Dr. Thomas Abraham


Global Organization of People of Indian Origin


An unofficial estimate of the total number of people of Indian origin living outside India is about 20 million people.




North America (Mostly USA & Canada)                                                       2.8 Million

South America (Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Surinam, Jamaica, etc.)            2.0 million

Europe (U.K., Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, etc.)                 2.5 million

Africa (South Africa, Mauritius, East African countries, etc.)              2.5 million

Middle East (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc.)                                        2.5 million

Far East & South East Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Mayanmar, etc.)                 2.5 million

Pacific Island (Fiji, Australia, New Zealand)                                                  0.7 million

Srilanka and Nepal                                                                                       4.5 million

Total                                                                                                                20.0 million

Note: Since hard numbers have not been available, these are approximate estimates.


Of the 20 million, about 50% constitute the first generation immigrants from India and their immediate families. This is the group one should reach for investments and business collaborations in India. Where are these communities? They are in USA, Canada, U.K. and other European countries, Australia and Southeast and Far Eastern countries.


With over 20 million people of Indian origin living outside India, a new global community of Indian origin has been developed. Most of the people of Indian origin have become highly successful in business and the profession. If their professional expertise and financial resources are to be pooled together, it will benefit not only people of Indian origin but also their countries and India. In addition, people of Indian origin could assume a new role in providing help in case of crisis to their communities around the world.


As a first step toward bringing our communities together, the Indian American community took the initiative to organize the First Global Convention of People of Indian Origin. The triggering point for the global Indian community to come together was, when an elected Indian dominated government in Fiji was thrown out by a military dictator in 1987. At the First Global Convention held in New York in 1989, the major concern at the first convention was human rights violations of people of Indian origin, whether in Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom or the United States, where Indians were facing the dotbuster menace. The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) was formed to network our communities and take up issues such as human rights violations that Indians faced around the world. GOPIO filed petitions at the UN and an effort was made to fight these issues.

In the last decade, the world has changed, so are the people of Indian origin (PIO) communities. Indian-dominated parties have come to power in Guyana and Trinidad. South Africa has several Indian ministers. Human rights violations or being on the political sidelines are not major issues for the global Indians today. NRIs and PIOs are more interested in creating economic opportunities, and pooling their professional and financial resources to benefit themselves and India. Our organization, GOPIO believes that this is the platform to bring our global Indian communities together. Toward this goal, GOPIO has formed GOPIO Business Council last year and has been providing forums to meet and interact with businessmen and industrialists from different parts of the world as well as with political leaders who are instrumental in business promotion between the PIOs and NRIs. GOPIO Business Council has been focusing its efforts to cater the needs of small and medium businessmen from our NRI/PIO communities to network and promote collaborations.

There are enormous opportunities for NRIs/PIOs to get actively involved in India's development as well as support various philanthropic and social service activities. Many NRIs and NRI organisations have set up schools in their villages and towns, others have been supporting social and environmental causes.


Now, let us look at the global potential: I categorize them as capital, technical expertise and business expertise. Fortunately, our NRIs/PIOs have all of them. The year 2000 economic output of NRIs and PIOs are estimated to be $400 billion, almost the same as the total GDP of India. However, this year’s total NRI foreign direct investment has been only Rs. 900 crores (about $200 million), which is a small amount compared to the potential. Of these Maharashtra toped the list followed by Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.


In terms of India’s trade, although we have made great strides in computer software and IT related exports, our trade number of $75 billion in the year 2000 for all imports and exports is too small. Compare this to China whose trade reached $475 billion in the same year, more than 6 times as that of India. We have to really put some serious thinking why our country, almost as big as China, cannot even reach a trade volume one fourth of what China does. More than half of China’s trade is accomplished by Overseas Chinese. This is where the NRIs and PIOs role come into picture. The Central and state governments have to increase their efforts to reach out all potential NRIs and PIOs who would be in a position to promote trade and investments in India. We have to look at what Israel has done in reaching out and motivating its diaspora to benefit Israel.


Looking at China’s trade, they are not only exporting consumer items, but are heavily involved in technology items. China, Taiwan  and other Far Eastern countries such as Korea have excelled in computer chips, electronic gadgets, new materials, magnets and communication devices and are dominating the American and European markets. For our country to compete with China, we have to look at what are the critical technologies, which would create markets for new products.


As the world turns for new technologies, they are also moving to take a piece of that. We Overseas Indians have an upper hand in new technologies. Thanks to our excellent educational institutions and large migration of professional people, Overseas Indians are on the top all new technologies. The question is how we tap them for our benefits.


For the benefit of the industrialists who are here, I would like to briefly mention some the technologies which are important for a nation in the next 10 years (See Appendix at the end).


There is a need for a Technology Czar who would scout the technologies for the benefit of India and focus on how to accomplish getting that technology. An international PIO structure should be developed such that any interested entrepreneur in India should have access to these technologies. With the new globalization, we have to take aggressive posture to reach out those technology areas where the abundance of our skilled labor can be fully utilized.


NRIs/PIOs have become a hot commodity to be attracted for investments, whether it is developing countries such as Guyana and Uganda, whose presidents have been personally meeting NRIs or even developed countries such as U.K., Canada and Australia who want new investments. Although, Govt. of India (GOI) has taken some steps, when it comes to action, it is slow. NRI Advisory Committees have been constituted by the former finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and now by IT minister Pramod Mahajan. Prime Minister Rao announced the post of an NRI Commissioner in 1992, which was filled after several years, whose mandate was only to attract NRI deposits or investments. Some positive steps had come in the year 2000 when an Additional Secretary in the External Affairs Minisry was appointed an NRI Commissioner. Also, an NRI Committee chaired by former Mr. L.M. Singhvi, former Indian High Commissioner to U.K., has been set up by the government to look into the issues of NRIs and PIOs.


There is a resentment among the NRIs that GOI always look at NRIs/PIOs at an angle how much more money can be extracted from them, whether it is PIO card or just the deposits. NRIs/PIOs would like to look at it more than just the money. NRIs have done a great job in building good image for India in their respective countries. Whenever India had a crisis, whether foreign exchange problem, national disasters such as Orissa Cyclone/Gujarat earthquake, or Kargil war, NRIs/PIOs mobilized support for these causes. NRIs have also been working behind the scene to create interest among multinational companies to take interest in India. Therefore, NRIs would like to be a partner in country’s development, whether through state and central government agencies or community groups.


The baby boomer NRI generation has accumulated enormous wealth. Since the next generation has done extremely well in their career, these successful baby boomers are setting up foundations to help social and educational causes. With the new interest among the central and state governments and their agencies to utilize NRI resources, we should look into new avenues of cooperation to attract and to make it easy for NRIs to participate in India’s developments. There is always competition for resources. For attracting large number of NRIs/PIOs to participate in the nation building, a new initiative has to be taken by all.



National Critical Technologies


A near-term technology forecast by

Dr. Thomas Abraham


1.      Materials

A)    Bulk Materials – largely mature market with a relatively slow pace of development.  Most major material types are well characterized, inexpensive and perform well.  These materials include commodity polymers, metals, concrete and other common construction materials.  Will be very difficult to sell new materials in 10 million pound plus quantities.

1)      Composites- Major developments in composites have less to do with materials choices and more to do with methods of manufacture. 

2)      Design- computer aided design and control of processes is allowing the use of expensive materials in niche applications more readily.  Most performance benefits will now come from improved modeling and production technology.

B)    Niche Materials

  1. Electronic and optical materials- these materials are used in relatively small volumes, but ever decreasing sizes of chip technology continue to spur development.  Change over from aluminum to copper interconnects is driving development on many other aspects of design.
  2. Defense markets still important, but less so than commercial markets.  Many materials were developed for defense technology 20 years ago remain cutting edge today- more desire for scale up of inexpensive, rather than ultimate high performance materials.


2) Manufacturing

A)    Increased flexibility due to computer control.

B)     Increasing division between manufacturing and product design.  Manufacture of goods is becoming a generic task- with increased use of robotics and automation.

C)    Increasing attention is being paid to workflow and modeling of work processes.  Cost estimation is becoming less guesswork and more accurate.  Overall costs of manufacturing are decreasing due to better simulation and modeling.

D)    Micro and nano fabrication are still largely limited to electronics markets.


3) Communications

A)    Increasing demands on infrastructure.  No endpoint in sight, although there will be an eventual slowdown.

B)     Business models are still in infancy.  Problems with investment capital model.

C)    Primary communications grids will rely on both fiber optics, existing copper lines (phasing out) satellite and microwave.  No single technology will dominate.  Business models will have more determination in technology choices than hardware.


4) Computer Hardware/Software

A)    Moore’s law has not run its course yet.  Hardware will continue to improve in performance, but costs have largely bottomed out.  Wireless connections to the Internet will become more common.

B)     Software- No changes foreseen that software will become increasingly more sophisticated.  Current shortage of programmers is largely illusory and will be overcome with free-market incentives.

C)    Domination of single firms will erode.  Software will become more plug and play and interfaces will become less significant.  Fragmentation of the market.

D)    Software will continue to make inroads into a wide number of industries.  Industry specific software is the limiting factor in much technological development in many fields.



5) Biotechnology

A)    Cost of drugs is approaching a maximum.  Major changes in biotechnology/pharmaceuticals are dependent on changes to the business model, which spans several industries including legal, HMO, and hospitals.

B)     Drugs for most diseases with large markets are available.  New drugs will have smaller populations, i.e. markets.  This does not bode well, since the cost of developing drugs continue to escalate.

C)    Gernomics will spurt new drug development


6)    Aeronautics

A)    No major changes foreseen.  The market is mature and will be somewhat

limited in expansion by lack of infrastructure.  Furthermore, in order to compete with other forms of transport, air travel will have to return to a non-stop model which will require much greater computational resources than have been used to date.  Current aircraft are quite efficient.


7)      Surface Transport

Major changes will be in energy sources rather than in production methodology.  It is possible that rail will mount a challenge to airlines and over the road truck/cars, but unlikely, especially with insufficient support of infrastructure.


8)      Energy

Developing new methods of storing energy are generating large amounts of investment and research expenditures.  It is clear that a combination of regulation and market forces are driving these expenditures.  Furthermore, the technology is no longer decades away, but is achievable in the next decade.  Infrastructure will be required which will take longer to implement.  Much of the research is being fueled by the car manufacturers, however, current downturns in their business may require additional government expenditures.


9)  Environmental Concerns

Progress in this area should not lead to complacency.  Contrary to the concerns voiced by most mature industries, environmental challenges generally are healthy for the economy and spur investment and development of new technologies.  Currently, these new technologies are being implemented in the production phase rather than in waste streams. This trend will continue. Cleanups will become less important over time.



Dr. Abraham has been serving the NRI/PIO community for the last 28 years. He founded the Federation of Indian Associations of New York, National Federation of Indian American Associations, and currently serves as the President of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Indian American Kerala Center in New York. Dr. Abraham also served as the Co-Chairman of India Chair Managing Committee at Columbia University, which established a chair for Indian studies at the University. Professionally, trained as a material scientist, Dr. Abraham is currently the Vice President of Business Communications Co., an industry and market research firm in Norwalk, CT. Dr. Abraham can be reached at GOPIO, P.O. Box 1413, Stamford, CT 06904, USA, Tel: 203/329-8010, Fax: 203/322-2233, E-mail:, web:


(This talk was delivered at the Overseas Indian Conference organized by Indian Merchant Chamber in Mumbai on Janaury 7th, 2001)