Brain Drain to Brain Exchange

Importance of Diaspora Network for India and Bihar

In a survey conducted in the US among the expatriates from India, seventy-four percent had expressed their wish to setup a business back home in India(Abhishek Pandey, Alok Agrawal). But in reality, very few of them are able to follow through and get involved. In this article, I am proposing a road-map that Non Resident Indians (NRI), the Government and local businesses can adopt to benefit from the involvement of the diaspora. My recommendations are based on my study of the diaspora activities in developing countries like South Africa, Armenia, and Mexico. We have created a website, (http://www.biharparishad.org) to implement the recommendations included in this article.

I am writing this as I prepare to leave for India to attend the Bihar Global Meet being held in Patna, on January 19 to January 21. Emigration of skilled manpower from developing countries to developed countries is a world-wide phenomenon, the US being the biggest beneficiary. Several economist have tried to estimate the direct and indirect financial losses to the home country resulting from this phenomenon. The losses are substantial.

Fortunately some, who had left for greener pastures, do come back and try to give back to their motherland. The last decade has witnessed significant increases in the number of non-resident Indians doing that. Then there are those who have not done so but harbor strong desire to do so. As I had mentioned earlier, 74% Indians living in the US had expressed their desire to setup business back home in a survey. The Indian diaspora is truly wealthy. According to a research conducted by the World Bank, the earnings of twenty million-strong Indian diaspora is equivalent to about two-thirds the GDP of one billion Indian people.

The dilemma for the majority of the 74% US NRIs is how to get involved. Remittances to family is the most common mode of showing love for the homeland. NRIs often dream about making large direct financial investment in India. Government officials often expect direct financial investment when they approach NRIs. Research in Mexico and several other countries have emphatically shown that remittances , though a noble act, boost consumption but do not bring long term economic growth. Large direct financial investment is beyond reach for most individual Non-Resident Indians when they are wealthy because the sum required for setting up an industry may be several million dollars.

Yet, there is another way for the NRIs to get involved in India. That is by way of sharing knowledge or by Brain Exchange. Experiments in several countries like Armenia, South Africa and Mexico has proved that Brain Exchange through formation of a Diaspora Network can bring tremendous advantage to a country like India.

Knowledge plays an increasingly critical role in scientific, technological, and business endeavors. It powers the emerging knowledge economy. In response to the increasing value of knowledge, the industrial countries have made significant changes in their productive structures, directig the dynamics of innovation in order to facilitate the generation, circulation, and capture of knowledge. Developing countries like India and regions like Bihar need to recognize this fact and act accordingly.

There is already such a powerful organization call the Indus Entrepreneur (http://www.tie.org/) that is dedicated to mentoring entrepreneurs in India. Because of the ethnic make up of the organization, it is non-existent in states like Bihar or UP while being very active in the southern part of India.

In this article, I am proposing that we emulate the experiments from Armenia and Mexico by creating the Indian diaspora for the benefit of India, and specifically Bihar.

The Armenian experiment created a network of professionals comprising of Armenians living abroad, local business men, and in some cases, government officials. The experiment in Mexico created cells or subdivisions of bigger foundations at the level of cities. These cells comprise of expatriates, local influential people, and government officials.

Such a network or foundation for Bihar can do the following.

  • Participate in the debate on the Bihar's development strategies. Develop the capacity of Bihar Foundation to become partners and sometimes critics of the government in policy discussions on key development challenges.
  • Liberalize the economy at the micro-level by creating equal economic opportunities and removing entry barriers.
  • Utilize new types of diaspora-backed projects, not just humanitarian relief, but the transfer of business skills to help enterprises enter world markets. This effort provides business and managerial training to new business owners and managers of new companies.
  • Support independent business associations that are not linked to the political structure of the ruling elite. With time these organizations will become the main drivers to further domestic reforms.
  • Strengthen diaspora professional organizations. A new type of diaspora activist is wanted; people who do not just organize fund-raisers and lobbying campaigns, but get involved in day-to-day development efforts, including private sector advocacy, regulatory inform, and participation in technical assistance programs.
  • The Internet has really shrunk the world. It can help in creating and sustaining such a network. We need to create different interest groups like technical education, elementary education, agro-based industries and actively recruit NRIs, local entrepreneurs and government officials.



Ravi Verma

Ravi Verma hails from Katihar in Bihar. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 1988. Currently he is the CEO of Telecommand Software and Services, a software consulting firm based in California that provides services to the government and private sector customers in the US. He launched a software development center in Katihar in December 2005 to serve Telecommand's customers in the US. He also founded R S College of Computer Science and Engineering in Katihar in July 2006.