Paving the way for Returnee Entrepreneurs

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) along with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), the Government of India, and the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) organised a full-day conference on ‘Creating an Enabling Ecosystem for Returnee Entrepreneurs,’ recently.

Dr. A Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI, unleashed the research project and explained that as one of the only business organizations that actively promotes the ‘Business Case for Migration’, FICCI also acknowledges that mobility is not only one-way. Even though India’s policy instruments have traditionally been geared towards emigration and protection of emigrants, the government is now actively promoting the interests of Indian Diaspora who wish to return and set up their own businesses through efforts to promote the ‘ease of doing business’.

India experiences a large stream of ‘returnees’ in IT and other professional services, a lot of which is driven by opportunities offered by the vibrant and growing Indian economy. He assured all present that the policy recommendations of this research and discussions of the day will be presented to the Government of India. And as a follow-up to this research, FICCI proposes to actively work with state governments where the research was carried out to assist in providing services to returnee entrepreneurs.

The results of the research were presented by Dr. Zweig, Chair Professor, Director of Centre o China’s Transnational Relations, HKUST, have been revealing. While attempts towards digitization efforts by the government are being appreciated across the board, the implementation of the ‘ease of doing business’ at the local level remains challenging. There continues to be some ambiguity in governing rules and regulations in local bodies and institutions that serve as the first point of contact for many of these entrepreneurs. A strong need for creation of processes along with capacity building at the local level has been expressed by many. A lot of high-skilled entrepreneurs with specialized degrees come back to India and find they have the ‘first-mover advantage’ benefiting the Indian economy and society in the process. However, many have also failed and made the choice to go back as there continue to be barriers in setting up shop in India. While much progress has been made in terms of making India more attractive and indeed friendlier to entrepreneurs, much more is left to be done especially at the local levels.

Dr. Wang Huiyao, President and Dr. Miao Lu, Co-founder and Executive Secretary General, Centre for China and Globalisation, Beijing, delivered the special address. China and India are two of the countries with the largest populations as well as the largest Diaspora populations all over the world and have much to learn from each other’s experiences in policies and incentives for return migration and congratulated this ground-breaking initiative by FICCI to begin this dialogue. Dr. Wang Huiyao also made a detailed presentation on China’s policies aimed at returnee entrepreneurs.

Mr. Manish Gupta, Joint Secretary, OIA I, MEA, Government of India, delivered the keynote address. He gave a detailed overview of the policies geared at incentivizing and facilitating return of knowledge workers from all over the world to contribute to India’s development. India’s Diaspora is more than thirteen million strong, the second largest after China and according to the High-Level report on the Indian Diaspora, “… the sun never sets on the Indian Diaspora”. Given the numbers and the heterogeneous nature of the Indian Diaspora, policy formulation is a big challenge. However, the honourable Prime Minister has done much to promote engagement with the Diaspora. The Indian government remains committed to, ‘…converting brain drain into brain gain’ (PM Modi, Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, January, 2017). He also stated that efforts are also being made to reintegrate the returned Indian Diaspora from the GCC countries. The ecosystem for entrepreneurs will be greatly benefited by the government’s efforts to provide facilities through single window services and through efforts towards digitization. Shri Gupta welcomed the research findings that address the current hurdles that exist for returnee entrepreneurs and looks forward to working with FICCI in implementing some of the policy suggestions.

Mr. Adil Zainulbhai, Chairman, Quality Council of India, presented the closing remarks, and as a returnee himself commented that many from the Indian Diaspora continue to maintain connects with India. Since the opportunities presented by the Indian economy are very high and people are coming back to set up their entrepreneurial ventures while still maintain their global aspirations.