NRI Conference Needs Re-Structuring, Says Sinna Mani, British NRI Leader (Prsident of BOPIO and Founder & Execuive Mmber of GOPIO)
By A Special Correspondent, 10th January 2014
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow overseas Indians from many different countries but it needs to be re-structured so that it provides more opportunity and facilities for overseas Indians to interact with Indians. After attending the 2014 event, Sinna Mani, who has attended every one of the past 12 such conferences made this comment in an exclusive interview. Mani has worked as a community leader for 45 years, and is the founder president of the British Organisation for People of Indian Origin (BOPIO).
He is a former Mayor of the London Borough of Lewisham and a former member of the Investment Regulatory Authority in the UK. A successful businessman in the media industry, a community leader for 45 years, and a campaign motivator for President Obama, Mani now works for promoting human rights and fighting the caste system in India. A British Citizen originally from Tamil Nadu, Mani said that the first event in 2003 generated a great deal of interest from overseas Indians as over 4,000 attended. This year the figure is just over 700. What has gone wrong, he asks.The event needs more aggressive promotion in countries with large Indian immigrants. Special target groups of overseas Indians like investors, businessmen, professionals, community leaders and others should be identified and attracted to come for this conference. Before they arrive, they should know what they can expect from their participation and which speakers would be of the greatest interest to them. When they leave, they should go with substantial projects, ideas, contacts and information.
The PBD has too many speeches by political non-entities, and even the Prime Minister and the President did not make any new announcements about granting new facilities to overseas Indians but went on the highlight the progress made by India in the last decade. These were more election speeches. Instead of one-way speeches, we need more of a two-way dialogue, he said. A few more sessions need to be included with NRI participation where they can provide their feedback, highlight their concerns and problems and get advice on how to proceed with their projects.“We do not come to watch cultural shows on two nights. Did we spend thousands of pounds and about a week of our time to come and watch these cultural shows that we can easily watch in our countries? The airfare, accommodation and other expenses all add up to a sizeable sum, if we factor Business Class, if not First Class, travel by most overseas Indians to come for this event. Thus, the PBD needs to be re-structured purposefully for solid results for all participants. Its outcome must have substance for NRIs,” he said.
Mani, a former member of the Investment Regulatory Authority in the UK, says he is currently involved in investment projects worth nearly 450 million US dollars. Indo –British trade could be many timesmore if more cooperation and opportunities and facilities are made available to SMEs in India and these are linked to British companies. Indian SMEs need to be helped to participate in the trade exhibition held for PBD – at the moment, mostly state governments, public sector companies, banks, and big companies are on exhibiting. On investment, he is candid. Legal processes for setting up and running businesses are cumbersome in India for overseas investors – that needs to be streamlined for establishing more joint-ventures. Efficiency in the economic system needs to be improved.
The prime aim of PBD seems to attract more investment from NRIs. Investment needs a climate of transparency and stability. With the current political climate when the outcome of the general elections is not clear, investment decisions are bound to put on hold, he said.
Investors want reasonable returns and in the Indian context, these returns are low, if not negative, due to the weak Rupee and high inflation. The equity market is volatile due to political climate and thus investors are wary of risking their funds. Coupled with low economic growth as compared to five years ago, it is no wonder that investors are shy of risking their money, said Mani. But for the long term, India has a great potential for growth and investment as one of the dynamic developing countries with a young population that can provide ample workforce. No matter which party forms the government after the elections, or it is another coalition government, once there is transparency and efficiency in governance, investment is bound to flow. India’s huge domestic market cannot be ignored by any global corporation. India needs to approach and attract individual HNIs (High Net worth Individuals) to invest; for example Lord Rana, a major hotelier and businessman in Britain, can be approached with others to look at India with a different perspective for investment. Talking about his involvement with NRIs, he said, “I founded Gopio on 13 May 1989 in London, and it is very surprising that some American NRIs claim that they founded this organization in August of that year in New York. Now it is beset by in-fighting.
“Gopio provides the people of Indian origin with a platform to take up issues that concern their lives and welfare. Our main aim is to promote the social, economic, legal, moral and educational interests of people of Indian origin in Britain. We support, encourage, promote, and, wherever possible, initiate surveys and research into issues affecting the community's well-being. We also lobby on behalf of the community at a national level on issues of policy and policy-making affecting the Indian community.
“Overseas Indians are proud of India’s success story despite the recent slowdown after the global financial crisis. However, India’s success in IT is great but we need similar success in infrastructure, agriculture and services as well. In fact, in every sector!” he adds.