Brain Drain: From threat to opportunity


SAN JOSE (CALIFORNIA): If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the diaspora at the sprawling SAP Center in California on September 27, where he spoke about ‘brain drain being brain gain’, is anything to go by then the phenomena surely deserves more than just a thought.

Mr Modi had an intense period of engagements in Silicon Valley during his weekend visit to the west coast, meeting investors and members of the Indian community. A widely debated issue in India for years, brain drain or the migration of talented Indians overseas has been perceived as a threat rather than an opportunity. But with Mr Modi emphasising this point in his speech, it shows India being less pessimistic about its talent migrating overseas and wanting to reap the benefits of global growth.

Brain drain is actually “brain deposit” that will serve India at an appropriate time, Prime Minister Modi said, asserting that the 21st century belongs to India and the time has come for Indians to show the world their strength. With India looking to be a dominant global player, one needs to look at this ambitious dream optimistically.

There was a time in India, roughly around three decades back, when younger Indians started looking overseas for opportunities. This was viewed by many as selfish interests of individuals wanting to move out or people not really committed to the uplift of the nation.

That was also a time when there were fewer Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) living overseas and their contributions to India were also limited. But things started changing over the past two decades with the NRIs and People of Indian Origin (PIOs) started taking an active role to be a part of the India growth story.

The change in political climate with India unleashing economic reforms also helped in wooing the diaspora to invest in India.

While India gets most of its remittances from the diaspora living in the Gulf region, it gets more business opportunities from its diaspora in the West. Silicon Valley which is the world’s technological hub and home for innovation has a large chunk of Indians living and working there who’ve contributed to this innovational success. Many of the startups flourishing in Silicon Valley have Indian owners generating jobs in the tech hub. In the context of science and technology there are immense opportunities as well. And India needs to cash in on these opportunities and encourage its youth and citizens to reap dividends from it.

Mr Modi, made a valid point in his address when he said: “Brain drain can become brain gain, did anyone ever think about this. That’s why I have a different outlook towards this. I see it as ‘Brain deposit’, out to look for opportunities. When that comes, this brain will give back to India with interest.”

While Mr Modi’s approach may be seen as trying to woo and not antagonize the diaspora by questioning their desire to live overseas, it must also be noted that he keeps urging the diaspora to return to India. Though many people have over the years moved back to India, a large portion still remains overseas. If Mr Modi’s words that the ‘21st century belongs to India’ is to succeed, then this large number of overseas Indians should be seen more as an opportunity than a threat.

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