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Article by Mohan Babu


Why laid-off Indians refuse to return home

Most 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 Babu

It 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.

Most 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.

Reasons 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 job.

However, 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.

The 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 his expenses?

Perhaps 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 India.

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.

Now 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.

For 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.

Added 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.

There is an army of experienced professionals waiting for the right break. Any takers?





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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