NRIs Returning to India

Updated: February 17, 2013   (Disclaimer)      Print    Contribute to this guide

Before you leave

Before you leave your country of residence to return to India, ensure that you have taken care of a few critical things.

  • Wire transfer: Make sure you have a functioning wire transfer setup for transferring money from your country of residence to India. Some of the foreign banks require in-person verification for the first time you make a wire transfer – so you may not be able to set this up after you have moved to India.
  • Bank accounts and credit cards: You may want to leave some bank account open in your country of residence. Do make sure to make arrangements with your local banker so you can close the account when ready without needing to personally visiting the bank. Do the same for a credit card.
  • Foreign address: Leave some friend’s local address on file along with your India address for all the services and accounts that you plan to leave open. It will make correspondence easier.
  • Investments: Make sure you have channels set up to manage your overseas investments. Several sites block their usage from foreign IPs and do not allow foreign addresses on their files. Depending on the duration of stay in foreign country, you will fall under one of several different categories for tax purposes in India (for example, NRI, RNOR, resident etc.). You should do your homework on these well in advance so you can plan out your strategy for timing transfer of your savings to India.
  • Foreign phone: Magicjack plus and vonage are great options of keeping a US phone number when you are in India. Similar services may exist in other countries too. While it is easy to make international phone calls from India, it will be hard to make people in foreign country make international calls to you. So, retaining a foreign phone number will really come in Handy.
  • Supplies: Do not expect the quality of products in India to match those you get in western countries. Same brands with same packaging typically contain poorer quality products in India. Several of your favourite products may not be easily available (do not believe what your uncles tell you, it is not true that “India me ab sab milta hai.”). If there are products you really like or need, get a year’s supply of it. This will give you sufficient time to find alternatives in India that work for you.
  • Once you have moved to India, there will be a lot of things to take care of (like renting a house, opening bank accounts, buying car etc.). Do not worry about those at all before your move. There is little you can do for these sitting in foreign land, so no need to worry about these or researching about these. You will be able to take care of these things much faster and efficiently once you are in India. Just make sure you have some temporary accommodation and access to funds when you are in India. Get help from your social contacts for settling in.

Settling down in India

A lot of things that you will read in next few sections might seem cliched and rhetorical. The impact and reality of some of these cliches associated with India will only dawn upon you once you face them repeatedly. The goal of sharing them here is to better prepare you for these.

  • Rent a house as close to workplace as possible, at least initially. This will help you prevent lot of pain and misery on a daily basis.
  • Keep a big water container / loft tank at home to be prepared for water supply interruptions.
  • Initially, get a prepaid mobile phone line
  • Get a prepaid USB dongle for internet backup (the one that works in your area! Don’t just go by the reputation of the company – sometimes BSNL works best in one area while Reliance in other…if all are equal then Tata Docomo is really the best in billing clarity (no hidden charges etc. ) as well as service.


Initial setup

Once you have moved to India, plan to give yourself at least three to four weeks to take care of initial set of things like renting a house, opening bank accounts, credit card, PAN, driving license, phone, internet, cable, furniture, vehicle, appliances etc. It will be good if you can come to some agreement with your employer so you initially get time to take care of these things. If you get too busy with work too soon, these things will keep coming back to haunt you repeatedly and you will end up wasting more time overall in the long run. Also getting leave with employer is relatively difficult (unless it is a MNC even then the work culture is very different in India from in the same company in U.S. so getting leave and holidays are frowned upon). 

  • Renting a house: Most big cities are coming up with luxurious housing societies. You will easily find flats with uninterrupted power supplies, fast internet, club house, gym, swimming pools, coffee shops etc. Inside such gated communities, India looks different. Until you settle down, find a house close to work – this will save you a lot of pain and misery on a daily basis and make your transition to India smoother. Make sure you have easy access to some good hospital, bank, grocery store etc. nearby – essentially, short commute should be a chief criteria in house selection, at least initially (you will experience a very different India this way)
  • Commute: Until you get comfortable driving, use public transportation. One great option is 8 hr 80 km cabs which come with a driver and are reasonably priced (TODO – how can people find these). Several cities have reliable taxi services that you can book via phone or online (Meru, easy cabs, wings etc.). Auto rickshaws are also safe in most cities – but you may have a tough time bargaining for a reasonable price.
  • Going online: Chances are that you are used to using internet extensively for everyday activities. While India is just getting warm to using internet beyond emails, chats and social media, there are several decent online resources currently available. Most banks provide a decent online access. See the resources section for a list of popular websites in India.

Interacting with People

  • Shops: Unless there is a sound reason not to, bargain for the price. In a country where most payments still happen in cash, insisting for receipts is a must – it will prevent you from getting into payment related disputes later. Take a picture of the receipt on your phone so keep a digital copy for easy access. Make sure you keep some leverage until the final installment of service / product has been received and verified – keeping part of the payment on hold generally works. Be a good citizen – carry your own bags when shopping. Now in some places plastic bags are charged from Rs. 2 to Rs. 12 so you can keep your own bags in car or bag.
  • Services: Due to several factors, there is a high chance that the agent / service guy will not show up at the appointed time. Everything, including services, is generally in greater demand than the supply. Even if this is something you are paying for, be prepared to make multiple calls of reminder. There is no point in losing your temper over people not honoring time commitments – most will not see why you would make a fuss about it. Just as when shopping, bargain, insist for receipts and keep some leverage. Be pleasantly surprised if you get to deal with a really knowledgeable and accountable person. Also, do not expect people to say “I don’t know”, even if they really don’t know something. One skill to learn is to keep finding alternative people. Just Dial has been a great service over the phone (also over the net – but better works on phone) for finding information about supply, service etc. For e.g my A/C repair person was not taking my calls (typically method people employ instead of saying no) finally called Just Dial Service (please check the common no. by going to the website justdial.in) and give them your mobile – they will give you list of people in your vicinity as well interested people will start calling on your phone to get your order. This works best as they really want to get your work done. Tomorrow if the same person doesn’t pick up your phone you can again call Just Dial and start the same cycle.
  • Agents: In India, you will need to get used to dealing with telemarketers and agents. You will deal with agents when renting or buying a property, managing a bank account, buying a health insurance and almost everything else. Do not expect these agents to give you accurate information. Due to lack of knowledge or malicious intents, these agents will mislead you. Do make sure you verify the provided information from an alternative reliable source before action on it. Simply ignore all telemarketers – trust us, you will not miss out any any great service or plan by ignoring them altogether. Register with DND to reduce the calls you get from them.
  • Lines: Line cutting is still fairly common, and many places may not have any kind of line discipline. In public places, be confident and assertive. Also be prepared to not get any personal space when standing in a line. Don’t loose your temper and start lecturing people. If you feel very strongly say once that we all are in line if it works..it works…otherwise just start doing the same…It is absolutely foolish to pick up a fight (there will be no effect, and you might end up facing a hoard of people who will simply take out their frustration of being poor on you for being NRI or rich or something).

Utilities

  • Water: It is well known that India has a serious water crisis. The reality of this crisis will come upon you once you move back to India. Many large and posh residential complexes in several cities rely on water tankers as their primary source of water. Be sensitive to India’s water shortage – be a good citizen and use water sparingly. Buy a big container / loft tank for water backup to be prepared for interruptions in water supply.
  • Electricity: Power cuts are common almost everywhere in India. You will need an inverter. Power fluctuations are also common – most inverters also act as surge protector. If you are not sure about your inverter’s surge protection capability, you should plan to get dedicated surge protectors for television and fridge.
  • Garbage disposal: It is hard to find garbage bins in public places. One idea to prevent yourself from littering is to carry some small plastic bag when going out. This will help you collect your trash without hassle until you can locate a garbage bin.
  • Phone: Landlines in india are cheap, reliable and easy to get. Mobile phone services are less reliable than in the western world, with more dropped calls. There is no network decisively better than the other – just get the one that seems to be used by people around you. Get a prepaid phone line initially. These are easy to change and disconnect. You can recharge them online. Landlines nowadays are also given by private companies and normally you won’t require them but sometimes they come along with our DSL connection so you can keep it for emergencies etc.
  • Internet: You can easily get broadband speeds of 2mbps in big cities. Internet is reasonably fast in India. Reliability can be a problem in some locations, especially places with frequent power cuts. As a backup, you can also plan to get a prepaid USB dongle. Dongles run significantly slower than broadband, but come in really handy when you are travelling or when your broadband connection is down. Keep in mind that the 3G coverage in India is very sparse – so do a thorough research before getting 3G

Online Resources

Foreign site India equivalent
amazon.com flipkart.com, junglee.com
maps.google.com maps.google.com, mapmyindia.com
yelp.com zomato.com
tripadvisor.com tripadvisor.com
hotels.com makemytrip.com, via.com, cleartrip.com,goibibo.com
google.com google.com, justdial.com

Related Guides

Tax residency status
Living in India with Green Card
US Exit tax


Leave a Comment