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India shining: expatriates rushing in

Growing in the range of 20-25 per cent per annum, India's organised relocation market is worth Rs 200 cr today, reports Varun Soni.
Hindustan Times | By Varun Soni, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 11, 2008 11:53 PM IST

Call it the call of the times, or whatever you have. But expatriates have never had it so good. Particularly their relocation worries, more about overcoming the cultural dissimilarity between the West and the East, seem to have become a thing of the past - courtesy the growing business of relocation.

In fact, growing in the range of 20-25 per cent per annum, the nation's organised relocation market is today worth Rs 200 crore. And with the foreign direct investment going to increase in the times to come, its potential is only going to increase.

Look at the figures. Around 3,000 expatriates are expected to shift to India this year … lock, stock and barrel. This is in addition to the 50,000 expats who have already made India their home.

In fact, expatriates relocating to India do not include the strong diplomatic community. They primarily comprise senior employees of big corporates who send them to India to set up base, or for transfer of technology into the country.

Relocating to India, however, means more than just a shift in residence. Therefore, apart from finding suitable homes for expats, companies engaged in the business of relocation also have to provide facilities like finding a school for their children, giving them cross-cultural education sessions, enabling them to network in their own community, and even doing corporate event management.

Most relocation companies usually service clients who come to India for two to three years. "They have a lot of anxiety and a sense of the unknown when shifting to India. Despite making waves internationally owing to the strides it is making in the field of information technology, India is still 'mysterious' for many in the West," said Rajeshwar Balasundaram, chief operating officer, Global Adjustments, a Chennai-based relocation company that has been in the business for nearly 13 years now. Many foreigners also find it difficult to believe that Indian cities do not have any centralized list of houses on rent. "It is here that we step in and meet their expectations and take care of their initial settling period," said Balasundaram.

The rise in residential rental rates across India is also creating some obstacles in the relocation business. "Most companies do not realize that owners are taking advantage of shortage of accommodation in established areas here and quote extremely high rates," said Jean-Christophe Levens of Dexia Credit Local, who has relocated from Australia.

Whatever be the case, the increase in relocation business has prompted many international relocation companies to enter India. For instance, Hong Kong-based relocation company Santa Fe has recently acquired a 70 per cent stake in Delhi-based Ikan Relocation Services, which started operations in 1996 and has offices in eight Indian cities, apart from having a presence in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

"We handle more than 20,000 relocations annually around the world and have established 14 offices in China alone. It won't be long before we replicate that success in India as well," said Lars Lykke Iversen, chief executive officer, Santa Fe Group.

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