With a population of about 1 billion, India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. So if you are ready to put aside your prejudices and embrace a country of astounding beauty as well as extreme poverty, it could be the opportunity you've been waiting for
With roots back almost 5,000 years, the world’s most populous democracy offers a phantasmagoria of sensory experiences for the overseas worker – many of them potentially life changing. A nation of about 1,103,596,000, India contains within its borders a degree of forward looking sophistication that is the envy of its Asian neighbours, but is also plagued by pockets of breathtaking poverty.
The country’s burgeoning population (at current rates of growth India will outstrip China as the world’s most populous country in around 2050) presents a potentially massive labour force, and also an enormous market attracting most of the world’s big players. So while many of India’s rural areas maintain the surreally calm and tranquil detachment that has attracted backpackers for decades, the rapidly expanding mega-cities offer overseas workers considerable career opportunities.
Historically a country with a diverse economy, in recent decades India has fully embraced the possibilities of information technology and service provision. This has been aided in part by the high incidence of English speakers – partly a hangover from the colonial era, but also the primary language of commerce. While Hindi is the national language, India also has a further 14 official languages.
While over half the country is still given over to arable farming India is also rich in a wide variety of natural resources including the fourth largest reserves of coal in the world, oil, natural gas, iron ore, titanium ore, diamonds and uranium. The expansion of the manufacturing industries helped India achieve 7.6% GDP growth in 2005. The country’s large numbers of well-educated, English speaking people (adult literacy is about 59%) continues to help India expand as an exporter of IT related skills.
India has enjoyed a massive and far reaching rail network since British colonial times, and this has helped knit together the diverse regions of the country and build a nation with enormous economic potential. A recent inductee to the nuclear club, India is also developing an ambitious space program.
India’s rapid growth is also creating opportunities for overseas workers.
MC Srinagesh, a senior trade and investment adviser at Britain’s Deputy High Commission in Chennai, comments: “I think all the leading Indian construction companies are now faced with the problems of capacity as there are more projects than they can handle. There is an inherent recognition of having good project management skills that will ensure timely completion or even better completion ahead of deadlines. I know several construction companies have hired British expertise at the senior level.”
With its extremes of climate, sensory overload, clamour, and overcrowding, India is a destination that divides opinion. Some cannot bear the 24/7, 365-day intensity of the cities while others see in every daily surprise and unexpected sight and sensation a country of unending intrigues and interest. But for those ready to take on the challenge, India offers excellent opportunities to work on true landmark projects.
Geography and climate
Effectively a massive peninsular which enjoys more than 4,000 miles of coastline, India’s seven distinct geographic regions incorporate an astonishingly varied range of terrain. The mountainous peaks of the Himalaya crown the northern most part of the country, while the west is home to the Great Indian Desert. In contrast, the Eastern region is buffeted every year from June to October by the Monsoon rains that make it the recipient of some of the highest rainfall of any area in the world. India’s most populous region, meanwhile, is the fertile Ganges Plain.
India is formed of 28 states and seven union territories including the national capital territory of Delhi. India partially administers two disputed territories: Jammu and Kashmir, which is claimed by both Pakistan and China, and Arunachal Pradesh, which is administered by India but claimed by China.
Such varied topography brings with it extremes of climate with the south enjoying equatorial conditions while the northern extremes as they reach towards the Himalaya mountain range presenting tundra-like cold.
India’s year is divided into four seasons: monsoon, summer, winter and withdrawal of the monsoons, though those areas within the Himalaya are said to enjoy five seasons. Summer is generally seen as extending from March to June with temperatures on average reaching 40 °C (104 °F) and more during the day.
Summer is followed by the Monsoon rains, which will have reached most of the regions within their path by July.
A short period of comparatively still weather follows the violence of the Monsoons with winter following behind in November. During this period fog is common in northern India, and temperatures on the plains can drop below freezing.
The currency throughout India is the Indian Rupee, which is comprised of one hundred paise. Rupees come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. It should be remembered that it is not permitted to bring Indian currency into the country, or take it out with you when you leave.
India presents a veritable textbook of locally grown diseases, almost all of which will at the very least confine you to the toilet for several days. The most straightforward advice is to not imbibe anything that you are unsure of. Buy bottled water from only reputable sources, avoid ice cubes, washed salad etc in all but the most reliable establishments, and don’t have unprotected sex with anyone you aren’t well acquainted with. While some sort of tummy bug is almost unavoidable for even the most careful traveller, much more dangerous bugs await the unprepared or the unwitting.
Cholera is transmitted from person to person or through infected water or food and the dramatic and unstoppable diarrhoea that accompanies it can cause rapid dehydration and death. It exists where hygiene standards are low. It can also be caught through eating seafood and crustaceans that have been feeding on sewage. Medical help must be sought.
Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquito and can cause flu-like symptoms including high temperature, muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting etc. Common in urban areas this disease can also be accompanied by a rash of small red spots. Medical advice should be sought immediately. There is currently no vaccine to ward off dengue fever.
Hepatitis is rife in any country where standards of hygiene are bad. Hepatitis has many forms, not all are preventable by vaccine.
Malaria is common throughout this entire region and preventative steps should be taken before you travel, and throughout your time in India. Strong smells like perfume, aftershave and heavily scented deodorants attract the mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
Meningococcal meningitis is common only in the outlying areas popular with backpackers, but is easily transmitted from human to human in overcrowded public transport. Medical advice should be sought immediately.
Typhoid also presents flu-like symptoms and is contracted through infected food and water. Once again, medical help should be sought immediately.
While Hindus make up the bulk of the population, India is also host to a large Muslim population, Christians, Sikhs etc. The country has therefore been plagued with periodic internecine conflict, and terrorism connected to the disputed Kashmir region.
In the Hindu religion, cows are venerated and allowed free rein wherever they choose to roam be it in front of your bike, your car or over your foot.
India’s major cities are choked with people and traffic and painful interaction between motor vehicles and pedestrians is common.
India’s train networks carry millions of passengers a day in often - by Western standards - over crowded and dangerous conditions. Beware older slam door trains on crowded platforms as passengers waiting to board are often side-swiped by over keen disembarkees.
India enjoys about 4,000 miles of coastline, but swimming off the beach is often dangerous due to riptides etc.
As in any country the most vulnerable looking people in India are bound to be those of a foreign complexion who look slightly lost, painfully trusting and just happen to be burdened with heavy wallets or large pieces of desirable technology. Likewise lone females, inappropriately dressed for the area may well receive unwelcome attention. No-one should ever accept food and drink from strangers.
India has an interesting variety of animals ready to do damage to the unwary. The mosquito is perhaps the most prevalent and the most far reaching. India also suffers the most snake attacks of any country with the Russel’s Viper, and Indian Cobra being particularly dangerous. Crocodiles are common in major rivers, and clumsy or aggrieved elephants claim victims every year, though your chances of coming across a tiger are pretty slim.