As someone who teaches a course on the Indian Ocean, I liked reading this article
about the dispersal of Indian business interests around that region today. Here's a bit about the Middle East:
A stroll round Dubai’s gold souk, a glittering warren of shops and
discreet offices, housing bullion worth $3 billion-4 billion, points to
another specialism—trading jewellery as well as precious stones and
metals. A third of demand is from India, reckons Chandu Siroya, one of
the market’s big participants. Indians go to Dubai to avoid taxes at
home and because they trust its certification and inspection regime.
Dubai’s ports, air links and immigration rules also make it a better
logistical base than India. Dawood Ibrahim, a Mumbai mafia don, ruled
from Dubai by “remote control” before eloping to Pakistan in 1994. Since
those wild days legitimate Indian firms have thrived in Dubai. Dabur,
which makes herbal soaps, oils and creams, runs its international arm
from there. Dodsal, which spans oil exploration in Africa to Pizza Huts
in Hyderabad, is based in the emirate. Its boss, Rajen Kilachand, moved
from Mumbai in 2003. “Dubai is a good place to headquarter yourself,” he
says, adding that a “Who’s Who” of Indian tycoons has a presence. Dubai
is gaining traction in finance, too. Rikin Patel, the chief executive
of Que Capital, an investment bank, says Indian firms are raising debt
in Dubai to avoid sky-high interest rates at home...
The Gulf has seen tentative signs of Indian manufacturers shifting base.
Rohit Walia, of Alpen Capital, an investment bank, says that in the
past year he has helped finance an $800m fertiliser plant and a $250m
sugar plant. Both will be built in the United Arab Emirates, by Indian
firms that will then re-export much of the output back home. The Gulf’s
cheap power and easy planning regime make this more feasible than
setting up a plant in India. “It’s a new trend,” says Mr Walia.
A diaspora of Indian business people, and not just migrant laborers, is not a new phenomenon. As my friend Scott Levi explored in his book The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and Its Trade
, Indian firms played a major role in the economy of Central Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries, including providing financial services which extended the Mughal Empire's cash economy across the region. The same was true of Iran and the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf, where "Hindoo moneylenders" frequently appear in the primary sources.
Labels: Indian Ocean, United Arab Emirates