Why is the Indian American diaspora so successful and now influential in the US?

The power of India in the US. People hold placards of Kamala Harris, as she prepares to take her oath as vice-president of America, at her ancestoral village in Thulasendrapuram.

Migrants from India are the most successful migrant group in the USA and now they are becoming influential and leading in politics. Even President Joe Biden recently quipped that “Indian Americans are taking over the country”.

These Indian Americans have played a “stellar role” in education, technology and entrepreneurship. Now public administration and politics.

Companies in the US headed up by Indian American CEO’s right now include Google, Microsoft, Albertsons, Micron Technology, Mastercard and Adobe Inc.

Biden should feel close to the Indian migrants – his speech writer (Vinay Reddy), Vice President (Kamala Harris) and the leadership of NASA’s Mars Mission (Swati Mohan) all have Indian heritage. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Indians are a small migrant group – around 3.8 million migrated making up 1.2 per cent of the US population.

But this diaspora is the richest, most educated and among the most successful ethnic groups in the USA.

Why?

Indian entrepreneurial drive makes them unique among migrants

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine of the US in its report titled The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration had said in 2015-16 that “Indian immigrants are the most entrepreneurial of any group including natives, and immigrant businesses represent more than a quarter of businesses in the transportation, accommodation, and recreation and entertainment sectors.”

Indians have chased better education

According to Pew Research Center data from September 2017, about 32 per cent of Indian Americans have a bachelor’s degree and 40 per cent are post-graduates. The comparable figures for all Asian Americans are 30 per cent and 21 per cent, respectively. If all Americans are considered, Indians stand out even more as only 19 per cent of Americans have undergraduate degrees and 11 per cent have post-graduate education.

Indians make more money

The Indian community in the US earn a lot more than all other ethnic groups, white Americans included. A recent survey by Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development found that the average income of Indian American families is $120,000, compared to the overall US average of $88,000.

So, why are Indians the most successful?

A recent book titled The Other One Percent: Indians in America bySanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh found some answers.

Singh hypothesises that “There is no ‘secret sauce’. There are no peculiarly Indian cultural traits (that make Indian Americans more successful than others)…. They came very carefully selected. They were not coming from poverty. The simplest policy prescription may be this: Make sure everyone has access to education,” he told the media.

The immigration of Indian Americans really began in 1965 when the US lifted caps it had placed on immigrants from some countries. Since then, the visa process has favoured the entry of mostly upper class, educated Indians, their close relatives, students with very high scores and skilled workers.

Summarising why Indians succeed in America

They are a migrant group with access to educational resources and having a stable financial background. Without these two, migrants generally stay at lower levels of income and influence.

You have not seen the best yet!

80 per cent of second-generation Indian Americans are under the age of 25 years. This means their political influence and commercial success is likely to grow further in the years and decades to come. The Indian American population is expected to almost double to 2 per cent of the US population by 2030. They are mostly concentrated in New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, California and Texas.

Indians now standing out in public service

President Biden has appointed significant numbers of Indian Americans to his team – Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, State Department; Mala Adiga, Policy Director to Dr Jill Biden; Aisha Shah, Partnership Manager, White House Office of Digital Strategy; Sameera Fazili, Deputy Director, US National Economic Council (NEC); Sumona Guha: Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council, White House; and Sabrina Singh: Deputy Press Secretary, Vice President White House.

In addition, two Indian Americans, Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal, have already ruled states such as Louisiana and South Carolina as governors.

The story of Indian Americans is amazing right now – and will continue to grow.

Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

3 thoughts on “Why is the Indian American diaspora so successful and now influential in the US?”

  1. Asian Indians in the USA: Competencies exhibited are values, ethics, yoga and with family, education and work orientation as their main pillars for contributions.

    Liked by 1 person

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