HSBC Chief Customer and Marketing Officer - Richa Goswami

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According to HSBC’s first Global Indian (GI) Pulse survey, which included 854 US respondents, investments by GIs have rebounded after a 2020 pandemic dip and are expected to increase over the next three years (53%). An unexpected finding was about which group of Global Indians are making the most purpose-driven investments and why they’re doing it.  

Number of surveys conducted with Global Indians.

The report revealed the connections that non-resident Indians (NRIs) have to their home country, and why certain GIs are making purpose-driven investments to improve India’s economy and infrastructure for a better quality of life. Unlike first and second-generation NRIs who were born or grew up in India, third-generation GIs (the most physically removed from India) are investing more dollars towards social programs, compared to their parents and grandparents. In addition to investing in sustainable forms of agriculture, energy, water, and waste management, this group is also giving comparatively more money to Indian-based charities and initiatives that support in-country education.

In this exclusive interview, Richa Goswami, HSBC Chief Customer and Marketing Officer, spoke to us among other things about the primary reasons for these new trends and their repercussions for the future.

IC: What are the differences in the social and economic status you see between first-generation Indians and the current generation? Have better educational facilities led to a more secure current generation of Indians?

RG: There are several similarities between first- and especially third-generation Global Indians, but a lot of differences too. In terms of employment levels, there’s no real difference, with our research showing that 86% of first-generation Global Indians were employed – compared to 91% of the third generation. But when it comes to where they wish to retire, while 64% of first-generation Global Indians surveyed plan to retire in their country of residence, this rises to 82% when you look at the third generation, which does indicate a potential social difference depending on where you were born.

When it comes to investments too, there are both similarities and differences between the generations. While the majority of both first- and third-generation Global Indians surveyed invest domestically and also in India, the investment decisions of third-generation Global Indians are more commonly motivated by environmental or social considerations. The report shows that third-generation Global Indians are also more likely to mention Covid recovery (35% compared to 23%) when it comes to the rationale for why they have increased their investments to India in the last few years. 

What are the majority of initiatives that second-generation/third-generation Global Indians are investing in? What are their financial investments? What are their social and community-based investments? Is it land, agriculture, and sustainable practices? Please provide some examples.

RG: Our Global Indian Pulse Report showed that Global Indians are almost universally making investments of some sort, with 59% planning to increase their investments in both India and their country of residence in the next three years. The trend for increasing investments is particularly prominent among third-generation Global Indians, with 63% already making the decision to increase their investments in India, despite having never lived there. 

When it comes to investment sectors, sustainability plays a major role in the decision-making process, with more than three quarters (76%) of Global Indians surveyed (who are making investments) saying environmental and social initiatives – including renewable energy and skills development – are what they are looking at when they are investing in India. In terms of specific asset classes, property is seen as the most important investment class across all generations, both domestically (49%) and in India (43%) where Mumbai is the most popular region, followed by Chennai. However, almost a quarter (24%) of third-generation Global Indians invests in environmental or social initiatives in India – more so than their first- and second-generation counterparts (19% and 22%, respectively).

IC: What do you feel are the primary reasons for these trends?

RG: One of the key drivers of Global Indians’ plans to increase their investments in India has been as a result of the pandemic. Almost two-thirds (65%) of Global Indians surveyed have proactively increased their investments in the last three years with the aim of promoting positive change in India and supporting the country’s Covid recovery. This was particularly true among the third-generation Global Indians surveyed, with three-fifths (63%) making the decision to increase their investments in India, despite having never lived there. 

IC: For a sustainable future, are third-generation Global Indians doing more than only buying Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) funds? Are they challenging the current economic and production cycle that results in fossil fuel emissions to environmentally sound production practices, especially in areas such as agriculture and electricity generation? 

RG: We didn’t dig into this area with the survey. What I can say is that we found that more than three quarters (77%) of both first- and third-generation Global Indians said that they keep up to date on environmental or social investment opportunities. And a high proportion of those Global Indians surveyed said they try to support environmental initiatives wherever possible, but there was no difference between third-generation (82%) and first-generation (81%) Global Indians. Across the generations, our research showed that Global Indians are planning to make a range of sustainable investments in both India and their countries of residence in the next two years.

IC: With this transition, will the current third-generation rise into leadership roles in politics and communities in the US? Can they influence other Americans into sustainable practices?

RG: We didn’t dig into this topic with the survey. However, the report does look at how India’s growing reputation in the world helps to amplify the standing of Global Indians in their country of residence. And this reputation is shaped as much by India’s soft power (such as the popularity of Indian cinema, sport, and cuisine) but also high-profile individuals, and the contribution of Global Indians across the world in fields ranging from politics, business, media, and medicine.

IC: What are the future trends in environmentally-based social investing that are economically sound for the community and financially rewarding for investors/Indian Z generations (ranging from macro projects such as electricity generation by renewables to small farm-based ecosystems experiments)?

RG: While the Global Indian Pulse didn’t explore this area in great detail, in terms of sustainable investing in India over the next two years, the largest single investment area favored by Global Indians is skill development, with 28% of those surveyed saying this. This was on a par with those saying recycling (28%), and only marginally ahead of those saying solar/wind power generation (27%), electric cars (27%), and improved electricity infrastructure (26%). 

Interestingly, when it comes to sustainable investing preferences held by Global Indians in the US over the next two years, we found electric cars came out on top (34%), ahead of solar/wind power generation and recycling (both 27%) and energy-efficient housing (26%). 21% of Global Indians based in the US said sustainable agriculture and forestry were part of their investment plans in the next two years, and 20% said making fossil fuels cleaner (carbon capture tech).

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.

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Neha Kirpal

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She has worked for over a decade in print, television, and online media. Her diverse interests in the culture beat include books, music, travel, films,...