Every year, millions of Indians migrate to foreign countries seeking prosperity and new opportunities. In one of the welcoming countries, they constitute 30% of the entire population. Yes, we are talking about UAE, which is home to the largest Indian diaspora in the world, hosting 3.5 million Indians. Over the decades, they have become a significant force in the growth of the UAE into one of the most prosperous countries in the world.
The economic boom in the UAE started in the 1970-the 80s, following the development of free trade in Dubai and the growth of the oil industry. This saw an increase in migration by Indians into the country in search of new business and job opportunities due to the high demand for labour. This opened doors for success for several Indians from various backgrounds.
The workforce and several industries in the UAE are now dominated by Indians. More than 50% of the UAE workforce consists of people from India. Out of which, 15% are professionals and businessmen, 20% perform white-collar jobs (doctors and educators), and 65% are employed in semi-skilled or unskilled blue-collar segments. NRIs own over 40,000 companies in UAE, and Dubai’s free zone alone comprises 800 Indian companies. The diaspora contributes over $133 billion (AED 489 billion) to the UAE’s economy, accounting for nearly 1/3 of the annual GDP of $421 billion (AED 1.6 trillion). Around 33,000 Indian millionaires and 14 Indian billionaires live in the UAE.
Their business organizations are very successful in their respective domains. Some of the successful Indian businessmen in the country happen to be billionaire Mickey Jagtiani, current chairman of Landmark Group, one of the largest retail enterprises in the UAE. Dr. Azad Moopen, who owns Aster DM Healthcare, which is presently ranked number 1 and is one of the most valuable healthcare companies in UAE and 4th in the Middle East. Sunny Varkey, Chairman of GEMS Education, and Poonam Bhojani, CEO of Innoventures Education, happen to be leading in the education sector that is dominated by Indians. India ranks second in foreign investments in the UAE. NRI investments in UAE are over $65 billion (AED 239 billion).
Alongside investments, the establishment of major companies, and significant contributions to UAE’s annual GDP and workforce, Indians also influence UAE’s thriving tourism industry. Most visitors to UAE come from India, with close to a million arriving in UAE every year. UAE’s current brand ambassador for tourism is Bollywood celebrity, Shah Rukh Khan, aiming to attract more Indian tourists. Several tourists even have relatives from India residing in the UAE, so they come to the country to visit them.
UAE’s diversity increased with the rise in immigration, initially by Indians, and later followed by people from other countries. Since then, embracing multiculturalism has been one of UAE’s primary focuses as the country grew to be a major hub of expats from different nationalities and cultures. The country accommodates places of worship of multiple religions, including Hindu Temples and Sikh Gurudwaras that are funded by Indian expats. UAE government’s emphasis on tolerance and acceptance of different nationalities, mainly motivated by the country’s high expat population, has encouraged more migrants and tourists.
Decades of Indian emigration to the UAE have strengthened diplomatic and economic ties between both countries. The UAE is India’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East. Following China, India is UAE’s second-most import partner and primary export partner with imports worth $28.6 billion (AED 105 billion) and exports worth $26.8 billion (AED 98 billion). India is also considering a Free Trade Agreement with the GCC following encouragement from UAE. India has the strongest ties with the country due to its huge Indian expatriate population. This has encouraged bilateral agreements, defense and cultural cooperation, and frequent visits of Indian leaders to the country.
The Indian diaspora’s efforts in UAE’s growth have been lauded by both the Indian and the UAE governments. 15 Indians based in the UAE have received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, and 6 are recipients of the Padma Shri Award.