The French community in India consists mainly of Indian citizens of French ancestry who are descended from former French settlers, and colonists who settled in India since the 17th century, as well as recent expatriates from France.
The French in India are an artifact of the French presence there, which began in 1673 with the establishment of French India and continued until 1962 when the French territory was formally transferred to India. The French presence was always minor compared with the British presence, and the French in India were generally not a significant portion of the population.
There were 9,950 French nationals residing in India in 2013. Nearly all are in the Union Territory of Puducherry in southeastern India (11,726 individuals in 1988), with much smaller numbers in Karaikal (695 individuals), Mahé (50), Yanam (46), and 342 elsewhere in India. They form a small minority, accounting for less than 3 percent of the present population of Puducherry.
Today, Pondicherry still has a community of French people living in the city and French is also an official language. There are 6,500 French people registered in South India, and of these about 5,500 are in Pondicherry. The French Indians are the wealthiest group in Pondicherry (aside from those running the Aurobindo Ashram), deriving much of their income from pensions (some 20 percent are retirees), Social Security, welfare, and other programs of the French government. They are also entitled to emigrate to France, although few do so and the French government does not encourage the practice.
French companies in India are present in various sectors such as energy, IT, environment, automobiles, traditional manufacturing industries like St Gobain, and engineering. They also have exporters of fish and other seafood, textiles, leather and luxury goods. L’Oréal has a presence in India, and Louis Vuitton has taken a stake in Hidesign in Pondicherry.
The French community in India is a consolidated group, brought together by a number of different organizations that aim to promote French culture in India. The French Club of Bombay is an organization that unites French speakers living in the city. The club meets at different locations in various parts of Mumbai so that meetings are conveniently located and have a good attendance.
In February 2015, the Indo French Senior Citizens Association staged street protests in Pondicherry to protest against denial of the French nationality and voting rights derived from the "treaty of cession" of French India territories, which guaranteed continued French citizenship to individuals whose birth and nativity certificate had been registered during the French India regime.
The magnificent statues of Joseph François Dupleix and Joan of Arc, the warrior saint of France, tell about the significant French influence on the history of the place. A fascination for the French language and French culture is very common. Many French tourists visit Puducherry out of curiosity and because it feels familiar to their home country to a certain extent.Abhishiktananda (born Henri Le Saux) - French Benedictine monk
Mirra Alfassa - also known as "The Mother"; spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo
Yvonne Artaud - French educator, ethnologist, psychologist and artist
Andre Beteille (born 1934) - Indian sociologist
Pierre Ceyrac - French Jesuit priest, engaged in charitable work
Christabel Chamarette - Senator for Western Australia (born in India and is of French Huguenot descent)
Alain Daniélou - French historian, intellectual, musicologist and Indologist
François Gautier - writer and journalist based in India
Catherine Grand - wife of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, the first Prime Minister of France
Maïna Kataki - founder of the charity Samarpan Ashram
Kalki Koechlin - Indian actress
Jules Monchanin (known as Swami Paramarubyananda) - French Catholic priest, monk and hermit
Pavitra - early disciple of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother
Satprem - author
Jenny Shircore - British make-up artist
J. R. D. Tata - pioneer aviator and businessman, former CEO of Tata Sons (1938-1991)
Simone Tata - chairperson of the Trent Limited; of Swiss French origin