Guide to Setting up a Company in India for Foreign Nationals, NRIs, and OCIs


India, with its thriving economy and favorable business climate, is an attractive destination for foreign nationals, NRIs (Non-Resident Indians), and OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India) looking to set up a company. Whether you're a US passport holder, a foreign resident, or a person of Indian origin, this comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need to navigate the process of establishing a company in India.

Buying Shares in an Existing Business

One option for foreign nationals, NRIs, and OCIs looking to enter the Indian market is to buy shares in an existing business. This allows for immediate participation in an established company with an existing customer base and infrastructure. The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Valuation of Shares: When buying shares in a closely held company, such as a Private Limited or Limited Liability Partnership, the shares' value needs to be determined. This valuation is crucial for ensuring a fair transaction and complying with Reserve Bank of India guidelines.
  2. Documentation and Reporting: Once the shares' value is determined, the necessary documentation for the share transfer needs to be prepared. This includes agreements, share certificates, and reporting to the Reserve Bank of India, as required by the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
  3. Transfer of Shares from Resident to Non-Resident: If the shares are held by a resident Indian, there are specific requirements to transfer the shares to a non-resident. These requirements are set by the Reserve Bank of India and must be followed to ensure compliance.

Starting a New Company

Another option for foreign nationals, NRIs, and OCIs is to start a new company in India. This allows for complete control over the business and the opportunity to tailor it to specific needs and objectives. The process of starting a new company involves the following steps:

  1. Legal Structure: The first step in starting a new company is to decide on the most appropriate legal structure. The options available include Private Limited, Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), Partnership, One Person Company (OPC), and more. Each structure has its own advantages and considerations.
  2. Composition of Shareholders and Directors: Once the legal structure is determined, the composition of shareholders and directors needs to be decided. Shareholders are the owners of the company and hold shares based on their percentage of ownership. Directors, on the other hand, are responsible for the operational activities and represent the company to legal authorities.
  3. Registration and Documentation: To run a business in India, registration is a mandatory requirement. This includes registering the company with the Registrar of Companies and obtaining a Certificate of Incorporation. The necessary documentation, such as Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association, needs to be prepared and filed as per the Companies Act.
  4. Bank Account and Tax Compliance: In order to conduct business in India, a bank account is required. Banks will open an account only when the business is registered under a permitted legal structure. Additionally, tax compliance, such as obtaining a Permanent Account Number (PAN), is essential for conducting business transactions and complying with Indian tax laws.

Prerequisites and Requirements

When setting up a company in India as a foreign national, NRI, or OCI, certain prerequisites and requirements need to be fulfilled. These include:

  1. Director Identification Number (DIN): To become a director in an Indian company, a Director Identification Number (DIN) needs to be obtained. This involves preparing a Digital Signature (DSC) and arranging the necessary identity and address proofs.
  2. Shareholder Requirements: Becoming a shareholder in an Indian company does not require typical registrations like Tax or DIN. However, a valid DSC and the necessary identity and address proofs are required.
  3. Resident Director: As per the Companies Act 2013, an Indian company must have at least one resident director on its board. A resident director is defined as a citizen of India who has resided in India for at least 180 days in a calendar year. Their responsibilities primarily involve coordinating with local government authorities.
  4. Equity Ownership: Foreign nationals, NRIs, and OCIs are allowed to own 100% equity in their Indian business. This provides full control and ownership rights to the foreign investor.

Hiring an Accountant or Consultant

Navigating the process of setting up a company in India can be complex, and it is recommended to hire an accountant or consultant to assist with the process. An accountant or consultant will have the necessary expertise and knowledge to guide you through the registration process, prepare the required documents, and ensure compliance with Indian laws and regulations.

Cost and Registration Process

The cost of registering a company in India varies depending on factors such as the number of shareholders and directors, the complexity of documents, and the services provided by the consultant. Generally, the one-time cost of registration ranges from USD 300 to USD 1,500.

The registration process is primarily conducted online through the website of the Registrar of Companies (MCA). The required documents need to be prepared, verified by a Chartered Accountant or Company Secretary, and uploaded on the MCA portal. The entire process is streamlined and designed to be user-friendly.


Setting up a company in India as a foreign national, NRI, or OCI offers exciting opportunities in one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Whether you choose to buy shares in an existing business or start a new company, it is crucial to understand the legal requirements, documentation process, and compliance obligations. By hiring an accountant or consultant and following the necessary steps, you can successfully establish and operate your business in India.

Consult with out legal and financial professionals to ensure compliance with the latest regulations and make informed decisions throughout the process. With careful planning and the right support, you can navigate the complexities of setting up a company in India and seize the numerous opportunities available in the Indian market.

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