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Expatriate_Global Mobility, Expat Life In India

10 things that one could find (almost) anywhere in India – By Jasper Fortuin

I’ve talked about the huge differences within this immense country in some of my earlier blogs, and I will continue to highlight them in upcoming ones. However, it’s very hard to refer to ‘India’ as a country. Ask ten people who’ve traveled within India and you might get eleven or twelve different answers. This would be mainly based upon the experience in a particular part of the country. If you talk to a German couple after a 2-week trip to Kerala and Goa and compare their answers with another couple from a different European country after a trip to Varanasi, Agra and Delhi, there will be very few similarities. The language and/or the script, cuisine, nature, weather, architecture, people, vegetation and much more are different in each part of the country.

Despite the huge differences, there are many similarities. Some remarkable elements in India could be found all across the Subcontinent. I’ve created my personal list of Top-10 of things that actually make every corner of this country undisputedly ‘India’, even in the tribal or remote areas.

  1. One could buy a 10 INR milk tea (chai), with or without masala

 Although there is proof that tea was brought to India decades ago by the Chinese, the official introduction of tea in this country was done by the British. After the introduction, tea became the Indian version of a Red Bull all across the country. Tea is the most popular National beverage for almost all Indian people and is being sold everywhere. If you order a ‘tea’ or ‘chai’, chances are very high that they’ll serve you a strong black tea, filled with milk and lots of sugar. I’m a very big fan of the ‘Masala Chai’ edition, which is a strong black tea with milk, but also with a mixture of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and the strongest contributing powerful taste: ginger. Contrary to a lot of principles in the general cuisine, the quality of your tea will not increase if you’re ordering and drinking it in a more upscale place. I’ve had the best tea in India just on the roadside. These so called ‘Chai Wallah’s’ often sell a cup of tea for less than 10 INR (13 Eurocent) and the quality is very good; they often use fresh herbs for the flavor and the milk is full fat and rich, which – after brewing together – will give one the ultra-chai flavor.

2) ‘Horn ok’ signs on trucks

 Nobody will criticize me for sharing some of my ever-increasing irritation about the nending noises in India. People are loud and they don’t mind sharing these irritating sounds with everyone around. Don’t be surprised if people around you start spitting. Even worse: it’s not uncommon to notice a lot of human morning rituals during a early morning walk through residential parts of an average Indian city. And there is more: traffic is horrible in almost every part of India, mainly because ‘horning’ almost seems to be a national sport with an ongoing competition; who is the loudest ‘honker of the day’? One of the oddest things that one could observe on the roads in India is the ‘Horn ok’ sign at the back of almost all trucks. While trucks are actually encouraging other people on the roads to use their horn, there are actually a lot of ‘no horning zones’ within cities. India wouldn’t be India, if people would actually follow this public guidance.

3) ‘Stick no bills’ signs

India is the largest democracy in the world with a lot of government regulations. As a result, one could find a lot of state-managed messages, encouraging people not to spit in public, follow traffic rules or avoid using excessive much water. It’s very funny to see some of these messages, mainly because of the very direct forms of the (English) language. All across India, one would find signs on walls, fences or government buildings telling people to ‘stick no bills’. Even after being in India for over 28 months now, I still laugh about this; I’ve seen so many concrete walls with ‘stick no bills’ signs, partly covered with the latest announcements about a travelling circus, hair growing elixirs or job offerings.

4) Thali meals

People from all backgrounds visit public restaurants a lot for their lunch- or diner food-options. Especially on the lower end of the spectrum, one could find unlimited eateries. The menus at these places are often very simple, with a limited set of options. Although tastes may vary, there is actually one thing in India that could be ordered in almost every corner of this country: a thali. The objective of the thali is very simple: serve the customer fresh prepared food with a wide variety of tastes and dishes. In a basic thali are some curries, vegetables, rice, dahl, curd and sweets. They will start serving you the dishes on a metal round plate. Some of the curries will be served in smaller metal bowls. The idea of the thali meal is to serve a variety of curries (vegetarian or with meat/fish) as an accompaniment to the naan breads or chapati’s. A thali, which is a heavy meal, could be bought for less than 60 INR (0.75 Euro) if you’re ordering one in remote area’s or very crowded areas in large cities. There is a wide variety of thalis within each city. One of my favorite thalis is the Gujarati thali, in which the dishes are prepared with a sweeter taste.

5) The Indian railways

With over 1.3 million employees, the Indian railways is one of the largest employers in the world. Offering a network of huge connections between the larger cities and a combination of a lot of local trains, the Indian railways has the largest network of trains within Asia and the second largest in the world. The trains are being managed by a huge organization. They are responsible for trains leaving and arriving on time, clean and safe railway stations and a wide variety of routes, offering seats in a wide variety of classes. Unfortunately, one could experience a lot of delays and it’s not uncommon that trains would usually be delayed by 1-2 hours.

6) Bureaucracy

 I really love India and try to avoid any judgements within the country. But some things are so tough and obviously funny and therefor it’s hard not to criticize it. Take the bureaucracy as an example. I often share my beliefs with people about India’s bureaucracy as a joke: the British brought bureaucracy to the Indian subcontinent, but the government and the Indian population did an excellent job in improving this. The bureaucracy is interesting in India, and it will actually consume a lot of your time here. While living in India, opening a bank account, registration of a rental lease agreement, extension of a visa…..things are definitely improving, but some of these processes could turnout in a time consuming and frustrating process.

7) MG Road

 The letters ‘M’ and ‘G’ refer to Mahatma Ghandhi. I always had the impression that he would be a hero for all people, but this is actually not true. Whereas Ghandhi has been seen as a leader and peacemaker in the Western World, in India there are many individuals who are actually opposed to his views and actions. However, the Indian government has actually created this myth about the man. One of the very visible signs is the inauguration of a MG Road in almost every Indian town or city. Some people refer to this street as ‘Main Street’, and I actually don’t know if the controversy about Gandhi is the main driver for this.

8) Jugaad

 In India, people will always come up with solutions, even if it’s not clear if things could be sorted out or fixed. They’ve even come up with a word for it: Jugaad. Go online and use google to search for ‘Jugaad India’ and check on the images. You will find the weirdest solutions for technical issues of day to day challenges. There is a lot of Jugaad in transportation: people use two-wheelers to transport huge things, very often risking their lives. I’ve seen a lot of big mirrors or large glass elements, being transported by two individuals on a two-wheeler.

9) Auto rickshaws

The rickshaw is a recurring theme in this blog. One could find rickshaws in almost every Asian country, but some of their models in India are so iconic that it’s hard to imagine an Indian city without them. Whereas human pulled rickshaws or cycle rickshaws could only be found in some cities in India, the Auto Rickshaw offers a service to you all across India. Funnily enough the colors of the Auto Rickshaw vary from state to state. I’ve seen green-colored Auto Rickshaws in the south, while yellow and black remain the main colors in my home state (Maharastha).

10)Beggars

 Although India has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world for years now, it’s still considered a third world country. I’ve written about the socio demographics of the country before, highlighting the huge disparity between various groups within the Indian society. There are very well-developed parts in India, with higher average incomes. But don’t let the stats fool you, because underprivileged people could even be found in Goa, Kerala or other more affluent parts of India. As a result, one could find beggars in almost every corner of the Indian subcontinent.

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

Visa Renewals_Visa Extension_FRRO Registration

Mega Immigration Changes in India and The Possible Impact on Expat Hiring

“The Government’s objective is to create a simple and hassle free visa regime to facilitate arrival and stay of foreign travelers into the country.”: Rajiv Gauba, Union Home Secretary at a conference for ‘Streamlining of India’s Visa regime.’

At this recently conducted conference, Mr. Gauba emphasized upon the various initiatives taken by the Government to liberalize the visa regime after taking into account the suggestions and concerns raised by various ministries and industries like aviation, tourism, and education.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has adopted many measures to facilitate the smooth entry, stay, and movement of foreign nationals in the country while ensuring the security of the country. This is a note about the various steps taken recently to liberalize the Indian visa process.

  1. e-Visa Facility

India boasts among the best e-Visa facilities across the globe. The e-Visa facility was introduced in 2014 by the Government to promote trade and tourism in the country. The e-Visa facility is available to the citizens of 166 countries and it can be availed for visits related to travel, business, conferences, and for medical reasons. About 40% of Visa applications today comprise e-Visas. The applications have increased from 5.17 lakhs in 2015 to a staggering 21 lakhs as of November 30th, 2018. The e-Visa facility is available at 26 airports across the country along with the major 5 seaports.

As per the new rules, the local Foreign Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) has been given the authority to extend the e-Visas beyond the period of 60 days up to 90 days. A foreign national can avail the –Visa facility thrice a year as opposed to twice earlier.

The e-Visa is available for 5 categories:

    • Tourist
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Conference
    • Medical Attendant

The last two categories were recently introduced. This should make it easier to apply for visas for short-term, specific purpose visits to India.

2. e-FRRO

The introduction of e-FRRO aims to assist the foreigners residing in India with any consular or visa related issues. These foreigners can avail 27 visa-related services through e-FRRO, a service which has been launched throughout the country. This means that the foreigners need not visit the FRROs by applying and receiving the consular or visa-related services online. To expedite the visa-related process, the FRROs have been vested with the powers of visa extension, visa conversion, visa registration, and exit permission.

This is a welcome move, for the expats residing here as well as for the companies that employ them. Making the services easier to access will help save time and effort for all concerned and make the whole process more transparent.

3. Visa Conversion

The FRRO can allow the conversion of any category of visa of a foreigner, who is married to an Indian citizen or to a person of Indian origin/OCI card holder, into an Entry Visa at any point. This could have a significant impact given the rising number of such cross-cultural wedding alliances -ala Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas!

4. Availing Medical Treatment and other Services

Earlier, to avail a medical treatment, the residing foreign national had to get the visa converted into a medical visa. This has been eased now. A foreign national residing in India can avail medical treatment and other services without converting their visa into a medical visa. This step has been initiated to provide relief in case of medical emergencies faced by foreign nationals while in India. This is another welcome move -foreigners residing in India need to provide for medical emergencies just like any other resident and this makes one complication less for them to worry about at this hard time.

5. Visa Extensions

To promote trade and business activities, the criteria for the extension of Employment and Business visas has been revised. The present 5-years extension of Employment visa has been revised to 10-years and the present 10-years extension of Business visa has been revised to 15 years. This is a very significant move and should promote longer-term expat assignments. This is especially key for expats coming in at leadership positions and should provide for greater stability and a longer-term view.

The revised rules also allow a foreign national, residing in India, to attend conferences/ seminars/workshops without having to avail of any specific permission from the FRRO.

6. Visa related to Restricted Area Permit (RAP) and Protected Area Permit (PAP)

There are certain areas in the country that have been classified as ‘Restricted’ or ‘Protected’ areas by the Union Government, State Governments, and the Union Territories. Foreign nationals wanting to visit these areas are required to procure a RAP or PAP. Such permits are granted only after a prior reference is made by the concerned State Government and Union Territory. These permits have now been dispensed with for the following conditions:

  • Foreign nationals visiting a place that falls under RAP or PAP, for purposes other than tourism on a visa other than a Tourist Visa
  • Foreign nationals visiting a place for tourism purpose which is not open to tourists
  • Individual foreign tourists

The concerned State Government or the FRRO has been vested with the power to take this decision locally and grant PAP or RAP to such foreign nationals immediately.

7. Intern Visa

The Intern Visa provisions have been liberalized with a view to attracting foreign nationals to visit India for the purpose of undertaking internships in Indian organizations. A student of a foreign nationality can apply for an Intern visa at any time during the duration of the course. The remuneration condition for the grant of Intern visa has been reduced to Rs. 3.60 lakhs from the previous fee of Rs. 7.80 lakhs. As the Indian economy grows, so does its attraction to international business schools and technology colleges. Allowing easier flow of interns is a wonderful way to promote the available opportunities to this next generation of leaders. The lowered salary figure is also a realistic assessment of what organizations can afford to pay interns.

8. e-Event Clearance Module

To expedite the issuance and clearance of visas related to conferences, seminars, workshops, and other such events, the e-Event Clearance Module has been set up by the Government. This aims to issue visas without any delay to the foreign nationals looking to visit India for such events. Easier entry for such events will help to make these events bigger, the learning there better, and to raise the profile of India in the world of business events.

The booming Indian economy has opened the doors of opportunities to the world. To ensure the easy arrival and stay of foreign nationals -either for work, business, pleasure, or for any other purpose, the Government of India has made significant changes to the applicable visa regimes. The moves are welcome -and could signal an increasing flow of expats coming in to occupy key positions and contribute to our growing economy.

Note: These rules and regulations are as defined by the government. These may vary depending on the case, documentation available, nationality of the applicant and the powers delegated to each FRRO. Kindly contact us on info@lexagent.net for any case specific consultation. Visit www.lexagent.net for immigration related updates!

 

Returning expats settle in India

Welcome Back – Helping returning expats settle in the home country

The US survey on international migrant trends from a couple of years ago reported that India had the largest diaspora in the world with over 16 million Indian’s living and working in other countries. This is only half the story though. Since 2010 or so, there has been a steady flow of these Indian expats returning to the home country to make a mark here. In fact, a few months ago, the Economic Times reported that leading recruitment and search were “inundated with requests from Indian in the US, the UK, the Gulf, even Singapore, and Hong Kong”, who were looking to move back to India.

 

People like Srikumar Misra returned to their native land driven by a sense of purpose and founded start-ups to solve the problems faced by the locals there. Misra quit his job at Tetley Tea in London and returned to his native place in Orissa and founded Milk Mantra – the first Indian venture capital-funded agri-food start-up. The people in this area faced scarcity of this commodity and Srikumar Misra found an opportunity in it. “All I wanted was to make a difference to the people of my state. We now have a networked group of 40,000 farmers from whom we procure milk at 300 centres,” Misra told Business Line.

 

The emergence of India as the world’s fastest growing economy in recent years has seen a corresponding shift in its expat communities across the globe. The opportunities for competent and ambitious Indians once lay outside the country but that’s not the case anymore. There are equal, if we may not say more, opportunities in the home country today. With a large number of MNCs setting base and/or expanding their operations in India, a thriving start-up ecosystem, and a steep growth in opportunities to make an impact in the rural economy, these opportunities are bound to witness an exponential growth.

 

The booming Indian market and an increase in the protectionist environment in the European and American markets have led many Indian expats to return to explore opportunities in their homeland. In many cases, the returning expats are being hired by MNCs and large Indian corporates like you. But life for the returning expat is not without its challenges. So, as the HR group in the companies that employ them, what can you do to help them settle in?

 

Difficulties faced by a returning expat

You probably have a settled process to address the relocation of foreigners to India. Much of what you do for those incoming expats would also apply in case of your returning NRI employee. But there are a variety of specific issues that a returning expat must face in the home country. Resettling is no cakewalk. Especially for those who have spent long years outside the homeland, it takes time to acclimatize to the environment of another country.

Here are 3 specific issues faced by the returning expats:

1) Reverse Cultural Shock

The biggest difficulty of a returning expat is to readjust to the culture of his native land. After spending a significant amount of time in a foreign land, a person gets molded into that environment. The dual challenge for these people is that the environment in India is sure to be unlike what they were used to in their foreign home, but is also sure to be different from what they were used to before left the country. India has changed dramatically in the last few years. Returning expats may find a land that is nothing like the simple, cheap, and innocent land they left behind. We are now a confident, aggressive, and opinionated people who believe that we are ready to lead the world – this change of personality can be hard to adjust to. Returning expats need cultural sensitivity training too – maybe even more than foreigners.

2) Food and Drink

This is a physical as well as a mental issue. Many are the story of expats facing tummy or gut issues because of reduced immunity brought about from years of protected eating in their foreign home. Ill-advised attempts at revisiting the spicy, oily street food of their youth have laid many returning expats low. The process of readjusting the gut to spices can be slow and long, especially for the kids who have been born abroad. The same goes for water consumption. Even filtered water can be hard to stomach (literally). Hence it is advisable to start slowly and gradually making the digestive system to adjust with the introduction of spices in the food. If the worst happens, then you may need to familiarize them with the available healthcare options – availability, suitability, costs etc. may all be mysteries to them.

3) Accommodation & Family Resettlement

You must be helping all your expat employees find suitable accommodation but there is a chance that the demands of your returning expat employee could have their own complexity. Many such expats have no concept of how housing has changed in India in recent years. They are often unfamiliar with the amenity-rich, luxe condos in most Indian cities today. They may be outraged and flabbergasted by the rents in such locations. They may seek accommodation of types or in areas that used to be “posh” back in the day, but where accommodation is near-impossible to get now. The modern age also has its own problems – safety, security, privacy, and controlling access to name a few. Returning expats may not quite appreciate the extent of these problems while seeking a house or while building a life here. Exposing them to these realities – shiny as well as harsh will help them make the right choices in these areas.

Returning expats have made a major commitment to the land where they were born. Their willingness to return is admirable proof of their intent to make a difference to their home country. As their employer organization, it’s up to you to support them as they work through the nuances of their move.

Welcome to India! If you have any Relocation, Properties, Immigration, or Document Authentication query, please fill-in the form and we shall connect with you shortly!
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