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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 10:58 GMT
Role reversal Brits head to India
Brits Abroad
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Dalbir Bains
Dalbir Bains: Department store buyer to Mumbai businesswoman
There are at least 32,000 Britons now living in India, according to new research - and it is the economy that is sucking them in, a twist of migration history between the two countries.

About a year ago, Dalbir Bains quit as a buying director for British Home Stores in London - and moved to India's financial capital Mumbai to open her own lingerie store.

Swapping a great underwear retailing institution for launching her own shop did not go down very well with her parents - not least because she was reversing the journey they themselves had made. In the 1960s they had left India for England to lead a better life - and to provide more opportunities to their children.

"They were really shocked and I'd say probably slightly disappointed as well," says Dalbir. "For their generation England was the land of opportunity.

"What they don't really understand is that England no longer holds great opportunities. Even though it is a great place to live in, the real land of opportunity, is India, is China. They are the progressive countries where you can really make a difference."

Dalbir believes her timing could not have been better as India's economy is booming.

Boom time for India

And it's probably the key reason why so many Britons, many of them from Asian families, are looking for opportunities.

Bombay Stock Exchange on Dalal Street
9.2% growth in last quarter
11.9% in manufacturing
14% increase in real estate
Source: Indian Central Statistical Organisation

Fresh research by the IPPR think tank, published in detail by the BBC, suggests there are at least 32,000 Britons living in India today. Property consultant Ajit Vyas is among those, having traded his life in London for one in Pune, a city three hours from Mumbai.

"I came here early 2005 when India opened its real estate to foreign direct investment," he says. "It seemed like the next best emerging market where all foreign institutions were trying to head and start placing their money."

Like Dabir, Ajit, received his share of 'are-you-sure-of-what-you-are-doing?' queries.

"It's the same old stories they keep hearing. Difficulties in setting up your own business because Indian bureaucracy moves slowly, red tape, infrastructure problems such as power cuts. But those who were in the know and had visited India in recent times told me it was the right decision."

Emerging giant, Asian tiger, global economic power. These are just some of the names now used to describe India. The economy beat all expectations and grew at 9.2% from July to September this year.

Writer Relocations, a company that helps people move to India, says it has seen inquiries from British Asians rise by a quarter in a year.

Family on the move

Yusuf Hatia is one such Brit who has decided to move to Mumbai after the public relations firm he works for, Fleishman-Hillard, decided to open in India. After testing the waters, he says he is preparing to take his young family out there.

Yusuf Hatia
In the UK I've always described myself, and been defined, as British Asian ... now I find myself saying British
Yusuf Hatia, Mumbai
"My major concerns were around the general poverty, the fear of malaria that all British seem to have - and the standard of living," he says.

"The poverty is not as bad as I thought it would have been and there is a sense of the affluence trickling down slowly to different groups of people."

But he says that amid India's economic boom, Mumbai life is surprisingly easy.

"I've found Indian people are very helpful with people like me, fascinated that more of 'us' are coming back and proud of that as well.

"Without exception, everything I am used to [in Britain] I can get in India - such is the way with global outlets and brands."

Dalbir Bains, however, misses her London life and everything English that was part of it.

"I miss my family, my friends, the dialogue, the contact, simple things like finishing work and going to a pub for a glass of wine," she says.

"You can't do that here. I miss English food and I really miss going to Sainsbury's and buying your whole weekly shop in one go. There is nothing really that compares here.

"On Wednesday I had a parcel from England and my friend had sent me a box of eight Fondant Fantasies - it was as if someone had sent me gold or something."

Seeing the dream

Asad Shan is a model-actor who moved to Mumbai earlier in 2006. Born and brought up in London, he worked as an investment banker for three years. He went to New York to train as an actor for a year and then, came to Mumbai to try his luck in the Bollywood film industry. And he is loving it.

Asad Shan, Londoner, trying to get into Bollywood
Here's to a new life: Asad Shan trying his luck in Bollywood
"I grew up on Bollywood and really wanted to pursue a career in acting," he says.

"The money I earn here is better. I get paid more here in a modelling job than I would get paid in England, especially since there you do a lot of free shows. Here the market is very competitive and at least it does justice to your talent."

Asad also says he has blended in quite well - but is sometimes surprised to find India more progressive in some respects.

"I think our upbringing in England tends to be more traditional and parents expect certain values from you, such as you can't be seen with someone or you can't go to certain places.

"Here everything is so open, you are like, wow, I wouldn't do this [in England] but here it's all happening," he said.

But some British Asians in India suffer something of an identity crisis after making the move.

"It is a strange feeling," says Yusuf Hatia. "In the UK I've always described myself and been defined as British Asian.

"Every form one fills there asks an ethnic origin question. In India, when asked what I am, I find myself saying British, but I always follow it up with the qualifier of 'I was born in India'."

And Dalbir Bains said she never bargained for feeling like a foreigner.

"I had just always thought that my safety net was India. I am an Indian and I am going to be fine. But what you realise is that you're not going back to the Punjab where Mum and Dad were born. You're going back to Mumbai.

"I never really felt like an outsider in England as a brown girl. I think people look at me more here and I stand out here even more as a brown girl than I did at home."

Not at home - yet it is home. That is India for most British Asians while the good times roll.

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