Transferring Expertise and Experience:
Transnational PIO Collaboration
a keynote address given by
Joy Cherian, Ph.D. (Int’l Bus. Law)*
President, J. Cherian Consultants, Inc. (JCC)
July 22, 2000
The Inaugural Session of Conferences
The Global Convention of People of Indian Origin 2000
Swissotel, Zurich, Switzerland
Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)
Over the past several decades, an increasing number of people from India have gone to several European, North American, Far Eastern and South Eastern Asian countries, and Middle Eastern countries for business activities, employment opportunities, professional practice, and higher education. Presently, the total number of people of Indian origin (PIO) living outside India is estimated to be between 18 and 20 million.
Recently, a new phenomenon has emerged – a movement of an increasing number of PIOs and their business-related properties (both tangible and intangible) transcending the boundaries of their resident countries abroad. The winds of globalization are carrying them to new horizons of financial success.
The time has come for leaders of overseas PIO communities – including business and professional groups – to collaborate on transferring their expertise and experience in order to share the benefits of their success abroad with the people of India and other persons of Indian origin abroad. This presentation is designed to focus on such transfers. More specifically, transfers as they relate to this convention theme, "Global PIO Collaboration in Technology, Trade, Investment, and Pooling Human Resources."
A. Appropriate Transfer of Relevant Expertise and Experience
The term "expertise" refers to special skills and know-how in relation to business transactions and professional experience abroad. "Experience" may be defined as a specific process or fact of personal observation, learning, encountering, or undergoing something relating to one’s overseas business activities or professional practice abroad.
However, not all transfers of expertise and experience from a foreign country to India may be appropriate. Of course, such transfers ought to be legal and rightfully permitted. Yet, all "experiences" may not be relevant, since many of them originate in a particular country under certain circumstances that may be unsuitable or impractical in another country. Let us define "transfer" as a means of conveying, passing, or moving expertise and experience. This means that the movement between countries is not only unilateral, but also that the movement is a mutually beneficial exchange from PIOs in one country to PIOs in another country.
B. Making Technological Impact
Technological advancement is affecting every aspect of human life and behavior. Many PIOs abroad are experiencing these advances and their ramifications. Some PIOs may have even developed and applied these technological achievements. We ought to examine and find relevant technologies that may be used for the benefit of business in India and PIOs’ businesses overseas. Many years ago, several leading Indian politicians and social reformers objected to importing computers and information technology to India. Today, the children and grandchildren of those very same individuals are exporting computer technology products and services to foreign nations. As a result, India is gaining an enormous amount of foreign exchange.
Selected modern information and engineering technologies can be transferred to India to enhance its economic development in areas of energy and utility projects, telecom and data services, mineral resources exploration, surface transportation, etc. PIO
technical experts can also assist in upgrading and innovating existing technology in India and PIO resident countries. Additionally, PIO scientists who have played a major role in recent years in the development of genomics science and those who have led a wireless communication revolution in western countries, can inspire budding PIO scientists around the globe.
Successful PIO information technology (IT) entrepreneurs can help Indian IT businessmen through venture capital contribution and professional consulting programs. Some of the relevant areas of information technology may include (but are not limited to): computer education training, data management, ERP, Internet, Intranet, off shore projects, outsourcing, process engineering, procurement, programming, project management, supply chain management, telecommunications consulting, and web hosting services.
C. Emerging International Trade: A Focus on Services
Traditionally international trade law only recognized three types of tangible items in global trade – manufactured goods, agricultural commodities, and mineral resources. However, after the approval of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which resulted from the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a fourth item, an intangible one – service industries – has been recognized. PIOs have an unique advantage of having leadership and management skills in many areas of service industries. These areas include: accounting, advertising, engineering, banking, educational, environmental, healthcare, insurance, intellectual property, legal, transportation, retail, telecommunications, tourism and wholesale services. It should not
be difficult for us to organize discussion seminars and negotiation sessions and find a way to transfer PIOs’ expertise and experience to businesses in India and PIO groups abroad. Hospitality industry, including travel and tourism, is one of the service sectors PIO businessmen should further explore as well. In this respect, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) should establish a taskforce or committee on trade in services in order to facilitate mutually beneficial programs for PIOs and people living in India.
India is one of the largest potential sources of exportable service industry talents. If India accepts, applies, and adapts relevant service industry programs from other countries, few can doubt India’s eventual emergence as a global trade in service center in the next few years. PIOs should also look into mutually beneficial exchange programs relating to service industries between their local trade groups and PIOs in other countries.
D. Results of Transnational Investment
When PIO businessmen and professionals transfer a substantial amount of money to foreign ventures, including businesses in India, their major goals are based on profit-making calculations. Unfortunately, a number of PIOs in the past have been discouraged and disenchanted with the potential for making a profit from Indian business ventures. This attitude arises from certain disappointing experiences, many of which result from a lack of experience in dealing with certain misunderstandings of local social customs and different unpredictable political climates in various Indian states. PIO leaders should search for the real reasons behind these disappointments and share the knowledge they gain with potential PIO investors. In this way, we will avoid undesirable results and
future disappointments. GOPIO leaders ought to begin a dialogue with national Chambers of Commerce, trade federations, and regional business groups in order to solicit their advice and guidance for making PIO efforts in India a satisfying and rewarding experience.
The ongoing Indian economic reforms are encouraging to PIO investors in certain areas of financial services. For example, the insurance business sector is currently opening to foreign joint ventures. It is heartening to see several leading foreign-based insurance executives of Indian origin working hard to succeed in India. This is most evident in insurance business-related areas such as risk management, brokerage services, specialized annuity, retirement products, healthcare management, and customer service. It is expected that PIOs will make premium contributions on behalf of their relatives and for their own eventual retirement in India. Additionally, PIOs with insurance business experience and expertise are expected to assist in insurance product development, marketing research, actuarial science, and asset management. It is also expected that foreign-based PIO investors will be involved with equity participation in the new Indian insurance companies whenever the appropriate opportunity arises. Furthermore, possible PIO collaborations with foreign companies in the form of joint ventures, alliances, or consortia would assist in building much-needed confidence in foreign individual and institutional investors that may be interested in investing in new Indian financial services companies such as banking, insurance, mutual funds, and asset management. Someday, India can depend solely on PIO-owned financial institutions for its economic development program including infrastructure projects at home rather than relying on multinational development organizations abroad and rich countries for development loans
and foreign assistance. In this respect, India has a moral obligation to promote and assist to protect the genuine financial interests of PIOs in India and abroad.
E. Human Resources: Overcoming Social Challenges
One can safely say that the development of human capital is equivalent to or perhaps even more important than financial capital to the profitability and sustainability of any long-term project. This is not only true in India’s economic development process, but also in the matter of the economic well-being of PIO businesses no matter where they are located. A successful PIO entrepreneur ought to be involved with the performance of his/her corporate civic responsibilities such as social involvement including charitable activities. India presently needs efficient social services such as literacy promoting activities among young rural women, and public health improvement programs in many inner-city, suburban, and rural areas. Centuries-old cultural habits, public apathy, and local government complacency have condoned several unhygienic habits and environmentally-unsound sanitary conditions in many public places in India. Successful PIO groups have to come forward to remedy at least in a small way these illiteracy and unhealthy situations for the benefit of human capital development. PIO groups could pool together resources from foreign foundations, local contributors, and multinational development organizations with their own resources to reduce the burden of India’s national, state, and local governments in handling these unfortunate situations. Ethnic pride and national patriotism should be strengthened to handle these serious social issues which are linked with their own national origin image. Instead of criticizing what has already happened in the past and what is going on in India now, PIOs have to pool their
financial and other resources together and try to remove these dark spots in India’s otherwise shining global image.
Remember: our foreign business associates in foreign countries may evaluate us – even though we are foreign citizens and permanent residents – on the basis of what they see and face in public places in our proud country of origin. This does not mean that everything in India related to education and healthcare is inferior or that similar facilities in other countries are superior. But rather, this is a humble warning from an observation which should be debated and hopefully solved in the near future. PIO health care experts who migrated to foreign countries from a common local area in India should pool their resources and give back their knowledge of preventive medicine and other relevant public health improvement programs to their own local community in India. This is a good way of reflecting their own successful healthcare profession abroad. While they build specialized facilities in large metropolitan cities in India, they should also look into their own local communities in India. This is one way to say "thank you" to your proud country of origin.
The concept of transferring PIO expertise and experience across borders is a broad topic that would make a good subject for a book or a series of lectures. I have shortened the length of my comments to accommodate the limited time we have available today. However, it is important to note that we have only begun to scratch the surface of the topics mentioned above. The time has come for all people of Indian origin to come
together to assist, cooperate, and promote all similarly-situated people and their associates abroad.
PIOs around the world ought to be proud of their centuries-old common ethnic heritage. The unique characteristics of this ethnic heritage include family loyalty, strong personal moral values, ethnic pride, non-violent life style, maintaining history-tested traditions, a frugal family life, hardworking habits, and admirable work ethics. By helping fellow PIOs, all PIOs will honor their own ethnicity.
Mutual understanding and respect are key elements to success for any common ethnic community whether they are in Canada, Guyana, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or any other part of the world. We should never forget that the success of a person of Indian origin anywhere in the world is a success for all persons of Indian origin everywhere in the world.
*Dr. Joy Cherian is a former Commissioner (a sub-cabinet level U.S. Senate confirmed U.S. Presidential Appointee) of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Dr. Cherian is the founder and the first president of the Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) and a former chairman of the Asian American Voters Coalition (AAVC). He is currently the President of J. Cherian Consultants, Inc. (JCC), a Washington, DC-based international government relations firm (www.jccinc.org). He also serves as the President of the American Council for Trade in Services (ACTS), a national non-profit service industry trade association (www.acts-talks.com).