Brain Drain Or Brain Gain: NRI Contributions To India

Posted by Vivek Modi in GlobeScope
February 10, 2017

Let’s talk a bit about Indians for whom biscuits and chocolates have become cookies and candies – people who always carry a mineral-water bottle and a unique accent, wherever they go!

Yes! We are talking about NRIs – a term which is more recognized among Indian citizens than RBI.

There have been many discussions on the subject of NRIs, and they have been frequently criticized by wannabe deshbhakts (patriots) on social media. In this article, we are going to analyse some statistical facts and figures about NRIs.

We start with statistics regarding the population of NRIs and their distribution all around the globe. In total, there are 29.22 million Indians staying outside India which is more than the total population of many countries around the world.

Source: leadgalaxy


Now, let’s see how this NRI population is distributed. The list excludes the members of neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan.

Here is the list with the approximate percentage of Indian population overseas:

Bahrain 19%
UAE 40%
Qatar 15.7%
Oman 17.5%
Kuwait 21.6%
Singapore 9.1%
Malaysia 8.7%
Saudi Arabia 9.8%
Myanmar 2%


Fiji 40.1%
Australia 2%
New Zealand 2.6%


Mauritius 68.3%
South Africa 2.7%
Seychelles 6.3%


UK 2.3%


Canada 3.54%


Guyana 43.5%
Trinidad and Tobago 40.2%
Suriname 27.4%
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 19.7%
Grenada 11.7%
Jamaica 3.4%
Saint Lucia 2.8%
Saint Kitts and Nevis 2.6%
Belize 0.2%


Source: Non Resident Indians Online

USA is on the list – but it is an honorable mention with an ethnic Indian population of around 1%. The biggest surprise lies in the Caribbean Region.

There were expectations that Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe would reveal a significant Indian population out there, but none of them meet the 1% bar.

As for Europe, no other countries apart from the UK (2.3%) and The Republic Of Ireland (1.9%) are reported to have an Indian population of 1%.

For the longest time, NRIs have been a symbol of ‘brain drain’. NRIs study in India and work outside. They are educated in India, but serve the foreign land.

The question we need to ask here is whether studying in the Indian education system leads to learning, on a global scale?

It is extremely necessary to go out and expose yourself to the world. One cannot put enough emphasis on how important it is to explore, know, learn, observe and understand how the world functions. Let’s remember a few great legends who were and are at times, NRIs – for instance, Kalpana Chawla and even Gandhi! Yes, our own bapu was once an NRI. What’s more?

There are a few more honorable mentions. The founder and creator of Hotmail is Sabeer Bhatia, an Indian. The co-founder of Sun Microsystems is an Indian – Vinod Khosla. The creator of the Pentium chip is also an Indian – Vinod DhamNarinder Singh Kapany, a Punjab-born genius, is known for his contribution to the field of fibre optics. Har Gobind Khorana, an Indo-American biochemist born in Raipur, Punjab, bagged the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1968, for cracking the genetic code along with Robert Holley and Marshall Nirenberg.

An Indo-Canadian of the Sikh community, Harjit Sajjan, also got appointed as the defence minister of Canada in 2015.

The sheer number of NRIs notwithstanding, these are some of the NRIs who have made India proud.

Not only are they doing exceptionally good in their respective fields, they are also supporting the Indian economy at the same time.  Despite a steep drop in the global remittances to India in 2016, India has received $65.5 billion in the past year.

A report by wealth consultancy WealthInsight stated that the number of NRIs with millionaire status last year was 2.36 lakh, with an average wealth of over $3.83 million.

The total NRI population was pegged at around 28 million. The US accounted for the largest proportion of NRI millionaires with a total of 133,564 or 56.5% share, followed by the UK with a 0.7% share. Other countries with a significant number of NRI millionaires include the UAE, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan.

The total wealth of NRI millionaires was estimated at some $915 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2019. Remittances from NRIs are often used for investments in stocks, term deposits, land and property.

The NRIs often return with lots of knowledge, potential and passion to drive change, which they often exhibit through entrepreneurial and charitable activities.

The NRIs around the world, thus, have made contributions not only to the development of their country of residence, but also to the development of India.

An analysis of these facts and figures shows that this is not ‘brain drain’ – rather it’s a significant ‘brain gain’. NRIs also take their Indian roots along with them, wherever they go, thereby, contributing to the dispersal and popularization of Indian cultures and traditions all around the world. Most importantly, they often earn recognition and respect for India and its citizens at the global scene.

Every time an NRI achieves something, it is a plus point for India too! They are really helping India become more global. Let’s break the ‘brain drain’ stereotype and feel proud of the ‘global Indians’!