The India that can say ‘No’
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.
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.
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.
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.