As one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, India has attracted a great deal of attention from Western investors. From new economic opportunities to great lifestyle business ideas, a variety of fantastic business ideas have sprung into the minds of Western expatriates and retirees based in India.
A large amount of India’s growth can be attributed to the country’s economic liberalization – a process that began in the 1990s. Formerly a country that was somewhat hesitant to take on foreign capital, India is now one of South Asia’s easiest countries to invest in for foreign expatriates, entrepreneurs, and retirees.
Foreigners residing in India can set up a business using FDI – foreign direct investment. While India’s liberalized economy allows non-citizens to invest freely, there are a variety of restrictions on the type of industries in which an expatriate or retiree from a Western country can invest.
Foreign direct investment typically falls into three categories: areas where no foreign investment is allowed, such as communications and retail; areas where investors must acquire government permission before investing, and areas in which foreign expatriates may invest freely with few or no formal restrictions.
Expatriates wishing to open a business in India can choose from a variety of business types. These range from liaison offices – simple offices that act as an Indian outpost of a foreign-operated business – to limited companies – a fully local business that is entirely based within India.
Generally speaking, the more localized your company is, the more intensive the process of opening it will be. A simple branch office can be opened in a number of days, whereas a limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP) could take several weeks to register and begin operating.
Investment in Indian businesses is carried out by the Indian Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). Expatriates and retirees wishing to operate their own business in India must, in most cases, apply for permission through the FIPB in advance of opening their business.
India-based businesses can bank domestically – in fact, many businesses may be required to use an Indian bank account for their transactions. Liaison offices may be able to bank internationally, assuming they have no financial operations that occur in India and are merely a management and communications center.
While India is certainly not Asia’s easiest country for foreign business owners, its fast-growing economy and recent economic liberalization make it a fairly simple place to operate a company.