due to the slow-moving system and complicated procedures. Personally, I want to set up a venture here because India is my motherland.
Do you plan to return to India?
Yes, but at a later stage.
I would prefer settling down in India after a few years. Indian culture
is the major force that keeps Indians attached to their motherland. Nowhere
in the world will you find people as loving and caring as Indians are.
"Our future generations should also feel the bonding with India"
A.P.S. Chawla, Chairman of the UK-based Nova group of companies, has been settled in London for the last 38 years. He is now involved in a project related to cancer patients in India. He recently donated Rs 25 lakh for a cancer hospital in his home town, Amritsar. He has promised another Rs 25 lakh for the project to be given soon. Also the President of the World Punjabi Organisation at London, Chawla, who was here to attend the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas spoke to Shveta Pathak about the expectations of the Non-resident Indians from the Indian government and India as an investment destination. Excerpts:
Do you think that opening up of the economy has made India an attractive investment destination?
India is certainly emerging as an attractive investment destination, but the pace of adoption of reforms has still not picked up and bureaucratic hassles, infrastructural problems act as major deterrents for NRIs or PIOs to invest here. I personally am keen on starting a project here but such problems have made me realise how difficult it is to invest in India, even after the claims that the economy has opened up. So far as the NRIs are concerned, India being their motherland, will always remain their priority even while making investment decisions. However, it is equally important that our future generations also feel the similar bonding.
Do you mean to say that the youngsters of Indian origin are not much attached to India?
Yes. They have got used to the lifestyle abroad, which is much more convenient in comparison to India. But the onus, to an extent, also lies on the Indian system, which should give more to its people. With the world becoming a global village, India has to provide more opportunities to the talented people, better infrastructure and more facilities. This will help the country derive the best from its people whether they are in India or abroad.
Tell us something about your project for the cancer patients.
Now that my brother and
sons are taking care of my business, I am focussing on this charitable
project. We have formed a charitable trust in UK in the name of my late
wife, Manjit Kaur Chawla, who died of cancer. The trust, called the MKC
Trust, was able to collect funds and out of that only Rs 25 lakh were
donated for this hospital in Amritsar. I am happy that not only will
this project keep me busier, it will also give me more chances to visit
India for supervising the project. In future also, I plan to continue
working on such charitable projects in India.