Thirty years ago when Indian immigrants came to Canada, they typically became taxi drivers.
Ten years ago they frequently took jobs at local factories as engineers or as site managers.
Now, when Indian immigrants move to Canada, they aspire to be business owners.
Canada's points-based immigration system has ensured that new arrivals are more educated than most second- or third-generation Canadians. Almost all of them are post-secondary graduates and many of them are professionally qualified doctors, engineers, lawyers and MBAs. Almost all of them have good language skills and a wealth of experience operating businesses. As the Indian economy has opened up in recent years, a large number of immigrants have experience working for multinationals and they have a good understanding of systems and procedures for operating companies.
Indians are known to have higher savings and in many cases they have start-up cash at their disposal.
Immigration Canada calculates that nearly 40,000 immigrants are coming directly from India and additional immigrants of Indian origin are arriving from a number of other countries with similar skill sets.
Looking for a job in their new home, especially when Canada continues to face a relatively high unemployment rate, is a daunting task. They are particularly disadvantaged if they have to retrain themselves at an educational institution for two or three years, then start again at the bottom of the ladder, essentially erasing all their prior education and experience.
Canadian business are undergoing a demographic tsunami as baby boomers - born between 1946 and 1965 - are reaching the age of 65. That generation accounts for 33 per cent of the Canadian population and well over half of the working population. According to Statistics Canada, there are 1.4 million small businesses in Canada. Almost all of them are owned by baby boomers.
In a recent study conducted by a major Canadian bank, more than 500,000 Canadian small-business owners are planning to retire over the next five years, and another 750,000 are expecting to retire by 2020. This offers a considerable opportunity for Indian immigrants to acquire businesses.
Jim Treliving, chairman and founder of Boston Pizza International, at a recent event organized by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) organization, stated that more than 25 per cent of Boston Pizza franchisees are Indian entrepreneurs. Boston Pizza has in excess of 400 locations. Indian entrepreneurs have also made considerable in-roads in the broader retail and hospitality sectors.
Many others are taking advantage of various programs through TiE, and they are setting up businesses in information and communications technology, clean tech, health care and other innovative sectors.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Suresh Madan is a Toronto-based fund manager and president of TiE Toronto. TiE, the world's largest non-profit focused on promoting entrepreneurship, organizes a number of events to help aspiring entrepreneurs start and operate new businesses. Successful entrepreneurs are matched with aspiring owners to help guide and mentor them. More than 400 aspiring entrepreneurs are currently working to develop their ventures, and more than 25 of them have already raised in excess of $1 million in funding. Some have already made successful exits.