“We want them [Indian Diaspora] to connect..with the homeland. The more important thing is we want them to want to connect. We don’t want to force the connection” – Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs
Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has undertaken an initiative called ‘Know India Program’ to showcase India’s socio-cultural diversity, its emergence as an economic powerhouse, as a centre of higher education and the ongoing developments in various fields such as IT, infrastructure and innovation in various fields. The participants of the program are selected based on recommendations made by Indian Missions/ Posts abroad. They are provided with full hospitality and are reimbursed 90% of the international airfare by the most economical class travel to participants from their respective country to India, according to http://knowindiaprogram.com/aboutus.html.
The program has been put in place by Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in partnership with various Indian states since 2003. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is the organizational partner. More than 300 people of Indian origin have travelled to India so far under this program.
The Indian government would especially like to engage the second and the third generation of Indo-Canadians to come to India “voluntarily.” To encourage the youth and young professionals, the Indian government has put in place several programs like Know India for the young professionals and youth to experience India.
In response to the question that why there is so much emphasis on the second and the third generation of Indo Canadians, Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs said the answer is obvious. “We want them [Indian Diaspora] to connect..with the homeland. The more important thing is we want them to want to connect. We don’t want to force the connection.”
He noted that since the economic meltdown in 2008, there are only two world economies that are booming; one of them is India. “That’s where the opportunity lies,” he declared. Dr. Singh also pointed out that “India is the one country that is witnessing serious return migration” with the return of more than 100,000 to India to be part of the booming Indian economy. The Indian government is targeting young Indian professionals across the globe because they are “professionally adept” and can straddle the two economies better.
A number of Indo Canadians have travelled to India under ‘Know India’ program.
We asked Ashutosh Jha and Shweta Subram to share their experiences in India.
I went to check out how business in India works
Ashutosh Jha, an entrepreneur in IT and entertainment industry
Armed with a degree in Computer Science from University of Toronto, Ashutosh has been an entrepreneur since his years in college. In 2010, he quit his job to go to India. His inspiration came from Dr. Shashi Tharoor, India’s former UN undersecretary general. He had met Dr. Tharoor last year in Vancouver.
Ashutosh went to India with the purpose “of exploring India as a potential for growth in business opportunity..getting to know how the Indian system works..and to check out what’s there.”
While in India Ashutosh observed that “There’s often used opinion that Indians only care about India and they don’t care about the world..But in my experience Indians know more about the world than I do. They travel a lot..a lot of Indians are entrepreneurs..a lot of people are interested in doing their own business..They think they can become Bill Gates…they not only focus on entrepreneurship in technology, they focus on all kinds of businesses like jutas (slippers), home furniture, electronic parts…they are very, very informed..there is a lot more focus on education not just in big cities but even in small towns.”
The rise of India, Ashutosh can also be attributed to the rise of internet whereby “everybody has the access to the same information to take advantage of it.”
He also noticed that in India people change careers every few months as opposed to Canadians and Americans who have the same career for much longer periods of time.
After visiting India, Ashutosh is working on establishing businesses in IT and entertainment industry creating jobs in both Canada and India.
Solely interested in establishing business with major operations in India, Ashutosh feels that Canada has made him confident in taking initiatives in starting new businesses, however India offers growth in these business opportunities.
India offers opportunities to overseas Indian artists
Shweta Subram, singer and performer
For Shweta Subram, the singer and performer, ‘Know India’ program was an opportunity to make new friends and connections. To keep culturally connected, her parents had ensured that she remains connected to her roots in India, hence the visits to India.
Shweta’s understanding is that ‘Know India’ program is for the Indian Diaspora that is of the Indian origin, but knows very little about India. At the time when she travelled to India, Shweta felt that there was “a lot of curiosity among people to know what it means to be an Indian.” Many of these people of Indian origin weren’t aware of India’s national language, stunned Shweta tells Generation Next.
Similarly in some parts of India, Indians don’t know where Canada is. “So you literally have to pull out the world map and show them where Canada is..they are in awe of a foreigner even if you are of Indian origin..and ask questions like ‘do you eat the same breakfast that we eat here.’ These are the kinds of questions we get,” Shweta tells us.
A singer and performer, Shweta is releasing her album called ‘Ji Ley’ this week. She travels to India also to get in touch with the wide audience that a large Indian population offers to her music in India. While the market for aspiring Indians is growing in Canada, especially in the GTA, she feels that there is tremendous potential for “ the artists who have grown up here in Canada to make a mark in Bollywood.”