Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center
This is the internet version of the Kerala Center News letter. Vol.1 , 2001
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at the Kerala NRI Meeting in Cochin, January 2001.
organized by Dhanam Publication and co-sponsored by Kerala Center.
Dr. Thomas Abraham
Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOIO)
P.O. Box 1413, Stamford, CT 06904, USA
Tel: 203-329-8010, Fax: 203-322-2233
There are some 20 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) and people of Indian origin (PIO) living outside India. Let us look at the number game of NRIs and PIOs. I have categorized the NRI/PIO population according to the areas they live in as follows:
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 millionNote: 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 children. Of all the countries, leaving aside Nepal, the U.S. now has the largest concentration of Indians.
Most of them are also highly successful. If their professional expertise and financial resources are pooled, it will benefit not only the NRIs and PIOs but also their respective countries and India. To bring them together, the First Global Convention of People of Indian Origin was organized in New York in 1989. The trigger was the coup in Fiji against the elected Indian-dominated government in 1987.
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.
NRIs/PIOs are being eyed for investments, whether in developing countries such as Guyana and Uganda, whose presidents have been personally meeting NRIs and PIOs, or developed countries such as U.K., Canada and Australia.
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.
Now I would like to speak on the Kerala scene and on Kerala NRIs. The Kerala NRI population according to countries and regions is as follows:
Saudi Arabia* 4.5 lakhs U.A.E. * 4.0 lakhs Kuwait * 0.6 lakhs Other Gulf Countries* 1.5 lakhs USA and Canada 2.5 lakhs Europe (U.K., Germany, Austria, Switzerland) 1.0 lakhs Malaysia and Singapore 1.0 lakhs Australia, New Zealand and Fiji 0.5 lakhs Sri Lanka 0.5 lakhs Africa (South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, etc.) 0.4 lakhs All other countries combined 0.5 lakhs TOTAL 17.0 LAKHS * Numbers from Kerala Economics and Statistics Dept. All other numbers are approximate estimatesOf the total, about a third holds citizenship outside India. Keralite technology professionals and entrepreneurs are mostly in USA, Canada, Europe, Singapore and now in Australia.
What can Kerala do to attract Kerala NRIs to invest in Kerala?
Build Trust - It is not an easy task, since many of them have comfortable life in the countries they are settled in. Some who had ventured earlier had bad experiences in investment. Some, who had participated earlier with some Kerala partners, have lost all their investments. There is a need to build back their thrust that investment in Kerala will pay back returns.
Improve Kerala’s Image – The newspaper headlines in the last few weeks in major English newspapers were as follows:
Andhra CM Seeks NRI Help for Investment
Projects Worth Over Rs. 5,100 Crores cleared for Karnataka
NRIs Keen to Invest in Punjab
Ambitious Program for Gujarati Expatriates
But headline for Kerala was, “Kerala in the Decline,” an analysis by Kuldip Nayar on Kerala politics.
The Kerala Government has to do some urgent steps to improve its image as a state, which is equally good as its neighboring states for investment opportunities. This will include some immediate steps to build a conducive atmosphere for business opportunities and investments in Kerala.
Identify all potential Kerala NRI investors – This can be done easily with the help of all the current Kerala and Malayalee associations outside Kerala.
Work with the existing major Kerala groups outside such as the Kerala Center in New York, Federation of Kerala Association of North America (FOKANA), Association of Kerala Medical Graduates (AKMG) in USA and Kerala Medical Doctors Association in London and World Malayalee Council. These groups can motivate their members to invest in Kerala and support philanthropic causes here.
Appoint a consultative body to advise Kerala Govt. as to how the state should move ahead in attracting industries to Kerala and to explore what NRIs can do to make Kerala part of the technology boom.
Appointment of an Investment and Technology Tsar (some one who is a mover and shaker) who would scout around for new technologies appropriate to Kerala and disseminate such information to potential businessmen and industrialists who are interested in such investment and business opportunities. Appropriate to Kerala would not include basic and large manufacturing industries but those, which produce value added products. Kerala should continue to build on computer software and IT technology products. Other appropriate industrial products are electronic gadgets (e.g. magnets, piezoelectric devices), devices for wireless communications, genomics and new drug developments, fuel cells and solar energy products, medical transcription services, etc. While Bangalore can attract General Electric to set up a major research center, Kerala has as good brain power to support such ventures. The only problem has been that we have not concentrated our effort to attract such projects.
Improve upon the infrastructure in transportation and uninterrupted power supply. Along with these, the political parties should make commitment that their protest rallies and demonstrations for any cause will not disrupt the day today life of our people and businesses. Keralites are excellent workers once they are outside Kerala. We have to inculcate work ethics and high productivity among our people. The political leaders and educationists should emphasize on this aspect.
As we set out to promote new technology oriented businesses, Kerala should also promote higher education, which is in a dismal state of affairs. The higher education review board should be independent and should do their review at shorter intervals than the current 10 year period to meet the challenges of the fast moving employment market place. And this is one of the primary requirement as Kerala sets out to establish new generation technology based industries. Last November at the annual banquet of Kerala Center in New York, a venture capitalist Sridhar Menon made a suggestion that influential Keralites within Kerala and outside should campaign with Govt. of India to establish an Indian Institute of Technology in one of the major cities. If needed, private funding should also be sought for such a venture.
After the confidence building measure by attracting large number of Kerala NRIs, the next step would be to attract NRIs and PIOs at large. Simultaneously, efforts should be made to attract foreign companies to invest in Kerala.
Kerala’s industry ministry could also host a set up of retired executives including NRIs in each major city who could provide free advice and guidance to new entrepreneurs. Such a set up known as SCORE has been successfully functioning all over the United States.
All these efforts should provide job opportunities to a large number of unemployed and underemployed people.
As a person looking from outside, I have found all successive governments in the two decades lacking commitment to develop Kerala’s industries. Of course, Kerala was the first one to put together a Technopark, however, our nearby states, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh have become the leaders in information technology related business. As Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen said last week that Kerala has to become part of the global trade. That means we should produce items for global consumption. These could include value added agricultural products.
Keralites are good political players. They could also become good players in international trade. We have to play our cards well and take head on the Chinese and the Koreans in this game. We have the capability but we need the political will.
The bay boomer NRI generation including Keralites has accumulated enormous wealth. Since their next generation has done extremely well in their career, these successful baby boomers are setting up foundations to help social and education causes. Now, they would like to be partners in Kerala's growth. It is up to the Kerala government to work out how it can attract the NRIs and make them participate in Kerala’s development.
Dr. Thomas Abraham is the president of Global organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) based in New York and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center (Elmont, New York). A materials scientist by profession, Dr. Abraham is Vice President of Business Communications Co., a leading industry and market research firm based in Norwalk, CT, USA. Born in Pathanamthitta, Dr. Abraham is brother of Dr. T.A. George, former principal of Catholicate College and Mr. T.A. Abraham, Chartered Engineer, Cochin. A graduate of Jaipur’s Malaviya Regional Engineering College and Columbia University of New York, Dr. Abraham is married to Dr. Susy Abraham, Medical Director of Hebrew Home for the Aged in New York, and has a daughter Nitya and a son Jay. They live in Stamford, Connecticut. National Critical Technologies
A near-term technology forecast by
Dr. Thomas Abraham and Dr. Sam Brauer
Business Communications Co., Norwalk, CT, USA
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
a. 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.
b. 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.