Indian diaspora entrepreneurship in the UK began many decades ago. Since the 1950s, Indians have come to the UK to contribute to the country’s economic development or, in the case of Indians expelled from Uganda, to seek refuge. Today, almost 1.5 million strong, they make up one of the most prosperous and dynamic ethnic minority communities in the UK. Their energy and ambition is reflected in high rates of employment and professional qualification. In the UK, the rate of employment among Indians is higher than among any other ethnic group. Meanwhile, more than 50% of Indians in the UK are qualified to degree level and over 40% work in managerial and professional occupations.
A flair for entrepreneurship sees Indian diaspora-run businesses making an increasingly important contribution to the UK economy. Our research suggests that in the UK, there are now more than 65,000 Indian diaspora-owned companies. Of these, the 654 companies we researched have a combined turnover of more than £36.84 billion and pay over £1 billion in tax. This success means some Indian diaspora business leaders are among the wealthiest people in the UK. Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja often top the Sunday Times Rich List. Meanwhile, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, one of the leading members of the Indian diaspora living in the UK, spent eight years at the top of the same list.
As second- and third-generation Indians get into their stride, they will become a powerful force in UK society. The blend of eastern cultural heritage and values combined with a top UK education makes them formidable champions. The Indian ethnic group will come to be concentrated in the UK’s most highly paid occupations. The energy and talents of the Indian diaspora in the UK are felt far beyond the world of business. Their impact extends to the fields of science, the arts, sports and politics, while the diaspora’s achievements and contribution to public life are reflected in the honours lists each year.
The Indian diaspora has been involved in politics for many years. The House of Commons currently boasts 15 members of Indian origin, and there are 23 peers of Indian origin in the House of Lords16. The first Member of Parliament of Indian origin was Dada Bhai Naoroji, who sat as a Liberal Democrat from 1892–95. Over the years many have followed in his footsteps
One of the other big names of Indian origin in the UK political arena is Meghnad Desai, Baron Desai. Born in Gujarat, and an economist and labour politician, he was the first-ever non-UK born candidate to stand for the position of Lord Speaker in the House of Lords18. Lord Narendra Patel is another peer of Indian origin, who was knighted in 1997 and was made a life peer in 1999 for his contribution to the medical profession in the UK. He was subsequently appointed to the Order of the Thistle in 2009, the highest chivalric honour in Scotland.
By far, the interest of the Indian diaspora in the UK healthcare sector has been primarily around care homes and private nursing which – again – have a strong real estate angle. Some of the leading players in this sector include HC-One, TLC Group and Advinia Healthcare. Alongside care homes, the pharmaceuticals sector also remains a popular business area for the Indian diaspora, spanning retail, wholesale and the manufacture of medicines. Day Lewis, Avicenna Healthcare, B&S Group and Chemilines are examples of retailing and wholesaling businesses in this sector, while Bristol Pharmaceuticals has done well in manufacturing. These businesses have stemmed from many Indians’ interest in becoming pharmacists.
Integration of Indian food and cultures in UK
Indian cuisine has changed the UK’s eating habits. One survey finds that an Indian take-away is three times as popular as the UK’s traditional take-away, fish and chips, and 3 million Britons say they prepare an Indian-inspired recipe at least once a week. Chicken Tikka Masala, which is actually a British creation, consistently ranks high in polls of the UK’s favourite meals. The first Indian restaurant in the UK was founded by an East India Company captain, Sake Dean Mahomet, in 1810.
More recently, modern Indian chefs like Vivek Singh, Atul Kochar have contributed to popularising Indian cuisine. As a result, there are now thousands of Indian restaurants across the UK. Six hold a Michelin Star, including Veeraswamy, on Regent Street in London. The world-famous restaurant, which opened in 1925, has been operating for longer than any other Indian restaurant in the UK. More recently, the UK has developed a taste for Indian street food, with restaurant chains like Masala Zone and Dhishoom becoming increasingly popular.
The first Indian restaurants began to appear in Britain after WWII, providing not only food but also a social life and support network for the thousands of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent who had come to Britain seeking work. In the 1960s restaurant owners sought an increasingly wide clientele and this coincided with increased disposable incomes in the UK and a growing trend towards eating out. At the time, Indian restaurateurs realised that Indian food could be introduced gradually to the native British population. Often, restaurants served typically British food like roast meat, or chips instead of rice with curry. Indian food served in restaurants in Britain was itself often Anglicised. According to popular accounts, chicken tikka masala, the dish said to be the national dish of Britain by former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, is the result of canny Indian restaurateurs adapting chicken tikka to accommodate the British preference for meat with gravy.
Role/importance of Indian diaspora in the Indian/UK Economy
Indian Diaspora plays a very crucial role in India’s development at all levels be it, political, social, economical, cultural etc. Indian Diaspora acts as a link between the host and the home country and is responsible for maintaining cordial ties between two countries at all levels, particularly at the political front. Even culturally, it is the Diaspora which is responsible for maintaining the rich cultural heritage of India on a foreign land and they have been successfully doing so, over the years wherever they reside. Economically, the remittances sent by the overseas Indians contribute immensely to the economic development of our nation. Socially, there are various Indian forums, organisations and institutions in the foreign countries that play a crucial role not only in preserving the richness of the Indian culture but also protecting the rights of those Indians residing there in cases of infringement.
India is one of the top remittance-receiving countries from the UK. As per the World Bank report on bilateral remittance, Indian received a total of $3941 Million, second after Nigeria ($4119 Million). Out of a total of $26,801 Million remittances from the UK to the world, India accounted for around 15%.
For many Indians working and studying in the UK, sending money home to their loved ones is common. Money sent from the UK to India could be for several reasons but the prominent one is: family maintenance. Millions of Indian households depend on these remittances for day to day living expenses.
Remittances have had a multiplier effect on the Indian economy. It has also played a crucial role in shaping the economies of several Indian states like Kerala, Goa, Punjab, and Gujarat positively.
Since India’s engagement with the Indian diaspora was to secure economic contributions to develop India, the initiatives taken by the government in this domain were crucial. Interventions in the economic sector were also necessary as the government had to overcome a lack of trust among diasporic Indians based on their previous experiences in the country cheating, fraud, cumbersome bureaucracy, corruption and to ensure that financial transfers and property rights flowing from their investments were well protected. These initiatives were primarily of two types: first, creating certain institutions to facilitate the exchanges and involvement of the diaspora and to protect their interests; and second, initiatives related to fiscal measures. The government was already pursuing a policy of incentives and liberal norms conducive for the diaspora, such as higher interest rates on monetary deposits. However, considering the ambitious schemes of diasporic economic involvement that the government was envisioning, several facilitating and coordinating agencies were urgently required.
The first and most crucial institution that was established was the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), in 2007 and in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry. The OIFC’s main objectives were to secure Indian diaspora investments, facilitate business partnerships, function as a clearing house for all investment related information, and provide advisory services to investors about opportunities and trends in the Indian economy. Diaspora philanthropy constitutes an integral part of the ‘diaspora development’ paradigm, and to streamline this sector the government instituted the Indian Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI). The IDF-OI was to serve as a credible institutional avenue to engage in philanthropy and social entrepreneurship to help advance India’s social development.
Initiatives related to fiscal measures included tax exemptions for diasporic investments, providing higher interest rates on such investments through dedicated savings and deposit mobilisation schemes such as the NRI accounts, automatic clearance of business proposals after a stipulated time, changes in regulation of foreign exchange, and foreign direct investment (FDI) incentives such as allowing the Indian diaspora up to 100% ownership in civil aviation, real estate and education ventures.