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Article by Mohan Babu

Globalisation: The India that can say ‘No’

The world might be in need of Indian IT professionals, but the recent incidents of their detention in a few countries has highlighted the need for Indian IT companies to pay greater attention to visa and immigration rules, writes MOHAN BABU

Indian IT has been gaining market share in the global marketplace for a while, much of it aided by the emigration of legions of Indian techies to destinations around the world. The nineties saw a massive outflow of professionals to the West, notably the US where our techies helped corporations prepare for the Y2K (that ended up being a non-event) and the e-commerce boom. Along the way, we also started gaining the respect of corporate data centre managers, and are now starting to command the much-needed diplomatic clout and support.

While discussing globalisation, two incidents involving Indian techies and foreign governments jump to mind. These two different incidents, set in different times, underscore the need for IT professionals and companies to be extra diligent. They also help us realise that globalisation is helping generate greater awareness.

The first incident occurred during January 2000 at the American Randolph Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, where about 40 Indians on H1 work visas were arrested and detained for the lack of proper documentation by the Immigration and Naturalisation Services (INS, now called BCIS—Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services). The programmers had been working at the Air Force installation for three years, developing an Oracle human resources application. As it turns out, there was a minor procedural irregularity on the part of the consulting company that employed the Indians, something that could have been handled with more finesse by the INS. Instead, this mishandling became a PR nightmare for the INS. Mind you, this was much before September 11, before “national security” could be used to mask such high-handed tactics. The Indian embassy in the US raised this issue at a governmental level by working with the US State Department but no “formal apology” came out of this, and the incident was soon forgotten.

Fast forward to 2003. Sometime in early March, more than 270 Indian nationals in Malaysia, all IT professionals, were herded out of a high-rise apartment building and after being handcuffed, were taken to a local police station. This time, the Indian government and embassy stepped up the heat by lodging a strong official complaint with the Malaysian government, warning such police misconduct could strain bilateral relations. This prompted the Malaysian Foreign Ministry’s apology for the arrests. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also called for a high-level inquiry into the police action, doing his best to soothe the ruffled feathers. To its credit, Malaysian media is still simmering over the incident. Magazines such as Malaysian Business are still running articles and columns (in April 2003) with titles such as “The India that can say ‘No’.” Turns out, Malaysians need Indians more than Indian IT needs them; especially to work on the ambitious Multimedia Super Corridor—Malaysia’s Silicon Valley.

Even India’s babus and politicians are realising the importance of keeping the cash rich IT industry’s spirits up, taking all steps to ease the “pain” that incidents like these cause the industry.

The IT minister recently promised that Nasscom will work with embassies of foreign countries to work on providing guidelines to companies planning to send employees to different corners of the globe. As the Indian software industry continues on its global stride, aided by the growth in the global offshore outsourcing industry, IT professionals will need to constantly travel to locales around the globe to analyse requirements, design systems and assure delivery.

The trends in globalisation are irreversible. The cost benefits are too great to ignore and Fortune 500 companies are going to continue their thrust towards outsourcing. As long as we continue to play by the book and follow the laws of local countries, we will not only continue to make strides but be respected as global IT leaders. Following the letter and spirit of visa and immigration rules of different countries is going to be a functional area that Indian IT companies will need to start paying greater attention to.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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