Why are Indians so successful?


There are more than 14 million Indian-born migrants settled around theworld. Of those, approximately 2.8 million reside in The United Arab Emirates, just over 2 million in the United States, 1.7 million in Saudi Arabia, 1.2 million in Canada, and about 1 million in the United Kingdom.

The Pew Reseach Center[1], Kauffman Foundation[2], Stanford University[3], UC Berkeley[4], Harvard University[5], and others have showcased the success of Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs in the US. Indian entrepreneurs have been very successful in other regions and industries around the world as well.

In the US, Indians (India- and US-born) constitute just over one percent of the population. However, Indians own and operate more than 50% of the hotels, motels, and Subway and 7-Eleven franchises. To provide a perspective, the hotel industry room revenue alone in 2014 was over $142 Billion dollars.

Indians are also saving and improving American lives. Indians own more than 50% of the independent pharmacies in the US. More than 10% of the physicians in the US reported Indian ethnicity. Indians have founded, on average, 14% of Silicon Valley companies since 2007, and 8% of engineering and technology companies in the US. In VC circles, having an Indian co-founder is considered an asset for funding. Most leading VC firms have an Indian partner to tap into the Indian talent network[6].

The above-average statistics are consistent outside the US as well. Indians own 75% of the diamond businesses, including those in the precious-stone capital Antwerp. Reasonably enough, more than 90% of the world’s rough diamonds are cut and polished by Indians. In the mid-20th century, Indians constituted just over one percent of Uganda’s population and contributed more than 20% of the country’s GDP. After Indians were deported out of Uganda by dictator Idi Amin, they went on to create and own several businesses in United Kingdom. Indians had similar success stories in Burma, Kenya, South Africa, and Down Under.

Back home in the US, the median household income headed by an Indian immigrant was $103,000. Compared to $48,000 for immigrant households and $53,000 for native-born households.

These successes are commendable in the light of ongoing immigration challenges. A documented, ‘legal’, immigrant from India waits an average of 13 years to earn a Permanent Residency (Green Card).

As an Indian entrepreneur and immigrant, I am obviously proud of the success of my fellow Indians. And intrigued. Intrigued enough to have done my doctoral research on the topic.

Most things being equal, what motivates, drives, and challenges us Indians more than others? Education, language skills, hard-working culture, values, diversity? Or is it something more sinister – difficulty in starting businesses in India, corrupt Indian bureaucracy, something else?

Doctoral research is a doorway to a lifelong exploration on a topic about which you are truly passionate. I had a limited sample size and was only testing these hypotheses – I found Indian immigrant entrepreneurs have a higher need for achievement, and higher education levels compared to natives. Not entirely revolutionary or eye opening, I know.

Free of school and Institutional Review Board restrictions around dissertations, I am looking into this topic from another perspective.

I have ventured into #TheIndustryShow which is a conversation with Indian entrepreneurs from different walks of life. These discussions delve deeper into the Indian entrepreneurial journey of business people, celebrities, public figures, and techies. The hope is to hear all their stories and understand their journeys.