Why laid-off Indians refuse to return home
Indian professionals are not trained on the intricacies of
corporate America’s whimsical ways and find out that business
there can be as treacherous as a minefield when they encounter
the far reaching consequences of the downturn, writes Mohan
has been over forty years since the US pulled out of Vietnam,
but, some American soldiers who were there still wake hallucinating
about their experiences, grappling with the uncertainty and
ever-changing environment. Indian software professionals came
to the US looking for opportunities but as many are finding
out, it is a mixed bag.
of us have heard of the far-reaching consequences of the current
economic downturn manifesting in a spate of layoffs. Even
I have been hearing and reading stories of people having to
pack their bags and leave because their project unexpectedly
came to an end. The revered business publication, Wall Street
Journal, recently carried an article on the plight of H1 workers
and how they are coping in a down economy. The magnitude of
it (layoffs) struck me this week while talking to an ex-colleague
of mine. He got married in November of 2000 and came back
with his bride, and unfortunately got laid off in March of
this year. He has been looking for a job since then, but the
prospects seem to be bleak.
abound, but during the hiring frenzy of Y2K projects and the
dot com boom, hundreds of thousands of Indians, most of them
on H1’s, came to the US. As the projects started to come to
an end many were laid off during the first and second quarter
of this year, returned back and started looking for projects
and jobs in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Madras. The ‘US Returned’
tag and the first mover advantage probably helped them get
a number of Indians decided to stay back, taking a chance
that sooner, rather than later, the market would open up and
they would get their jobs back. However, all indications point
to the fact that the situation doesn’t seem to be abating
and it could be a while before we see any real positive signs
of economic growth.
financial hardship one undergoes, being out of a job in a
foreign country is hard to describe. Rent, insurance, food
and transportation are de rigueur and the expenses can add
up very quickly. What then makes a person stay back in a foreign
country with the slim hope that he will land a job and recoup
one of the strongest reasons (for a person to stay back in
the US after being laid-off) is family. Many of us still vividly
remember the pride and joy with which our families came to
see us off at the airport when we first moved to the US. Families
take great pride in the fact that the son (or daughter) is
working in the US. Layoff is a still a stigma, more so because
it is relatively unheard of in white-collar jobs in India.
Hence, it is extremely hard to come to terms with the fact
that one has been laid off. It is almost as if one would be
“letting the family down” if one were to return back after
being laid off. Many still think of it like having the “family
honor” at stake and they decided to stay back and look for
jobs here in the US as long as it takes, rather than go back
to my friend, he hasn’t told his parents or in-laws back home
about his predicament since he wants to save ‘face’. How long
is he willing to wait? Hard to say. I’m sure he is resilient
enough to bounce back and will land on his feet when things
get better; but until then, he is living off his savings.
So are thousands of Indians in the US.
that I have spoken about the gloom and disparity shrouding
the predicament being faced by some Indians in the US, it’s
time to look at the other side of the coin.
employers, especially to the Software Moguls who run Indian
companies, having access to thousands of capable and highly
skilled professionals should spell opportunity. Access to
thousands of world-class professionals with valid visas in
the US, available to start work immediately, unthinkable even
a few months ago is a reality. Executives with some foresight
and the ability to look at the forest from the trees will
immediately see an opportunity, since this situation (downturn
in economy) in not going to last long. Added to this is the
fact that media and the stock market has a tendency to overreact
to news good and bad and many executives, even at large companies
tend to rely on the media and the market more than they should.
Indian companies and software giants do not have this baggage.
Many of them are flush with funds that they generated during
the boom time and can afford to build, maintain and motivate
a pool of software professionals.
to this fact is the global nature of Indian software. Most
large Indian software houses have projects around the world
and can market professionals in other parts of the world too.
If they (the Indian companies) can see an opportunity in this
economic climate, they will come ahead when things eventually
start looking up. They will not only have a pool of talented
workers but will also win the loyalty of the workforce that
has seen worst times.
is an army of experienced professionals waiting for the right
break. Any takers?