Britons retiring in India: The next business opportunity?

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Feb 12, 2016 01:46 IST
BBC has created a new television series which explores the idea of Britons travelling to India to spend their retirement. (Picture courtesy: BBC)

Consider this: It costs an average £35,000 a year to be in a care home in Britain, where many in their sunset years don’t get the care expected. The same costs a fraction in India, where one can have more colour and fun in a culture of respect for the elderly.

As the three-part BBC2 series “The Real Marigold Hotel” drew to a close to an enthusiastic response, not a few Britons were considering moving to India in their old age. The series showed eight minor celebrities (all over 60) having a blast in Jaipur.

After outsourcing and medical tourism, is “geriatric tourism” in the best traditions of “padharo mharey des” the next business opportunity?

Hailed by British and Indian-origin viewers alike, the series was inspired by the 2012 film “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, in which a group of cash-strapped British senior citizens travel to Jaipur to spend their last years. The series replicated the theme in a reality television context, to much success and fun.

Some of the eight participants – who all had never been to India – said they were already making plans to spend some months in India. Darts champion Bobby George stayed on in Jaipur, flew in his wife, and set about inspecting properties in the Rajasthan capital.

Jan Leeming, former news presenter, decided to rent a well-appointed room in a haveli in Jaipur for Rs 50,000 a month, while ballet dancer Wayne Sleep promised to return for a longer period, having awoken his spiritual self while shooting the series.

The participants were told that foreigners, as a rule, cannot buy immovable property in India, but can happily rent for amounts ranging from £180 to £500 a month – a pittance compared to rents in Britain.

As many gushed on Twitter and demanded a sequel from BBC, Gary Burgess wrote: “Got a tear in my eye at the end of that. What a wonderful window into life in India & some amazing people. Thank you, #RealMarigold Hotel.”

Allison Pearson wrote in The Telegraph: “One reason I loved The Real Marigold Hotel…is because its uproarious cast of famous pensioners found a country where elders are respected, care is good and easily affordable and old age is something to be savoured instead of feared.”

Pearson added: “Frankly, euthanasia looks like a cheerful option compared to the living death that awaits too many of our own senior citizens in extortionate ‘care’ homes…There is nothing elite about the average British care home, which costs an outrageous £35,152 a year.”

Indian-origin viewers too gave the series a thumbs-up, mainly because it had less of the orientalist perspective that has long dominated British films and television shows with Indian themes.

“For once, it showed genuine delight and effort by Britons to appreciate, adjust and enjoy the warmth of our people. There was none of the former colonialist-returning-to-former-colony treatment that is often seen on British television,” said Ravi Singh, a senior IT consultant in Maidenhead.

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