When traveling to India, one question most of my friends in the US ask is, what should they be buying to India? What gifts should they be buying to their friends and family in India? I’ve asked myself this question during my initial days in the US. I still remember the first time when I was trying to squeeze in everything possible into my suitcase, when I over packed and the airline refused to accept my luggage. I send some stuff back home, but learned a lesson. So when my friends ask what to buy from USA to India, I have a lot to say.
First off, if you have been in the US for some time and are now traveling back to India after a long time, understand that things might have changed back home. India’s growth is incredible and when you are here in the US, you don’t really know what’s happening back there. You tend to miss the trends, the new culture and social demands because you could be stuck in time.
I’ve seen this happen to few of my friends. When they arrived in USA on a student or work visa, they embraced capitalism but the idea of India in their heads froze. When they went back to India after 10+ years, they were shocked to see the difference. India had changed in her culture, looks, infrastructure and make up. Some of my friends complained about why they didn’t like the change while some struggled to catch up.
Any ways, if you are planning your return trip (or visit) to India, I strongly urge you to shake off your idea of how India would be, from the time you boarded the plane and check the ground reality. Because if you are going to buy things from USA to India, you better make sure you live up to the expectations of your folks back in India.
Things to keep in mind before buying things from USA to India
Before we get into what things you can buy to India, let’s look at some things to keep in mind.
Make a list
First off, create a wishlist of things you want to buy. This could be stuff that you wanted or think your friends might want, back in India. Go ahead and write them down, make it as extensive as possible. Go ahead, don’t worry, we won’t be buying all of these things, but it’s part of the exercise.
Split the list in to gift and non-gift items
From the main list you created, find out how many you will gift and how many you will not. You might want to separate them based on whom you will gift to. For ex: List for family members, list for friends and list for relatives.
Put a budget
Now, put a budget towards your shopping list. You know exactly what this is for, so I’m not going to explain. 🙂
Now, that you have a list for your friends, family and others you have a pretty solid idea about what you need, how many are going to be gift items and how much money you are going to spend. Now, let’s see what you should buy from USA to India.
1. Apple Macbook (Price difference up to $500)
I strongly suggest you buy an Apple Macbook when going to India, and the reasons are many.
Apple products including the iPhone and Macbooks are priced at exorbitantly high prices in India and not many can afford it. At the same time, most young folks know and understand the value of Apple products that they wish for it badly. India has a tech savvy young crowd, which uses and understands the latest technology like nobody else. Apple Macbook can be used by young folks in your family or your business friend, so it’s a guarantee. But before buying one, take care of the following points as well.
– Buy a universal power plug adapter because the flat pin charger of your USA made Macbook won’t fit in Indian power plugs. You don’t want to be disappointed later, getting stuck with a un-usable Macbook.
– Ensure there is international warranty on your Macbook, so that if it gets faulty, it’s owner in India doesn’t have to ship it back to USA.
– Find out who will be the authorized repair guy for Apple in your area in India.
2. Branded Watches (Cheaper in USA than India)
Branded watches like the ones from Fossil, DKNY etc are cheaper in the US. In India, they tend to be slightly costlier, especially for the expensive ones. For example, Fossil ME 3078 Analog watch, is priced at USD 245 on Amazon.com and at USD 284 on Flipkart.com. This price difference will be higher as you go up into the more expensive categories. If you can grab any of these branded watches during a black friday sale, you will be saving even more.
3. Kitchen Utensils (High quality stuff from USA)
When it comes to quality, US has some of the best brands available for cheap since it is the standard. Go to Ikea or even a store like Macy’s and get some kitchen utensils for your mom in India. Anything like steel utensils, ceramic vessels, small appliances are all good. The thing is, they are cheaper in the USA and you get good quality stuff. If you are going for dinner sets or baking items, even better, because you get good quality brands at better prices than in India.
4. Super Foods like Quinoa seeds, Chia Seeds
These days, you can find some of these super foods in some high quality Indian super markets but they are hard to find. I recommend buying a few small packets of these as gifts to your family and friends. They are unique, exclusive and not expensive. Make sure you buy good brands so the quality is good.
5. Electronic Gadgets like the iRobot Roomba Vaccum Cleaner (For mom)
I agree that not all electronic gadgets in USA are cheaper compared to India, but if you ignore the price point, there are some electronic gadgets in the USA that are still not available in India. For example the iRobot Roomba Vaccum Cleaner. It is not available in India as of now and will be a great value add for any household. It helps folks keep your house clean without any labor and many people will consider it a flashy, show off item (lol). You need to have wooden or solid surface floors, which is common in India. Just one thing to remember, get a plug point adapter to fit Indian electr
6. Men’s Jackets (For friends)
Men’s winter jackets, especially from brands like NorthFace are really good for Indian winters. Unfortunately, you won’t find them in Indian markets. Whatever you can find in India either will be cheaper quality or really expensive. If your native place in India has winters, then buying few men’s jackets under $30 will be a good idea. You could gift it to your friends or elders in the family.
7. Automatic Diabetes Testing Kits ( For elder folks)
If you have elders in the family back home in India, who are Diabetes patients, this can be a nice gift to them. In USA, you’ll find several top quality blood sugar testing systems that are unavailable in India. A popular brand like Active 1st will only cost about $30 on Amazon, which cannot be bought in India. This will be an exclusive item when you got to India and great value for those diabetes patients in your family.
8. Wireless Audio Headphones (Price difference up to $250)
If you have any young folks in your family or friends list, then this is a must have. Beats Audio headphones are super popular with the young folks and difficult to get in India. Beats Wirelesss Over the Ear, Audio Headphones are available from Amazon at $249, while the same headset will cost about $500+ from India. Beats, like the Apple brand is well known for their aesthetics and superior sound quality. Also every young Indian knows the brand so well, that it will be a great value add to whoever owns one. I strongly suggest buying one when you’re going to India from USA.
9. Perfumes – (Price difference up to $100)
If you are looking to please the women folk back in India, splurge yourself and grab a couple of best seller perfumes from USA. USA has some great variety of perfumes to purchase, and at great prices too. Some of them are now available in India but the price will double up. My personal recommendation is to buy smaller bottles and carry different brands rather than buy one or two big volume bottles of fewer brands. Trust me, there’s going to be a lot of demand once you reach home back in India, so carry enough perfumes. Nothing is never enough btw.
10. Sunglasses (Price difference up to $50)
Who doesn’t like to have a sun glass gifted? In USA, there’s probably more sun glass brands available than the whole world. You will never run out of options. Either visit your local sun glass store at the nearest mall or hop on to Amazon and you’ll find many top brand sun glasses available for deals. An all original Aviator type sun glass from RayBan costs only $100 on Amazon while it costs about $125 on Flipkart India. Now, keep in mind that this price difference is available only for high end, branded sun glasses, as cheap counterfeit, knockoff brands are available in India for cheaper prices.
11. Google Home WiFi system
In India to ensure blanket WiFi connectivity throughout your home or home office, it is recommended you get a WiFi system like that from Google. They ensure that your home WiFi is extended with full coverage to the entire width and breadth of your home. There are many WiFi systems available but the Google WiFi systems are eye candy and you get it at under $125 a piece (you might need the 3 pack just in case).
Bonus Recommendations (From user feedback)
- Branded bags – Those of you women who fancy an MK or Louie Vuitton bag, might want to consider purchasing one from the states while leaving. They tend to be priced higher in India.
- Lots of flat pin to round pin converters – If you are taking your electronic devices to India, you will need lot of them.
- Non-stick cooking set – They tend to be higher quality if you’re buying a good brand.
- Jackets and Sweaters – You will get a better collection in US, compared to India, but choose the brands wisely as fancy ones tend to be on the higher side.
Wondering how to ship your items when returning from US to India? Here are your best options.
Confused over whether or not you should return to India? You must read this.
Here are more discussions and related threads by NRIs like you. Please join the community!
So, what are you planning to buy?
Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC’s to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I’ve learned in life, through this blog. It’s read today by more than 150K people world over! I currently live in LA, California and visit India occasionally. Here’s my full story on who I am and why I blog. Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). Happy to help! 🙂