Financial centres, like delicate plants, thrive in the right conditions.
Those include a vibrant private sector, banks that direct capital based on the prospect for profit,
analysts with direct access to companies and investors,
openness to foreign people and institutions, and businessfriendly, consistent laws.
For good measure, throw in the cultural amenities that attract the sorts of employees who could choose to live anywhere.
India is not such a place. Its laws are many and perplexing; its domestic markets, inefficient and politicised.
Though saving is unrewarding, capital is still costly for entrepreneurs.
International firms are mostly limited to cross-border activities. It often scores badly on quality of life.
So it is hardly surprising that although tiny Hong Kong and Singapore are globally renowned centres of finance,
Mumbai, India's financial capital, features low on most rankings.
But the country is nonetheless becoming an essential hub for international banks.
India is often their second-largest place of employment after their home country,
and becoming ever more important for their innovation efforts.
India has long received other countries' outsourced jobs.
Some of those are unsophisticated, such as answering phones or processing forms.
Many, however, rely on Indian universities' remarkable ability to turn out engineers in great numbers,
and computing firms' ability to use them to solve complex problems.
Such tasks may be dismissed as "back-office". But they are at the heart of modern finance.
In recent years banks have become global networks that link apps on smartphones,
workstations used for sales, and sophisticated programs used to manage compliance and allocate capital.
Systems that once merely updated balances now determine financial-product marketing—
whom to send offers to, when to increase credit limits and when to adjust charges.
For banks all over the world, many such tasks are now done in India.
Even tasks that would seem to require the personal touch—a trusted adviser pitching a deal to the boss of a client firm, say
—may rely on a fact-sheet compiled by an Indian research team overnight.
The only things that cannot be done in India are client meetings, says Tuhin Parikh, a senior executive at Blackstone.
Since 2014 the buy-out firm has nearly quadrupled the amount of property it leases in India to international financial firms,
from 690,000 square feet (64,000 square metres) to 2.7m.