R2I Return to India 2010 – 2012: Prashant’s conclusions

I’m glad that we returned to India (R2I) and have a verdict on the R2I experiment. In the summer of 2012, we are moving to America.

Why R2I didn’t work out – the important stuff


Corporate client visit, KolkataClient way too happy while I work in the background, Delhi

Immediately after returning to India, I started and ran a web design consulting company and helped startups with their product definition, branding and design. One of these was listed as a top 10 startup to watch in India by a major publication. Another one is getting good traction with VCs. We are very proud of them. Starting and running a consulting business in India was challenging on 2 fronts:


Finding people with the right skillsets was extremely difficult. We spent 2 hours daily looking for candidates. Mostly, they failed in having usable domain skills. We tried several permutations – hiring from other industries (print, advertising), hiring from universities directly, poaching seniors from competitors. We got a strong team together but at some point I realized that it would be increasingly harder for us to find more talented people. This was the single biggest obstacle to scaling the business and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

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Meenal and Prashant were on NPR!

Sounds from this India experiment were aired on public radio in the US! Sangar ki sabzi, noisy kitchen, our opinion on renting vs. buying – it’s all there.
Read the 2012 article on WBUR and Listen to the 2012 story on WBUR.

Meenal's parent's place, Delhi, 2012. Meenal's mom is center left in Red Sari.Celebrating Meenal’s 2 week old niece. Delhi, 2012.

2 years ago, NPR (Morning Edition) had done a story on couples who were choosing to rent instead of buying a place. See 2010 pictures of our Boston apartment on WBUR and Listen to the 2010 story on WBUR.

Thanks to the very talented storyteller Curt Nickisch for seeking our wise words.

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Emigration and Returning to India (R2I) in big media


Many U.S. Immigrants’ Children Seek American Dream Abroad

New York Times, April 15, 2012 by Kirk Semple
This article is interesting in highlighting the increase in emigration. I would have found it more informative if it had talked about the people’s daily lives – new home, work place, friends, etc. It’s a bit simplistic but worth a read.

I’d written about Akshay a few months ago. Coincidentally, he works with Samir and Nehal (featured in the NYT article) at Gateway House in Mumbai.

Economics Journal: Who’s Returning to India and Why?

Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2012 by Rupa Subramanya
A great follow up article that puts the emigration trend into perspective and worth reading after the New York Times article.


One year later: The final verdict

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The 3 videos have been very popular. Email subscription wasn’t.

Final verdict

We are very glad to have made our India experiment happen. And now it is time to reflect. Is it going to be India or U.S. or some combination of both?

For those who are new here, we’d posted What will it take to make us like India after moving back almost a year ago.

Meenal and I have been having an internal discussion to come to a verdict. We don’t have the answer yet – the introspection and discussion is taking longer than I expected. Soon, we’ll update with the blog with our thinking, rationale and conclusion.

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Yes, I was there to witness Anna Hazare in New Delhi

I had never experienced a popular civil uprising before. So glad to have witnessed it.

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Cost of living in India – monthly expenses after R2I 2010-2011

Rent + $2100 per month

Cost of living 3

August, 2011

  • Domestic travel – Meenal and I took a vacation in Ladakh. May be one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen.
  • Clothes – we didn’t take enough warm clothes to Ladakh thinking that it’ll be warm. Surprisingly we found good American and European brands for outer wear at very good prices.
  • Groceries – My mother-in-law started giving us lots of fruit every time we visited and she refuses to get paid for it. So it won’t be happening any longer.
  • Utils – I started using a smaller room for hanging out and the air conditioning bill went down. Also, we made fewer international calls since we were traveling for 10 days.

See the expenses between November, 2010 – May, 2011

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Vacation in Ladakh – Leh, Hunder, Pangong, Rafting, Hiking

Having heard so much about it, we vacationed in Ladakh in August. It may be the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen. If you go, please don’t litter – a big problem even in the remotest areas.

Ladakh, India Time Lapse (a bit short & amateurish)

If you are in India, instead of a video, you may see a note: Access to this site has been blocked as per Court Orders. You can read more about the Indian Government’s internet censorship.

Continue reading: Vacation in Ladakh – Leh, Hunder, Pangong, Rafting, Hiking


Gurgaon, India – An introduction to daily life

Many of you think that Meenal and I are having a great time in India. You won’t understand a city until you live in it and after 6 months in Delhi, we identified with this article in the New York Times: In India, Dynamism Wrestles With Dysfunction, June 8, 2011.

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India in Pictures: DIY Vehicles

This DIY vehicle has the handle of a scooter, the front wheel of a motorcycle, the frame of a bicycle, the back of a donkey cart and an oil tank from the kitchen utensil store!

DIY Vehicle in Delhi, IndiaDIY Vehicle in Delhi, India DIY Vehicle in Delhi, India

See all 3 pictures of this engineering concoction

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Buy furniture in India or Ship from USA before R2I?

Furniture shopping in IndiaFurniture shopping in India: Study Table for $225/Rs.9,900Furniture shopping in India: Bed frame for $850/Rs.38,000

I don’t actually know that if there is a ‘furniture mafia’ but how else can you explain such astronomical prices? Furniture costs roughly twice as much as they do in the U.S. and are half as good in quality. If I had known, I would have shipped the big items from America (except the mattress).

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Drinking water in India

After R2I, we found 3 choices for drinking water in India. We chose the 3rd option in this list.

1. Tap water with Reverse Osmosis (RO) filter

This is the most cost effective of the 3 drinking water choices and is widely used in India. Most households, restaurants, bars and hotels claim to have working RO systems. RO technology relies on a membrane filter that should have no cracks for the system to be effective. Worst of all, there is no way of knowing if the membrane develops a crack except repeatedly testing the water. Since workmanship and maintenance is frequently suspect, we’ve chosen NOT to use this system.

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Letter to U.S. Congressmen: U.S. debt, exiled African kings and my bank account

Honorable Congressmen:

This email is NOT from an exiled African king asking for your bank account number. I hate hearing about royal problems but it is a compliment to the U.S. economy that even fake deposed kings want to park their fake loot in our bank accounts.

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Making new friends in India after R2I

Making new friends in India PHOTO: Party at our place for friends of friends we’ve met after moving to Delhi and Gurgaon. July, 2011.

No, it’s not like your grandmother told you. You can’t just drop by anyone’s house at any time. People work, tend to kids, go shopping, do household chores, catch up on Bollywood movies, travel for work, get stuck in traffic and have family obligations like any other place in the world. Organizing a party or a meet up with friends isn’t much different than America – you have to set a date and let people know in advance (texting is preferred). In some respects meeting up can be harder – people work longer hours, have really long commutes and have many family obligations. Additionally, the city either doesn’t offer many activities to do (outdoors, walking paths, etc.) or we don’t know Delhi well enough. Still, we have started having regular parties …

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Mini R2I case study: Akshay

Akshay in his 'luxury' apartment in MAAnyone who returns to India after a long stint abroad needs to answer this: What will you do for work when you get to India? Continue climbing the corporate ladder? Start a business? Join politics? Inherit a cushy lifestyle? Bum?

Akshay moved to India from Boston in 2010 and has had to answer these and many other questions. Over the course of the last year, we have seen Akshay be there for his family during a very difficult time and shuttle between Ajmer and Mumbai to establish a new career in India. Last month, he moved permanently to Mumbai to become the Senior Geo-economics Research Fellow at Gateway House think tank. He also published his first editorial in the prestigious national newspaper – MINT/WSJ. We are extremely proud.

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Fresh fruits and juices – the best of Delhi summer


Delhi summer is in full swing – 110 degree oven like temperatures with dusty winds blowing over the city.

That also means that the best fruits are in season – watermelons, different types of mangoes, succulent melons (promise never to use the word ‘succulent’ again), lychees, papaya, peaches and apricots. You have no idea what you are missing.

Thank you Raina for gifting your best mangoes at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday. Totally worth it!


India in pictures: NO PARKING SIGN

Funny No Parking Sign, New Delhi, India
TYRE PUNCTURE ZONE: This guy is serious about no one parking in front of his shack.

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State parks near Delhi, India – Meenal’s beautiful gift to me

Sultanpur Jheel / state park near Delhi, IndiaSultanpur Jheel / state park near Delhi, IndiaSultanpur Jheel / state park near Delhi, IndiaSultanpur Jheel / state park near Delhi, IndiaSultanpur Jheel / state park near Delhi, IndiaSultanpur Jheel / state park near Delhi, India

You remember me bitching about not seeing any Earth. And you remember me crooning about my geyser romance for Meenal. But Meenal is a goddess – she showed me Earth and one upped my cheesy love with her gift.

She took me to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary (Sultanpur Jheel), about an hour drive from Gurgaon with all the ingredients of perfection: a semi-cloudy day, trees as far as the eye could see, water, birds of all sizes, deer, peacocks, fancy cheese, baguette and Fullers London’s Pride beer. On the way out, it started raining and a wild rabbit crossed our path.

See 6 big pictures from a wonderful day out

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