The main objective of this dissertation is to understand how and why Asian Indians maintain transnational business enterprises between the United States and India. Migration scholars now recognize that many contemporary migrants maintain various kinds of ties to their homelands while adapting to the countries that receive them. This makes transnationalism a phenomenon where social, economic, political, religious, and cultural lives of migrants span national boundaries, even as the political and cultural salience of nation-states remains strong.
I direct my investigation on three sub-groups of the Indian population: Indian immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States, Indian entrepreneurs who have returned to India from the United States (returnees); and non-migrant Indian entrepreneurs in India engaged in transnational business. In each sub-category of Asian Indian respondents, I examine their social and economic status, level and type of education in India and the United States, work experiences, migratory networks, and ethnic group characteristics as pre-disposing factors for the formation of entrepreneurial networks. These play a critical role in determining the social capital available to them for their business endeavors. I also pay attention to the changing global economic environment and Indian policy changes that affected the ease with which transnational business can be started.
Data was collected primarily through 42 in-depth interviews in the United States and in India between May 2007 and December 2007. The findings show that financial, cultural, human, and social capital shape the types of networks transnational entrepreneurs use, and how they act as sources and determinants at both the individual and collective levels. Also, I establish the fundamental importance of the relational (norms and ties) and structural (size, diversity and connectivity) aspects of social networks, along with investment policies and market opportunities in the host and home country. The findings confirm that configurations of transnational networking affect business performance and survival, an area that has received scant attention because ethnicity has been considered the main actor in the networking-performance relationship.
Prior immigration research on transnational practices has largely been directed towards a single physical location (mainly the United States) resulting in an incomplete and fragmented view of transnational experiences. My research on Indians addresses this shortcoming in the immigration literature by analyzing the process in social, economic, and political contexts along with differences in business opportunities in two territorial locations. Second, scholars tend to study transnational entrepreneurship by focusing on marginalized and resource-deprived migrant populations, neglecting the potential for study involving transnational entrepreneurship among a highly skilled migrant population. My research on educated and financially well-endowed Indian transnational entrepreneurs is a contribution to filling this lacuna in transnational literature. Finally, the dissertation makes a contribution to sociological knowledge of ethnicity and area studies, as the elements of Indian transnational entrepreneurship possess unique characteristics that make them distinctive, as it is true of various ethnic populations in the U.S.