India – Relocation’s rising star

India’s economy is booming, and with it the mobility sector. We asked some of the country’s leading relocation professionals which industries are leading the way, what the latest relocation hotspots are, and where Indian companies are sending their assignees.

relocated to India
With China’s economy in the doldrums, Indian government figures show that India has retained its place as the world’s fastest-expanding major economy, with growth of 7.6 per cent in 2015/16, up from 7.2 per cent the previous year.Despite the challenges of poor infrastructure, high levels of corporate bad debt, and low job creation, the future looks bright for the vast and diverse subcontinent.Recent start-up Saffron Relocation provides UK companies moving to India with immigration, logistics, property and settling-in services. It has offices in London and Gurgaon, and a pan-India satellite presence.Why does Saffron’s head of UK operations, Mark Proctor, feel the time is right for this new venture? “India,” he says, “is experiencing ever-increasing interest from overseas, and expansive growth in foreign direct investment (FDI) year on year. With this, a significant number of multinational companies are setting up their operations in India. FDI increased by 26 per cent in 2014/15 from the previous year, and this trend is set to continue in the coming year.“With the recent downturn in the Chinese economy and the subsequent pessimism as to future prospects for growth in China, India, which has stayed relatively immune from the slump, is widely seen as an increasingly favourable destination for investment. Many Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea, have long seen India as a hedge against China – an ally with a perfect synergy that will allow these countries to remain competitive in the global marketplace.“India’s well-recognised shortfalls, in particular its organisational and physical infrastructure, are being addressed, and its government has pledged $1trillon in infrastructure development by 2017. This will provide India’s economy, traditionally serviced based, with increased competitiveness in the manufacturing sector, affording it a two-tiered approach to growth.”Mark Proctor believes that many companies which, in the past, have been attracted to India by reduced labour costs, cheap raw materials, and good logistical placement, but have avoided setting up there because of the lack of quality infrastructure, will now see the country as an “inevitable” destination for investment.“Companies such as Foxconn, Walmart and Bosch,” he says, “have already made large commitments to India in 2015, and many others are due to follow. Companies are also being attracted by the government’s pledge to bring India into the top 30 of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index through its consistent engagement in lowering bureaucratic hurdles and tackling corruption. These problems may take a while to overcome, but the government is actively and directly addressing them, and there has been an appreciative response to the language of change.”Mark Proctor thinks that these positive trends will continue into the foreseeable future, and that many UK companies will establish operations in India as a result, sending staff to set them up and operate them.

Relocation thriving

India’s business, economic and political environment is already resulting in something of a relocation boom.Aakanksha Bhargava, CEO and president of PM Relocations, which has offices throughout India, says, “The Indian mobility industry is estimated to have grown at least 60 per cent in the past five years, thanks to the influx of expatriates from different countries and the resulting need for customised professional services for personal movements.“Significant transformation can be noticed with the making of 100 Smart Cities by 2022, an exponential growth in start-ups, and the incoming of foreign investment in start-ups.”Based in New Delhi, Formula Group, winner of this year’s Re:locate Destination Services Provider of the Year award provides relocation and immigration services for corporates and relocation management companies across India.   MD Raman Narula says, “The government’s Make in India campaign has had a immensely positive effect on driving investment into India. As a result, there is an increase in inbound relocation, as more and more companies launch or expand their projects.”Rohini Manian, VP of Global Adjustments, a destination services and cross-cultural training company headquartered in Chennai, South India, and with offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and five other locations, agrees with Mr Narula about the importance of Make in India.“Alongside the establishment of a single window for easy paperwork and permits,” she says, “Make in India has led to an increase in foreign direct investments by 30 per cent over the previous year. The cost arbitrage continues, while the opportunity to have an intellectually agile, English-speaking workforce drives Fortune 500 companies to increase their India footprint.”Ajit Venkatesh, director of Globe Moving, a relocation and moving company that has operated in India for more than 40 years, feels that companies are waiting and watching the direction the government is taking. He says, “Corporates are committed, and are moving into India slowly but surely. India wishes to be a major manufacturing hub in the next ten years, so a lot will happen in that space.”

Industry sectors    

Which sectors are currently seeing most activity in terms of corporate moves/relocations?     

“Analysing the top ten companies served by Global Adjustments, which account for 52.73 per cent of our total population, we find that automobile manufacturers and financial services providers are the main types of company that relocate employees into India,” Rohini Manian says. “Oil, gas and petroleum companies, are also increasing their operations here.“Knowledge transfer being crucial in these industries, expatriate specialists come with the goal of training Indian professionals to succeed them in leadership and mid-level roles. This aids their companies’ global business strategies.”Formula India’s experience is similar, Raman Narula says, adding that the defence sector, too, is seeing significant activity in inbound corporate moves, while the IT sector is leading the way in outbound relocations, moving software engineers to Europe and the US.For Globe Moving, it’s the large IT firms that “form the base” of most movement both into and out of India, while, according to PM Relocation's database, the sectors seeing the most corporate moves are telecommunications, automotive, manufacturing, IT, food and beverage, and banking. Many retail start-ups, construction, pharmaceuticals and logistics companies, Aakanksha Bhargava says, have started to realise the benefits of using a service provider for their relocation requirements.For outbound relocations, Raman Narula notes that the UK, Norway, Sweden and Finland are receiving a large number of Indian assignees. Ajit Venkatesh says, “People mostly move out of the IT centres like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Gurgaon. Their destinations are getting more and more diverse. The USA is still primary, followed by the UK, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.”

Changing assignee profiles

When it comes to the types of employee being relocated, Ajit Venkatesh is finding that the majority are those with IT skillsets who work on client sites, but senior and middle managers are also on the move.Rohini Manian highlights the rising number of returning Indians. “Mid- to senior-level managers are the majority of moves into India. French and German companies have relocated their own nationals here, whereas US companies have relocated an equal number of returning Indians as US expats into India. In the last financial year, almost 30 per cent of our total assignee volumes were returning Indians.        “Nationals of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at 42.86 per cent, lead the table of our total assignee volumes, followed by returning Indians, then Asia Pacific nationals, at 15.36 per cent, and North American nationals, at 11.43 per cent. We see insignificant numbers of assignees from South America.”Aakanksha Bhargava points out, “Currently, the concept of employee relocation in India is only done among top global MNCs. Hence, the privilege of relocation funding is limited to top or senior-level managers. With the growing demand for multiple professional services under one roof, the concept of employee relocation funding will soon be extended to all levels of employee.”

Relocation hotspots

Ms Bhargava says that more and more companies are looking to relocate from Tier 1 cities to one of India’s eight Special Economic Zones. This is increasing opportunities for relocation companies.Among Formula Group’s clients, Bangalore, in the south of the country, and Pune, in the west, are seeing the largest number of inbound relocations.Home to Indian technological organisations Infosys, ISRO and Wipro, as well as a number of educational and research institutions, the fast-growing and demographically diverse city of Bangalore is India’s leading IT exporter. Global giants Google and Accenture have a presence there, as does Brookfield Global Relocation Services – a sign of the times.Another such sign is that British independent school Repton is to open a satellite school in Bangalore, in partnership with local developer the VR Group. This, the first such venture in the city and among the first in India, will see the establishment of a Repton international school, with four pre-schools in various locations around the city. Repton hopes to follow this project with schools in other Indian states.Due to open in September 2018 on a 34-acre site in the south east of Bangalore, the school, which will offer the IGCSE and the IB Diploma, will be co-educational and cater for more than 2,000 pupils. The area, home to a number of multinational IT companies, has a growing population of professionals seeking a quality education for their children.

Gurgaon on the up

Saffron Relocation made a strategic decision to choose Gurgaon, approximately 20 miles south west of Delhi and with an ever-increasing population of more than 1.5 million people, as the location of its India headquarters.Mark Proctor explains. “According to the latest figures from the UK India Business Council, there are currently 533 UK companies based in India, 71 of which are based in Gurgaon, employing nearly 33,000 people. Add to this over 250 of the Fortune 500 companies and it’s obvious why UK companies are increasingly looking at the ‘Millennium City’ as a desirable location and a cost-effective alternative to central Delhi.“Served by the NH8 highway and looped by the Rapid MetroRail, which links to the Delhi Metro, the location further benefits from close proximity to the Indira Gandhi International Airport.”Saffron Relocation, Mark Proctor says, wanted a location that was accessible, conveyed a modern, professional image to clients, and offered a social infrastructure to attract and retain the best staff. Cyber City, one of Gurgaon’s main business districts, proved an ideal base from which to service the many expats wanting to live in one of the city's high-rise condominium complexes or the individual apartments and houses of Delhi’s colonies.

‘Abundant growth’ for relocation sector

Aakanksha Bhargava believes that India’s relocation sector, both inbound and outbound, can only grow. “With the political emphasis being on growth and development, overseas companies are looking to gain a foothold in India and are struggling with growing demand for skilled, talented professionals. Therefore, the influx of foreign workers will increase significantly.“Still in its early stages, the mobility industry is starting a fruitful era where companies from different sectors are actively exploring the concept of offering employees additional benefits to relocate from one city to the other. Hence, with the growing awareness of employee relocation funding and the chance to relocate anywhere within India and overseas, the relocation business will see abundant growth in the coming years.”

To read more about relocations and immigration regulations in India read Inroads into India by Mahrukh Umrigar, head of global mobility at Khaitan Legal Associates, in our new APAC digital magazine.


APAC global mobility magazine
Read more about India and the Asia-Pacific region in our APAC Summer 2016 digital

For more Relocate Global news and features about global mobility in the Asia Pacific region, see our Asia, and India sections.

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