The Future of Money Transfers to India

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Money transfers to India are becoming a commodity as competitors all have similar cost structures and are effectively selling the same product: moving money from one bank account to another bank account in India. There may be small variations in FX rates, fees, transfer speeds, and payment options, but money transfer operators (MTOs) will need to differentiate themselves in new ways to evolve and profit going forward. In recent months, the industry has had characteristics of a price war, with some MTOs offering exchange rates above interbank rates in order to drive customer acquisition and retention. This has drastically eroded profit margins for MTOs that are now struggling to generate a profit.

MTOs will have to provide value-added services that leverage their existing customers and products in order to grow revenues and profitability. Oxigen has led the way in providing value-added services such as instant bill payments, instant gift cards, and holiday gifts as well as a unique customer experience that incorporates a shopping cart, reward points, and gamification. Bill payments command higher margins than money transfers because they provide significantly more value: the sender knows what the money is being spent on; the recipient doesn’t have to worry about picking up money or paying their bills; and they’re instant. Gifts are also higher in value and margin because they leverage the high demand products and services of trusted brands to deliver the experience of showing loved ones just how much you care about them.

We can’t share all of our plans with you, but Oxigen will be launching more exciting value-added services in the future. Here are a few sneak peaks:

  • Automated Bill Pay: Oxigen plans to enable customers to automate bill payments according to the actual amount due to each operator. Just like you can automate your bill payments for your phone, TV, Internet, utilities here in the USA, NRIs will be able to automatically take care of their loved ones’ regular monthly bills through Oxigen.
  • Transfers to the “Cloud”: pending regulatory approvals, Oxigen will be enable NRIs to transfer money into the Oxigen Wallet and, subsequently, other mobile wallets in India. Transfers to the Oxigen Wallet will be like transferring money to the “Cloud” in that the recipient will be able to use the value in their wallet as they please to: take some out in cash; pay some bills; transfer some money domestically; go shopping online; and/or take the family out for dinner.
  • Retail Cash Out: also subject to regulatory approvals, Oxigen Wallet users in India will be able to withdraw cash from their Oxigen Wallet at any of Oxigen’s 200,000+ retail locations across India – that’s more cash out locations in India than Western Union. This will make it much more convenient for recipients in India to access the cash from their received money transfer.

One other thing to look out for in general as the money transfer space evolves is Blockchain, which has already been adopted to some extent by banks such as IndusInd Bank and MTOs such as Western Union. Blockchain-based platforms such as Ripple are enabling international transfers to happen without relying on the banking system. By operating freely from the banking system, Blockchain is likely to disrupt foreign exchange rate pricing because it is not bound by the pricing set by interbank rates. Blockchain-based transfers are promising for India’s unbanked population because recipients would not need to have a bank account. Blockchain-based transfers would also be instant and, arguably, even more secure because transaction information is decentralized and generally harder to hack than the centralized banking network. One thing holding Blockchain back from taking off in India is the lack of accessibility and adoption of Blockchain-based currencies, which still must be converted to Rupees with significant costs and often hassle, mainly because the network of vendors accepting Blockchain-based currencies is still very small and not incentivized by regulators. Oxigen is keen to explore the benefits of adopting Blockchain as the market matures.

 

Amir is an accomplished entrepreneur with expertise in international business, IT, and telecom. He received his Master’s from MIT Sloan and has started 4 companies impacting the lives of millions globally. Red Herring featured Amir as one of the “Top 25 [Entrepreneurs] Under 35”. Amir enjoys yoga, kitesurfing, and travel.

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Send Money to India from USA

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Just in 2017, Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) sent approximately $69 billion dollars back to India allowing India to retain its top position as recipient of remittances followed by China, the Philippines, Mexico, Nigeria and Egypt. The $69 billion was a sharp 9.9% increase from the $62.7 billion that India received in 2016.

The current economic dynamics have only accelerated the revamping of the general money transfer process including revisiting high remittance costs, increasing daily sending limits, and streamlining the sender experience itself to cater to the highly evolved needs of the NRI population, which is the largest of any other country in the world.

USA accounted for $11.7 billion in remittances to India accounting for 17% of the total remittances received. Indians in the USA are not only the highest educated and the highest earning groups in the country but also make up the third largest immigrant group here. So it goes without saying that this is a huge, and highly competitive market for money transfer operators/remittance companies servicing this diaspora.

From our primary research it emerged that a money transfer customer’s intent can be divided into four broad categories:
1. Family maintenance – a monthly constant/variable
2. Emergencies – dependent on various factors
3. Loan repayment – a monthly constant
4. Domestic investment – dependent on various factors including the current exchange rate and tax laws

The industry has certainly come a long way in adapting to the needs of international money transfer customers. The competition is neck-to-neck and it is possible for a loved one in India to receive money as soon as a transfer is initiated in the USA. Of course, there’s a price to pay for that kind of speed, but the advancements have it possible to have options and spring to action in time of need.

With multiple money transfer operators in the market, it can get overwhelming for a first-timer to decide on what service to pick. If you’re new to transferring money to India, here are some tips to ensure that you’re getting the best deal based on your needs:

  • Security Policy: The last thing you want when you are giving away personal, sensitive information is for it to be stolen or for you to be hit by fraud.
    – Pay close attention to what the company claims to take responsibility for. Do they say your personal security on their website is up to you or do they guarantee to safeguard your details?
    – Are they using a secure SSL (https://) connection between your device and their server and does their site provide the green padlock on your browser?
    – Make yourself familiar with their security policy. It’s good to know things like whether or not they’ll call you to verify your identity so that you can be prepared and not mistake them for a scammer.

Most important of all choose a service whose security policy you understand and are comfortable with.

    • Exchange Rate: Compare the company’s exchange rate with that provided by similar companies.The importance of the exchange rate in a money transfer transaction depends on various factors. You could be transferring money to help with an emergency back home, in which case you’d be paying more importance to the speed of the transfer rather than the exchange rate. Or, you could be transferring money to your own NRE account in India as an investment, in which case you’d probably pay more attention to the exchange rate than the speed – so that you’re getting the most value for your hard earned dollars.Choose a service based on a combination of the purpose of your transfer and the exchange rate being offered.
  • Transaction Fees: Beware of hidden fees that often don’t appear initially. Some companies lure you in with a great exchange rate only to reveal at checkout that there’ll be a $5 transaction fee, which reduces the effective exchange rate significantly. Some companies have a minimum amount for zero-fee transactions. Make sure you read the fine-print and make yourself aware of the fees you’ll need to pay, depending on the amount you want to transfer.

If you’d like to avoid transaction fees no matter how small they might be, plan your transfer so that it meets the zero-fee minimum.

  • Benefits Beyond Exchange Rate: Look for the perks of using a money transfer service. A lot of services offer attractive features like promotional rates, complimentary services to benefit your family in India, discount codes, a mobile app, and more. Look beyond the exchange rate and make the most of what your favorite service has to offer to you.
    • Customer Reviews & Social Media: to gain a better insight into the company and its services, nothing speaks louder than customers’ actual experiences of a service. Remember to take reviews with a pinch of salt though. Like they say “A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world”. A good indicator of reliability is a company that responds to both positive and negative reviews about them. If a company has stated the reason for a bad experience and expressed their willingness to make it up to the customer you will know that they take customer satisfaction seriously. If they just ignore or belittle negative customer reviews, that’s a bad sign. You can also check their social media presence on sites like Facebook to learn more about the company and its customers. If there’s no activity, again that may be a bad sign.
  • Call Customer Service: If you’re not able to decide between services because of various similarities, don’t be afraid to pick the phone and call customer service. Do this for two reasons:
    – Ask them how they are different from the other services you are considering. Are there any benefits that you might have missed while researching the company online?
    A competent company should be able to give you a satisfying reply.
    – Gauge how easy or difficult it is for you to reach a customer service professional. If you have to leave voicemails or jump through hoops to get in touch with a human being who can actually answer your questions, consider it a red flag.

Lastly, remember that no money transfer service is “one size fits all”. If you’ve found a service that meets your needs, great! But, be open to new players in the space and see what benefits they have to offer. You might find a new player in the market who provides better value for your money than your current service. Remember to use this checklist with every new service you consider to transfer money to India.

Check out this money transfer comparison tool to get started on knowing the rates and fees for different service providers:

Compare Money Transfer Exchange Rates USA to India
Money Transfer Value Comparison Tool

The remittance industry is highly competitive and as you will notice below most services are similar when it comes to exchange rates, speed of transfer and instant identity verification. Gone are the days of uploading documents for proof and waiting to receive bank deposits to verify your bank account and waiting for a week for the money to reach India!

Depending on the amount you’re transferring, you could be looking at anything from $0 to $5+ based on the service you choose. Given the ease of creating accounts and completing verification you even have the liberty to use a different service every time given the benefits each offers at that point of time.

We tried out all the services mentioned in the exchange rate comparison tool and here’s our verdict:
Oxigen: High exchange rate, reward points, value-added services
Remitly: Great promotional offer, high exchange rate
Transfast: No fees for bank account transfers, no minimum
Transferwise: Flexible fees based on amount being spent
Western Union: Number of outlets for cash pick-up in India
Xoom: High exchange rate, best speed with low fees

Competitor Name Oxigen Remitly Transfast Transferwise Western Union Xoom
Offers for new customers Free Rs 500 mobile recharge + Chance to win Sachin -signed cricket bat Higher exchange rate for first $2,999 of transfers None None None None
Details required for registration Facebook account Email, recipient’s country Email Email Identity verification details Email/ Paypal account
Identity Verification Requirements Date Of Birth (DOB), Phone, Address DOB, Phone, Address DOB, Phone, Address, Recipient Country DOB, Phone, Address, Location of bank account opening DOB, Email, Address, Security Question DOB, Phone, Address
Time to complete Identity Verification 1 minute 1 minute 1 minute 1 minute 1 minute 1 minute
Exchange rate 72.72 73.55 73.56 73.97 73.56 72.38
Interbank rate 73.35 73.35 73.35 73.35 73.35 73.35
Transfer options ACH Checking/ Savings/ Credit/ Debit Card ACH/ Credit Card ACH/ Credit/Debit Card/ Wire ACH/Credit/Debit Card ACH/ Credit / Debit Card
Transfer fees $5.00 for transfers below $500 $3.99 for transfers below $1,000 $0 for ACH transfers; $4.99 for Credit Card transfers Dependent on amount being sent $2.99 for Credit Card transfers; $0 for ACH transfers $2.99 for up to $499;
$4.99 for $500-$999;
$0 for $1000+. Using a credit or debit card costs an additional $2.
Time to complete transfer 1- 3 business days 3 business days higher FX; immediately lower FX 3 – 5 business days 3 days weekend included > 100; less than $100 immediately 0 -1 days CC; 4 – 5 days Bank Next business day
Mobile App availability (yes/no) Fully responsive mobile website Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Do they offer mobile recharge or bill payment services? Yes None None None None Yes – only mobile recharges

Data as of November 1, 2018, will be updated every month.

Why Consider OxigenUSA.com for your money transfers to India?

As we mentioned above, there is no ‘one size fits all’ money transfer service. Here are some benefits of transferring money on OxigenUSA.com to help you evaluate if it is a good fit for you:

  1. Happiest exchange rate on the market: What this essentially means is that we compare our rate to other companies so you can see who is currently offering the highest true exchange rate, which is the real exchange rate of any service with fees taken into account.
  2. More than just money transfers: Oxigen provides a one-stop shop to send payments, gifts and money to India with a single check-out and always at the best exchange rate. It’s a great way to keep Sending Happiness to your loved ones in India.
  3. Reward Points on all Transactions: At Oxigen you earn Reward Points on all transactions including money transfers, that you can use for discounts on payments and gifts. So, every time you send money to India, you’re earning discounts to send payments and gifts as well! It’s a sweet deal!
  4. Infinite Reward Points Program: Earn 10,000 Reward Points ($10 value) for every friend that you refer to Oxigen and continue to earn reward points every time they refer somebody who uses Oxigen. The rewards are never ending and so are your discounts.
  5. Game of Happiness: Earn extra easy reward points and discounts for completing simple tasks ad leveling up in our Game of Happiness modeled after the famous Game of Thrones!
  6. 24/6 Customer Service with Live Chat: Have a question? Call us or hit that live chat button.
  7. Norton Shopping Guarantee: Receive free ID Theft Protection up to $10,000, Purchase Guarantee up to $1,000 and Lowest Price Guarantee up to $100 for free, with all your purchases including money transfers to India.
  8. Exclusive Offers: Some of our customers got to meet Sachin Tendulkar in the USA in 2015. YES…those are the kind of exclusive offers we’re talking about! Participate in our money transfer launch offer for a chance to win a cricket bat signed by Sachin Tendulkar.
  9. Company Culture: Oxigen’s culture revolves around Happiness – of the customers, the team as well as individual employees. We like to listen closely and come up with solutions to challenges.

How to send money to India using OxigenUSA.com

With real-time identity and bank account verification on OxigenUSA.com, you can send money to India from USA in less than 3 minutes!

The Future of Money Transfers to India

What do you think the future of money transfer to India is? Get inside the head of our CEO, Amir Alexander Hasson, to learn about FX commoditization, value-added services, cloud-based transfers, and Blockchain: https://oxigenusa.com/blog/2018/11/02/the-future-of-money-transfers-to-india/

Warm regards,
Team Oxigen

  1. References:
    https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/india-highest-recipient-of-remittances-at-69-billion-says-world-bank/articleshow/63881096.cms
  2. https://www.toptal.com/finance/market-research-analysts/international-money-transfer
  3. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-retains-long-held-position-of-top-remittance-destination-of-migrants/articleshow/63903300.cms
  4. http://www.newsindiatimes.com/10-billion-us-india-remittance-connection
  5. https://www.bloombergquint.com/global-economics/2018/06/22/india-remains-worlds-top-recipient-of-remittances-from-its-diaspora
  6. http://www.iimb.ac.in/sites/default/files/2018-07/Chinmay_Tumbe_Remittances_in_India_Facts_and_Issues.pdf
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Raksha Bandhan

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Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi is a festival observed during the full moon in August, known as “Shravan” in the Hindu calendar, to celebrate the immaculate love between brothers and sisters. Raksha means protection and Bandhan means bond; Raksha Bandhan refers to the promise that siblings make to protect each other. This is symbolized by the sister tying a a holy thread- Rakhi – around her brother’s wrist and him vowing to protect and guide her for the rest of her life. The sister also prays for her brother’s protection. This ritual is not limited to biological siblings and is popularly observed between any two people who choose to consider themselves brother and sister.

Customs and Practices:

In India, Rakhi is celebrated as a mark of the strong bond between brothers and sisters. The sister ties a Rakhi on the wrist of her brother, performs an ‘aarti‘, adorns his forehead with a ‘tilak‘, feeds him sweets and prays to God for his well being and success. The brother in turn, promises to protect his sister under all circumstances and gives her a Rakhi gift as a token of his love and affection. While each region might have a different way of celebrating Raksha Bandhan, the spirit of it one and the same.

The Significance of Rakhi

The thread that sisters tie on their brothers’ wrist is known as Rakhi. Rakhi can be anything ranging from a simple thread to a silk thread decorated with beads, designer motifs, studded jewels or even religious symbols. Because this thread symbolizes the care and affection between brothers and sisters it is considered stronger than iron chains, in holding together this bond of love and trust.

DIY Rakhi

Making personalized Rakhis is a fun activity to engage in, especially when there are kids involved. Here’s a video that shows you how you can make one yourself:

If you’re looking for more ideas to spark your creativity, this page has plenty.

The Significance of the Tilak in Raksha Bandhan

The Tilak as we know is recognized as a religious mark mainly in Hinduism.  It is considered a blessing from the Lord and a reminder to be righteous in one’s deeds. Sisters apply a tilak on their brother’s forehead for their well being and protection from evil forces.

Rakhi Thali Decoration

Traditionally, the Rakhi thali is the same as the thali prepared for a puja. A Swastika which symbolizes Lord Ganesha is drawn in the middle of the rakhi thali which contains a diya, roli or tika, rice, sandalwood, incense sticks.

The thali or the plate could be of silver, brass or simple steel. Since beetle leaves and banana leaves are considered auspicious a banana leaf can be used to hold the puja ingredients and beetle leaves can be used as a decorative element placed in the center of the thali to give it a festive look.

The History of Raksha Bandhan

There are several stories deep-rooted in Indian mythology that give some indication as to how Raksha Bandhan came to be celebrated. Here are two of them:

Krishna and Draupadi
This goes back to the time of the Mahabharata and is probably the most heard story for Raksha Bandhan. It is said that Lord Krishna had once cut his finger while handling sugar cane; while one of his wives, Rukmani, sent for help, the other, Satyabhama ran to bring a cloth the stop the bleeding. However, Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandavas immediately tore a piece off her sari and wrapped it around Krishna’s finger to stop the bleeding. Since that day Krishna assumed her as his sister and vowed to protect her and there are stories that depict how he protected her in her times of need.

Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun
Another famous story is  of how Rani Karnavati, the queen of Mewar sent a Rakhi to rival, mughal emperor, Humayun and asked him to save her kingdom, Chitoor. Even though Humayun was in the middle of another war he rushed to Chitoor. Unfortunately, Humayan arrived after the Rajputs had accepted defeat and Rani Karnavati committed Jauhar, an act of self-immolation to protect herself from the indignity of falling in the hands of Bahadur Shah. Humayan went on to defeat Bahadur Shah and reinstated Chitoor’s reign on Rani Karnavati’s son Vikramjeet.

Regional Names of Raksha Bandhan

Kajari Purnima:- another name for Raksha Bandhan as celebrated in Chhattisgarh

Rakhi Purnima:- another name for Raksha Bandhan as celebrated on the full moon or purnima or puranmasi of the Shravana month according to the Hindu calendar.

Narali Purnima or Nariyal (coconut) Purnima:- another name for Raksha Bandhan as celebrated in western India, Gujarat, Goa and Maharastra.

Pavitropana:- Some parts of Gujarat state, people celebrate Pavitropana on Raksha Bandhan.

Avani Avittam:- Raksha Bandhan (Shravan Purnima) is celebrated as Avani Avittam in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and parts of Orissa and Maharashtra

Raksha Bandhan Calendar

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon in the month of August and falls on a different date each year.  Here are the dates Raksha Bandhan will be celebrated in the coming years:

Year Date
2018 26 August
2019 15 August
2020 3 August
2021 22 August
2022 11 August
2023 30 August
2024 19 August
2025 9 August
2026 27 August
2027 17 August

Rakhi Recipe

You can use this recipe (click on the link) to make Sweet Vermicelli Kheer – a hot favorite that everybody looks forward to during Raksha Bandhan.

If you like video demonstrations better, here’s one:

Raksha Bandhan Songs

Raksha Bandhan was not lost on Bollywood. These top 5 bollywood songs on Rakhi will surely add more joy to the occasion!

  1. Bhaiya Mere Rakhi Ke Bandhan – Movie: Chhoti Bahen (1959), Singer: Lata mangeshkar
  2. Yeh Rakhi Bandhan Hai Aisa – Movie: Be Imaan (1972), Singer: Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar
  3. Phoolon Ka Taron Ka – Movie: Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), Singer: Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar
  4. Behana Ne Bhai Ki Kalai Se Pyar – Movie:Resham Ki Dori(1974), Singer: Suman Kalyanpur
  5. Behna O Behna Meri Pyari Behna – Movie: Shankara (1991), Singer: Mohd Aziz and Anuradha Paudwal

Top Bollywood movies you must watch with your siblings

Watching sibling themed movies on Raksha Bandhan can be a fun way to celebrate while spending valuable time with your brothers and sisters. Some suggestions:

  1. Josh (2000), Stars: Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Chandrachur Singh
  2. Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008), Stars: Imran Khan, Genelia D’Souza, Manjari Phadnis
  3. Fiza (2000), Stars: Jaya Bhaduri, Karisma Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan
  4. Hum Saath Saath Hai (1999), Stars: Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan
  5. Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), Stars: Zeenat Aman, Dev Anand, Mumtaz

Rakhi Quotes

A great way to express your love for your sibling is to send a rakhi quote with the gift. Here are some hand-picked Rakhi quotes to make your sibling feel extra special.

“Our siblings, they resemble us just enough to make all their differences confusing, and no matter what we choose to make of this, we are cast in relation to them our whole lives long.” – Susan Scarf Merrell

“There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother … Oh, how I hated that little boy. And how I love him too.” – Anna Quindlan

“My sisters have taught me how to live.” -George Wasserstein

“Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” -Margaret Meed

“A brother is a friend God gave you; a friend is a brother your heart chose for you.” –Proverb

“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.” –Astrid Alauda

Sending a Rakhi to India

If you’re a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) it might seem difficult to recreate the magic of Raksha Bandhan as you experienced it in childhood, but it’s not impossible. While your physical presence cannot be replaced, Oxigen USA can give you more than one way to make your brother or sister feel cherished during the occasion. Thanks to FaceTime, Whatsapp and Skype you can even see their reaction to it, live!

We usually make our Rakhi gifts live in the beginning of August and have a variety of gifts options starting from $5. There are no hidden fees or shipping costs, you only pay the amount you see as the price and for any other extra feature as specified. It’s the best deal you’ll get considering our competitive exchange rate and no fee policy.

Our sweets and flowers gifts are available around the year and make great Rakhi gifts as well.

If the above traditional gifting options don’t appeal to you, our Digital Gift Cards selection might be just what you’re looking for! Not only are they instantly delivered via email, our gift card options will have you sending them for any occasion.

Distance is no excuse this year, send a Rakhi gift to India using oxigenusa.com and earn reward points for discounts on future gifts!

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NRI Survival Guide

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This year I’ll complete six years of being a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) living in the USA, and what a ride it has been! I came here to gain an education and build a life fueled by my passions. I was terrified and excited at the same time by the sheer number of possibilities for my life, and I cannot forget the feeling of everything around me being new.

Education and profession aside, every year of this six-year journey has been a learning experience and has shaped me into the person I am today. Some of my biggest lessons have been in humanity and respect for each other more than anything else. Today I want to share some of my musings in an attempt to define for myself what being an NRI has taught me, and to invite thoughts on your experiences – simply because it’s a topic worth reflecting upon.

We Are All One

One thing that I’ve noticed more than others is that the more you separate yourself from others the more you feel and act that way. This took some time for me to figure out especially because I initially felt lost in this new world that I’d decided to implant myself into. I was uncomfortable about myself and constantly worrying about whether I was saying the right things, offending people without meaning to or worse yet making a fool out of myself. Thankfully, my MBA program had some great mentors who helped me see how even though we all might be physically different, or from different parts of the world there is a binding thread among us all that makes us one, that makes us human.

I think what cemented that for me was also my work with my MBA team mates in which we were encouraged to share honest feedback with each other in a respectful manner. In the process of doing that I learnt how we all have our pain points and triumphs, our insecurities and the things we are proud of, our experiences good and bad, and most of all our different fears. Simply being able to speak about what drove an action/reaction and how it affected another helped us remove all the fluff surrounding our physical identities and look at each other for who we are as individuals. I learnt to respect and meet the other person where they were and that forever changed the way I looked at my NRI experience. I went from feeling like an outsider in an alien land, to being able to connect with people by just genuinely trying to learn where they were coming from and sharing myself with them.

Even today, if I feel a wave of that fear welling up in myself, I remind myself that we’re all one if we choose to look beyond the fluff and try to understand why a person might be behaving the way they are. Regardless of whether that makes a difference to the situation or no, there comes a sense of peace with it that is invaluable. This has made a permanent difference to the way I communicate as an individual as well as a professional and I consider it an important part of my life as an NRI…better yet, as a human.

Life Is A Game, Play It

There have been several highs and lows during these six years, and they’ve taught me resilience. The most difficult lesson for me to learn was to allow things to flow rather than try to control them all – because like the first time you’re playing a video game you never know what’s coming at you. While one day everything might seem great and you’ll feel like you’re in love with everybody and everything in the world, the next day the world might let you know that it doesn’t like you back as much. That used to knock me down in the beginning, I’d think I wasn’t cut out for this whole experience and that I should probably go back home to the safety of my family. But, it took just one time of facing the lows and coming out stronger on the other side to make me a more confident person. I’ve had several chances over these years to exercise the muscle of resilience and today I can say that I can put on my game face anywhere, any time and sail through the difficult times. I’ve taken hits, things that have nearly destroyed my sense of self, but I’ve survived them all and here I am writing this – grateful and blessed.

This is an important part of my NRI life because of the simple reason that my stay here is currently governed by a lot of external factors that I do not have any control over. The only thing I control is how I play this game, and how I make it to the end, standing tall and proud. Going with the flow is now my life strategy.

Be There for Yourself

The decision to remove myself from the familiarity of family and come here also came with a lot of mental challenges. There was no substitute to the emotional safety that came with being around loved ones who’d seen me at my best and my worst and loved me for exactly who I was. I distinctly remember feeling dejected sometimes and having to put on a brave face and get through the day only to find out that I wasn’t feeling dejected or lost anymore. I realized that these feelings are temporary and once acknowledged I can find ways to alleviate them. Friends became my new family and continue to be a blessing in my life. However, what made the biggest difference for me in this journey was learning to be there for myself – all day every day.

NRI life has taught me self-care like nothing else has. I’ve learnt that it is ok to not want to do things, to say no when I’m tired or to go out and have a fun night if that’s what I feel like. I’m no longer burning myself out, I’ve learnt to listen for what I need and give myself that; and that has made a huge difference to what I bring to the table in my relationships as well as at work.

This six-year journey has been defining in several ways. I’m not sure if I would have experienced the same things or with the same intensity if I had chosen a different path, but I can’t be grateful enough for this one. Starting from the time I landed in the USA to today, I’ve been surrounded by loving friends, competent team mates and inspirational co-workers who’ve made everything worth it.

If you recently moved outside India to pursue an education or follow your dreams, remember one thing for the difficult (and the happy) times – Just Keep Swimming.

 

 

 Creative writer. Part-time engineer. Marketing professional. Swetha has an MBA from the University at Buffalo. She manages Oxigen’s presence online, providing value to NRIs and driving sales along the way. When not working, she’s usually creating things – either craft, writing or food.

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9 Ways To Buy Organic Food on a Budget

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Please tell me I’m not the only one who skips buying organic avocado just because it’s damn expensive. As much as I love to eat food clean of pesticides and chemicals, I don’t enjoy paying $6 for a pound of Strawberries. Until a few years ago, organic and clean eating were not really a thing. Only recently people started becoming aware of the importance and now almost everyone I know buys organic products. I’m one of those people who started buying organic only in the past few years.

One positive thing is, due to the mass consumption of organic groceries, we are able to find organic products in every single grocery store including Walmart. The more people buy it, the less expensive it becomes. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? At least we don’t have to make special trips to Whole Foods {moment of truth: I spend more time in Whole foods cafe than in the grocery store ? }.

8 years ago, my grocery budget was much less than my current grocery budget. With growing family and inclusion of organic groceries, our budget went up more than what I would like it to be. As I mentioned here, my grocery budget is $600 a month for 3 adults (including my visiting mom) and 2 kids. Once my mom goes back to India, I’m planning to reduce our budget to $500 a month and see if we can survive. Our budget includes produce, toiletries, household products, diaper etc.

Over the years, our grocery budget includes lot more organic products even though I do buy regular products in our diet. I follow the below ideas to eat organic food within the budget. These are easy-to-follow ideas that I use every single time.

Follow the Clean/Dirty Rule:

Do you know you don’t have to buy all Organic? Have you heard of Clean 15/Dirty 12 rule? I follow it almost to the T. I love that I don’t have to pay $7 and buy an Organic cantaloupe when I get the regular one for just $1.5.

EWG updates this list once a year and I share it on Facebook whenever there is an update.

Buy Frozen:

If we want to buy non-seasonal produce (eg. buying fresh berries in winter), we do need to pay a premium price. Because fresh berries are not available in all regions during winter. Instead, try buying frozen produce. They are much cheaper and equally, if not more, nutritious.

Gobble The Groceries:

Not kidding guys! Let’s use every damn thing we bought at the store. Even though I buy a variety of fruits and veggies at the store, my eating habit was more towards the fruits/veggies I like. The rest would sit in the fridge for days until it’s ready to go to the trash. Now I push myself to eat everything until I buy a new set of fruits and veggies.

My rule is to empty the fridge before I go shopping every single time.

Use Coupons:

You’ll probably find more coupons for junk food. But do you know you can find coupons for Organic products as well? Check grocery store apps, brand websites etc to find coupons for Organic products. If you’re buying something repeatedly, it’s better you find coupons for that product to save money consistently.

If you don’t find a coupon for your favorite product, write an email to the brand about how much you love their product and request coupons.

Farmers Market:

Personally, I don’t think Farmers Markets are cheap. They’re equally, if not more, expensive than a regular grocery store. However, there is a trick to save when shopping at Farmers Market. Make sure you shop at the end of the hour before they close. Vendors are ready to sell you excessive produce before they leave home. For example, I got 2 big bunches of Basil for $1 once. She asked me to keep it for free. I didn’t want to take it free, so decided to give her a dollar instead. In the end, both of us were happy. I consider that a good deal.

Mix Your Purchases:

Not all organic products are expensive. For example, you can buy 5 pounds of organic pear for the price of 1 pound of organic Strawberry (check out the picture above). So, don’t just buy one type of expensive organic produce every time. Mix up your purchases to save money.

Buy from Regular Grocery Store:

Stay away from specialty stores such as Whole Foods for organic groceries. Do you know some dollar stores carry organic groceries? My personal favorite is ALDI. If you have one nearby, do check it out. You’ll be surprised to see some wonderful finds in there.

Grow Your Own Food:

Plant your own vegetable garden if you have space to do it. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing where our food comes from. Back when we lived in Austin, I had many more plants than now. I loved going to the backyard to pick up some fresh mint.

Buy Online:

The two websites I use for online grocery purchases are Lucky Vitamin and Amazon. For a lot f items Lucky Vitamin is much cheaper than Amazon. I wait till they have a sale and coupons before I make my purchases.

Do you guys follow any other ideas besides the above to save money on organic grocery shopping? I’d love to know.

 

Special Offer: Use code BIGBASKET at checkout to get 20% off Big Basket Digital Gift Cards for your family in India – you can help them save on their organic produce shopping too! Offer ends April 30, 2018. Code valid for one use per person.

 

 


Uma is a working mom of two little kids, living in New Jersey. She enjoys saving money and writes a lifestyle/personal finance blog called Centsible Indian.

 

 

 

 

 

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Kitesurfing Vacation Thoughts: 2017 Highlights & 2018 Outlook

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I hope that you are off to a great start to 2018! I celebrated the new year with a kitesurfing vacation on the island of St. Lucia. The wind was high and the good times were flowing at Coconut Bay Resort where we stayed. After a long day on the ocean practicing my jumps, I wanted to reflect on Oxigen’s highlights during 2017 as well as outline some of the exciting things in store for 2018.

Oxigen Chief Happiness Officer, Amir Alexander Hasson, kitesurfing in St. Lucia

2017 Highlights

2017 began amidst the aftermath of the major demonetization event that occurred in November 2016. Oxigen India and our customers in India experienced short-term challenges as Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were removed from the economy, increasing the value propositions for digital cash and mobile wallets like the Oxigen Wallet. During that time, our digital payments service helped many NRIs transfer value to their loved ones in India without the need for any cash and I’m proud that Oxigen could play a role in helping people through the abrupt transition.

We launched this Oxigen NRI Life blog in 2017 and one of the first articles was about how Oxigen helped retailers navigate through the turmoil that resulted from demonetization. During the year we published several articles on a range of topics relevant to NRIs, including how to save money, Desi fashion secrets, important H1B visa changes, and NRI Diwali tips.

We also launched our exciting digital gift card service, which allows you to instantly send gift cards for major Indian and global brands to your loved ones in India. We were pleasantly surprised with how interested you were in this new service and, as a result, we kept adding more and more instant gift cards with now nearly 50 major brands to choose from. If you haven’t tried this out yet, you should!

Concurrent with the release of Season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, we launched the Game of Happiness, a GoT-themed game consisting of quests that earn you Reward Points for discounts as well as a Reward Point multiplier for advancing to the next “House” of Happiness. Although we knew that many of you were Game of Thrones fans, we were thrilled to see such a huge response to the Game of Happiness from our customers internationally. To thank you for your enthusiasm, we held a Dubsmash contest for a free Halloween GoT costume as well as a full set of the GoT Series DVDs for the first customer to complete all Game of Happiness quests.

We also signed partnerships for our nationwide business and consumer money transfer services, and launched our business money transfer service in partnership with AFEX in August. This exciting new service enables businesses to transfer money to India at superior exchange rates rather than be exploited by banks that charge wire fees and offer low FX rates. Businesses transferring money to India can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year with Oxigen’s service, and can try the service with no risk as the first transfer of $10 is free. We also introduced the business referral program through which you can earn $100 per business you refer!

We made several enhancements to the Oxigen customer experience in 2017. We introduced Internet and special recharge packs for all mobile operators. We added many new electricity and gas operators and now integrate with over 20 operators to provide closer to nationwide coverage. We made our website completely mobile-friendly, designed to look and feel just like a native mobile app in your hands.

We streamlined the registration and login process with Facebook login while also providing guest checkout as an option. We optimized the transaction flow process, removing unnecessary clicks and steps so that you can complete your transactions at blazing speeds. We made enhancements to our security measures and anti-fraud systems with zero accounts hacked in 2017 and less than 0.05% in loss-generating fraudulent transactions. This is one of the main reasons we are able to provide you with the best prices on the market for your transfers to India.

2018 Outlook

I don’t want to spill all the beans, but we do have some very exciting things in store for you this year. Here are a few of the big ones:

  • Consumer money transfers: in the next few months we’ll be launching our nationwide consumer money transfer service! That’s right, it will no longer be limited to New Jersey and Florida residents. Soon anyone in any State will be able to transfer money to India at the highest True Exchange Rate© on the market!
  • Many more billers: Oxigen is one of the few licensed partners of NPCI’s Bharat Bill Pay System in India, which has enabled digital payments to hundreds of new billers, particularly utility operators. This system also enables unique new features such as bill inquiry, allowing you to see how much is currently due on an account. We have some exciting plans for how we’re going to create a revolutionary new experience for you with this capability that we’ll tell you more about in the coming months.
  • Mobile app: although our website is just a good as a mobile app, we know that many of you still prefer mobile apps so we’re in the process of building a killer app for you, stay tuned!
  • Transfers for Oxigen Wallet: Oxigen Wallet is one of the largest and most powerful mobile wallets in India with over 30 million users, growing every day. We’re working with regulators and banks to enable you to transfer money directly to someone’s mobile in India through Oxigen Wallet. This will unleash a whole new level of convenience and speed for transfers as well as flexibility and value for your loved ones in India.

Thanks for taking the time to review our milestones from 2017 and for 2018! If you have any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear them.

 

Amir is an accomplished entrepreneur with expertise in international business, IT, and telecom. He received his Master’s from MIT Sloan and has started 4 companies impacting the lives of millions globally. Red Herring featured Amir as one of the “Top 25 [Entrepreneurs] Under 35”. Amir enjoys yoga, kitesurfing, and travel.

 

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I Was Wrong: My 2017 Savings Plan Didn’t Work

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Earlier this year I shared a three-step “foolproof” plan to save money in 2017. Full disclosure – it wasn’t entirely foolproof for me. As embarrassing as that is to admit, I can take some joy in the fact that it worked for a few people who tried it.

While I didn’t save as much as I wanted to, I was able to identify the loopholes in my personal implementation of the plan. Here’s what I learnt:

  1. Make space for the unexpected
    I’ll start with step 1 in my original plan – Setting a Realistic Goal. I used the spreadsheet to budget all my expenses and determine how much I could save this year. However, I now realize that I did not allow space for unforeseen expenses (for example, the pricing of my utilities increased), emergencies, damages/repairs or unexpected travel.My plan was super rigid and, seeing that I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person, the two didn’t work well together.

Lesson Learnt: Allow enough buffer for life changes. Lifestyle changes — like getting addicted to kickboxing for a workout — certainly impacted my savings.

  1. Savings accounts are good, as long as….
    I created two savings accounts – one with Acorns, an app that automatically withdraws and invests spare change from my expenditures. The other, a savings account with a bank, which was set up for manual transfers. They both worked well for me during the first quarter, but over time I stopped manually transferring money and just allowed the transfers to automatically be deducted from my account.

    Lesson Learnt:
    Automate all savings transfers if you’re a go-with-the-flow kind of person!
  1. Keep the secret sauce a secret!
    The secret sauce to my plan was “NOT” to dip into my savings, and boy did I ignore that rule! Since I had a very rigid plan, I found myself constantly dipping into my savings… almost every month. When I wasn’t doing that, I was blocking all transfers to my savings account so that the money would be available for immediate use. The only upside to all of this was that I wasn’t turning to my credit cards for the extra expenditure and was using the money that I saved.

Lesson Learnt: Forget your passwords, delete those apps, make it difficult to withdraw from your savings… or enroll in the army to cultivate a rigorous level of discipline!

So there it is, everything I’d do differently next time around!

Looking back, I’ve had a great year. I tried a bunch of new things, achieved some personal goals and experienced growth in leaps and bounds. While not everything went as planned, I’m now raring to go back to the drawing board to improve my savings plan for 2018.

How did your year of savings go? Do leave a comment below!

 Creative writer. Part-time engineer. Marketing professional. Swetha has an MBA from the University at Buffalo. She manages Oxigen’s presence online, providing value to NRIs and driving sales along the way. When not working, she’s usually creating things – either craft, writing or food.

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How to Legally Transfer Money to India as a Business & Get Better FX Rates*

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Did you know that certain money transfer services, like Xoom/PayPal, are only for individuals and not businesses where as there are other services, like OFX, which are only for businesses and not individuals? At Oxigen, we give you the best of both worlds and also make sure that your money transfers are 100% legal.

One might say, “But I transfer money from my US bank account to my Indian bank account using a money transfer service for individuals and then make business-related payments from my Indian bank account”. Although you’re not alone – in fact, our market research shows that many NRIs are doing this – we’re pretty sure that this flow of funds is not compliant with law if the money transferred to India is ultimately for business reasons, e.g. paying a software development firm for engineering work or paying a landlord for rent of a commercial property.

One might then say, “But everyone does it, like speeding on the highway. I won’t get caught”. That may be true, however, you could be at risk of penalization in the event that your personal transfers to India are determined to be for business purposes. For example, in the event that you were audited by the IRS after filing your tax return, your transfers to India could be exposed and reported to the Indian government.


“Fair point, but what should I do? Isn’t starting a company a big hassle and expense?”, one may ask. Contrary to popular belief, starting a company in the US is actually quick, easy, and affordable. The government has created a very convenient corporate structure for individuals to have their own one-person companies without requiring a separate tax return, overhead, and professional services: the Limited Liability Corporation or LLC for short. Costs vary by state, but starting an LLC costs less than $1,000 and can be done in a day or two online. https://howtostartanllc.com/ provides a good online guide for starting an LLC, where you can just select your state of residence and it tells you how to proceed accordingly. You can interact directly with your state government’s website to form the LLC or, for a fee, you can use a service like LegalZoom.com or IncFile.com to manage the process for you.

What all can an LLC do for you?

  1. An LLC provides you with a shield for (almost) all liabilities associated with your business activities. For example, let’s say you sell a mobile app online and one of your users claims to have an injury resulting from your app. If you don’t have an LLC (or other corporate structure), then the user sues you as an individual and your personal assets may be at stake; whereas if you have an LLC then the user would sue the LLC and your personal assets should be protected – there are some things that corporate structures do not protect against such as fraud (more on that, here).
  2. You could make use of money transfer companies that only serve businesses, and, in the case of Oxigen, take advantage of our superior business money transfer rate. Today, for instance, Oxigen’s FX rate for individuals is Rs 63.36/$1 whereas for businesses it’s Rs 65.37/$1, a difference of over 2 Rupees per Dollar!
  3. Lastly, and perhaps even more importantly, with an LLC you should not be at risk of legal problems if you are transferring money to India for business reasons as an individual since it would be the LLC transferring the money, not you as an individual.

I have an LLC and have transferred money to India through Oxigen using the business money transfer service – and it works great!

In short, if you transfer money to India for business reasons, you should be doing it through a corporate structure. If you’re not using a corporate structure, you should consider setting up an LLC to not only protect yourself, but also to take advantage of better rates and services offered only to business clients.

Try us out for FREE: Send your first business money transfer to India on us.

* Please note that this article does not provide any legal, tax, or accounting advice and that the author is not liable for any claims, damages, costs, or other factors resulting from a reader’s review of the article. Please consult an attorney or accountant if you would like advice on the subject matter described in the article.

 

Amir is an accomplished entrepreneur with expertise in international business, IT, and telecom. He received his Master’s from MIT Sloan and has started 4 companies impacting the lives of millions globally. Red Herring featured Amir as one of the “Top 25 [Entrepreneurs] Under 35”. Amir enjoys yoga, kitesurfing, and travel.

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Missing Diwali in India? Celebrate NRI Style!

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Diwali is in a few days and I can’t stop thinking about how the festival has evolved over the years. When I was a child, we used to go to our grandma’s house where our extended family would come together and celebrate the festival. The day would start with Ganga Snanam and prayers to God before we could even touch the sweets. I enjoyed watching crackers more than trying one by myself, but I had enough people around me who loved bursting crackers.

After moving to USA, Diwali had become so mundane and… blah. The first few years were tough especially when the Diwali day was nothing more than just another day. I missed my family more during festival times and Skype calls sometimes just made it worse.

After having kids, I realized that there is a reason why we decided to live in this country and, instead of cribbing, why not make the most of what we have? In the past few years, our Diwali celebrations have improved in such a way that my family was impressed when they visited us during one Diwali. Here are some ways NRIs can celebrate and enjoy this important Festival of Lights:

Send Diwali Cards to Friends and Family:

Receiving physical cards from our loved ones is much more exciting than an getting another email. When I was a child (yikes, am feeling really old when I say this J), I used to write greeting cards to my cousins and friends. I’d go to the store, pick the ones I like, write messages in my own handwriting, put a stamp and send it to friends and family.

People still do it for Christmas over here, right? Why not combine both and recreate the tradition for Diwali now?

Take a family portrait, print a Diwali greeting card with a family portrait and send to friends and family. If you have big kids, involve them in the process and make them write messages to their extended families. Post them ahead of time for them to receive it in time – hurry!

Take the Day Off and Celebrate with Close Friends:

Team Oxigen at a Diwali Celebration

For NRIs, friends are more of a family away from family. Not all of us are blessed with close families living nearby. Use this occasion to meetup with your close friends – even if they’re not Indian, why not introduce them? I still remember one special Diwali celebration couple of years back. One time, we all met at our friend’s house, cooked elaborate meals, played all day long and ended the celebration by watching an Indian movie in a theatre. If you have younger kids, it might be difficult to do all of this in one day, but at least meet with your close friends and celebrate in a way that works for you.

Remind them to Send Treats from India:

My family has been sending Diwali bakshanams (foods) from India and it’s something we look forward to every year. Not that we can’t get these things over here, but when we receive gifts from our loved ones from the homeland, it becomes very special. In my case, my whole family lives in India except me. We all miss each other and this package of clothes and bakshanams is something that makes my festival day brighter. Now even my kiddo looks forward to the package from his paati (nana).

Send Gifts to Family in India:

It goes without saying: send gifts to your immediate family to make their festival of lights even brighter. We all get excited and happy when someone thinks about us and sends gifts. Why not make our family happy by sending Diwali gifts to show them how much we still care?

You can find great deals on Diwali gifts over here: https://oxigenusa.com/send-diwali-gifts-to-india-2017 and you can use my discount code, “UMASGIFT”, for a 15% discount on Diwali gifts and instant gift cards!

Diwali Decorations:

In our house, decorations start from October. First Diwali, then Thanksgiving and it ends in Christmas. (Last year, our son wanted to keep the Christmas tree till February. That’s another story for another time.) Personally, I am all about DIY creations and Pinterest has lots of ideas on Diwali DIYs. Even if you don’t have time or patience, you can buy some Diwali themes decorations from ETSY. Even just artificial thorans that we find in Indian stores can give a festive touch to your home.

Nearby Diwali Events:

Diwali Celebrations at Times Square, NY

Nowadays, multiple Diwali events are happening in the city where I live. A regionally-specific one, Diwali Mela (search Diwali under Events section in Facebook) and Temple Mela are some examples. Almost all of the time, they end the celebration with fireworks. And these events are always during weekends. The good thing is, this event is for the whole family and no one gets bored by attending a Diwali mela. My personal favorite is watching dance performances, while my husband’s favorite is hitting all the food stalls 🙂

Although these ideas are not equal to celebrating the festival with all our extended family in India, we still can create some special memories with our own family if we plan ahead and try the above ideas. My first kid is 3 years old and is starting to understand festivals and special occasions now. I can’t wait to create some special memories again during this Diwali!

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali, no matter where you are!

 

 


Uma is a working mom of two little kids, living in New Jersey. She enjoys saving money and writes a lifestyle/personal finance blog called Centsible Indian.

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The Desi Blend

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To me, one of the biggest perks of being Indian-American is the clothing. I love having a wardrobe that consists of ethnic-wear and western-wear. Let’s be honest. One is never enough, but both combined? Perfection.

While I adore the dresses, footwear, and multi-functional tops I get in the States, I have to admit that my wardrobe would feel empty without all the colors, varieties, and prints that ethnic-wear brings. I’m someone who, no matter the occasion, adds a desi twist to my outfits.

Adding unique pieces to your wardrobe will make picking outfits in the morning more fun and compliments all the more regular (and who doesn’t love compliments?). Say goodbye to your standard gray, black, and blue outfits and hello to outfits that pop! I want to show you guys easy ways you can integrate your favorite desi pieces into your everyday wardrobe!

The first and easiest way to start is with some jewelry. Indian costume jewelry is some of the best-designed and most beautiful jewelry in the world. Even though at first I was hesitant to add such bold pieces to my regular outfits, once I started, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. Jhumkas are eye-catching and it’s easy enough to buy one of each color when you’re in India.

Ornate necklaces already have an “in” because they can be worn as fashion-forward statement necklaces (except you won’t have to buy one from J. Crew for over $100). And of course, I cannot forget about churis. The easiest ones to accessorize with are the metallic gold and silver churis, which go with pretty much everything. You can wear three or four at one time or the whole set if you’re feeling bold. I prefer the whole set.

Kurtis and kurtas are great for those days you want to show off your desi side! Kurtis, of course, look great with jeans rolled up to the ankle and some cute ankle-booties. Kurtas, preferably without a slit, are a perfect pair with leggings and black booties. Kurta with khadi print? Even better. Add a little kajal and you are ready to go!

Last, but not least, are scarves! Indian scarves are one of my wardrobe staples. I cannot live without them. Two or three days out of the week I am wearing a scarf I picked up on one of my summer trips to India. My favorite is one from Chandigarh that I take with me wherever I go. Indian scarves have indisputably the prettiest designs and can be paired with any outfit, whether it is jeans and a t-shirt or a dress. When it is cold eight months out of the year, like it is in New England, scarves are a lifesaver! Pro-tip: Get two to four that you can rotate throughout the cold months. These scarves also tend to look great in photos.

When you’re going out, don’t be afraid to try a bold look! Especially if you are going to be wearing a solid-colored dress, accessories will help pull it all together. Big jhumkas or kundan earrings will draw attention to your face. Ornate necklaces also work, although I would recommend them more for a dinner or formal gathering rather than for going out dancing.

What about work-wear?  Don’t be afraid to add an eye-catching scarf to your outfit, especially in a more casual work environment. It pairs great with a sweater or even a button-up if styled correctly. If you work somewhere more formal, a neutral-colored kurti under a blazer with work trousers is definitely appropriate. You can still add some costume jewelry, but aim on the smaller side!

Have fun accessorizing with your desi pieces!

Thanks to Priya, Divya and Pustika for contributing their images. If you would like to add your unique desi blend to this blog, email happiness@oxigenusa.com.

 

 

Star social media marketer, avid traveler and DIY enthusiast, Aishani holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the Boston University and interned for Oxigen in 2015.

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