Gaurav Mantri's Personal Blog.

Cerebrata Story–Return To India

This post is for all my friends settled abroad and harboring the wish to return to India. I don’t mean to preach or encourage or influence them in any way to come to India. It’s a very personal and important decision considering how much time you have spent abroad. I just want to share my experience. I did not move back because after watching “Chak de India”, I started feeling patriotic or overwhelmed with “Mera Bharat Mahaan” feeling. It took us good one-two years to make this move happen.

Arguments against moving back to India

I worked in the US for 10 years from 1998 – 2008. When I broke the news of us returning to India, I got mixed reactions from our friends there. Here are some of their thoughts and my reaction to it:

Having worked in the US for so long, you won’t survive in the corporate culture in India:

I completely agree. In fact, over this weekend I was having a conversation with an old acquaintance who moved back around same time as I did and he was bitching and moaning about the work culture here. From what I have heard, there is a remarkable difference between the work culture in the US and in India.

I guess what worked for me was that I was not working for anybody. I was working for myself and folks I hired were working for me so that kind of played in my advantage. I get to decide the work culture in my company not somebody else. Right from the get go we created an environment of mutual respect and cordial relations in the company and my team members loved it and embraced it. Team members are encouraged to speak up their minds and you would be surprised the kind of ideas they can come up with.

We kept things very simple in the office: If it’s your mess, you clean it up! We didn’t (and still don’t) have an office boy sort of person in the office. If somebody wants to drink tea or coffee, they would need to make it themselves (and for other team members as well while they are at it).

India is so much polluted:

Agreed. Yes, there is so much pollution. Some people don’t have civic sense. You’ll find garbage all over the place. And let’s face it, you can’t change that. What you can do however is not be a part of it. Nobody has put a gun to your head that you will have to go with the flow. If your neighbor is throwing garbage on the street, you’re not socially obligated to do the same. In fact, you do the same things you were doing in the US and maybe your neighbor will get inspired and start following your deeds. Hey, you just made India a little less polluted Smile.

However things are changing for better. At least the younger generation is aware of these things. But you can’t expect these changes to be done overnight!!!

There are so many people:

Damn right, you are!!! After all it’s the second most populated country in the world. I don’t think you and I can do anything about it other than be a part of them.

Poor infrastructure:

Sure, you get 200 KBPS instead of 6 MBPS Internet speed for High Speed Internet connection. Sure, there are power cuts. Sure, there are more cars on the road than the road can afford. But it’s all improving. It would be unreasonable on your part to think that you would get same lifestyle as you’re used to. I think you would agree with me if you have recently travelled on any of the national highways or flew through Delhi Airport. In the last 10 years or so, things have improved dramatically towards the positive side.

It’s tough moving to India

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all peachy returning to India. It has its own share of issues (that too very BIG issues). We too had issues adjusting here at first but the key thing is that you would need to adapt and adjust.

I’ll share a story that really helped me adjust in India very fast:

A friend of mine moved back from India in 2002. I met him in 2004/2005 during one of our “vacations” to India (and at that time I was not even contemplating returning back). I asked him how things are going and he told me that when he moved back he got irritated and annoyed at every small little think people around him were doing (like driving for example) but then one day he realized that he has moved back here thus it is he who needs to adjust not the other way around. The day he realized that, his life was bliss.

This was a very profound lesson for me and I remembered and implemented that when I moved back. Yes, I got irritated when people cut the line and I used to yell at them. Sometimes they realize that they were wrong and step back, sometimes they yell back at me. It’s all part of the game.

I guess the key is


What worked for me, it may work for you

Enough Yapping!!! I guess the things that worked for me were:

Don’t leave anything behind: When I was coming, I was told by many people to keep my green card process alive so that in case things don’t work out, I can always come back. Some of them even offered to file for a new H1B visa for me. However I decided against that. It is very true that the life in the US is extremely comfortable compared to here in India and if I have an option to go back, I would have taken that on the 1st sign of problem. In fact, this was covered by one of the Venture Capitalists here in India in one of his article (more on this below). When we moved back, we sold everything so that even if we want to move back to the US, we can’t.

Come on your terms: I think it’s more of a psychological issue than anything else but I decided to come to India and was not forced (by recession or whatever reason) to come here. I didn’t feel cheated or let down by the system there in the sense that why I have to move back to India while my friends are still there. I came back feeling content that I got to spend 10 years in a wonderful country which changed my attitude drastically and positively and got an opportunity to accomplish certain things which took ages for my parents to achieve here in India. For example, my father owned his first car when I was 6 years old. I had my first car before my son was even born.

Adjust an adapt: This is the most important thing that worked for me. Without this, I would not have survived. Believe me, it will not happen overnight or even in few months. I’m still adjusting and adapting. I’m surviving Smile.

Do not look back, burn the bridges to wherever you came from

In January of 2011, I read an article in The Economic Times by Anand Daniel. He is a Venture Capitalist and had moved back to Bangalore from Boston. I think the things I talked about above, he has summarized it very nicely. IMHO, it’s a must read. You can read that post here:

I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue of moving back. If you’re contemplating moving back, what are the reasons which are holding you back. If you have moved back, what kept you here.

[This is the latest product I'm working on]