Jain Temple

Hot Spots

India Links
Call Home


Art & Culture
Book Shelf



About Us

Contact Us
About Us

Article by Mohan Babu

It’s homecoming time for Indian IT pros

Indian IT companies should aggressively recruit US-based professionals who are disillusioned by the whimsical ways of corporate America, writes Mohan Babu

The strength of Indian IT industry has been our people - teeming hundreds of thousands of qualified programmers, software engineers, designers and analysts that we unleashed on the global community. During boom-time, not so long ago, many of them joined the HTNRI (hi-tech non-resident Indian) brigade. The timing is perhaps right for us to welcome them back into the fold.

Articles on Indian IT industry, especially ones that talk about the strategic direction, generally end up harping on the lack of ability of Indians to move up the value chain. This is a favorite topic for authors, senior professionals and thinkers. The fact is, in spite of all attempts, decades after we emerged on to the global IT scene, Indian hi-tech giants haven’t been able to move up the value chain. Solution to this problem, which would guide Indian IT companies, seems to be elusive. The slowdown in the west has muddied the water further, leaving everyone in a reactionary mode.

The problem...
The US economy is reeling under a slowdown. Greenspan (the revered US federal bank chairman), who wanted to put the brakes on an irrationally exuberant economy, managed to crash-land it. Reacting to this slowdown, US managers are wielding the ‘layoff-axe’. Cost cutting has become the new mantra, with all but the most essential IT spending, taking a hit. This slowdown is sending ripples around the globe. The future strategy of Indian IT industry — that depends on US for over 60 percent its business — looks murky.

Indian software industry, which had got used to enjoying double (even triple) digit growth rates, is getting a jolt of reality. An industry that was content to match an abundant supply of qualified technicians with an insatiable demand from the global market, is seeing the ground shift beneath. Many of our companies that went to the international stock markets for financing and recognition are having to explain a slowdown, that they themselves are finding hard to fathom, to their global investors.

Most young executives who came on the scene riding on a wave of decades long growth are finding themselves at sea. Even software giants like Wipro, Infosys, Satyam, TCS et al, sitting on piles of cash, are hesitant to extrapolate a strategy that would help them see through the maze. Needless to say, in their quest to stay afloat, these companies seem to have shelved plans to move up the global value chain. At least for now.

Indian software companies are not alone in this downturn. Another group that is equally hard-hit is the high-tech NRI (Non Resident Indian) community, whom I shall call HTNRIs. Most HTNRIs across the globe have a similar background — middle-class, born and educated in India. Chances are, they joined an Indian consulting house for a few years, before migrating to the US, UK, Canada, Singapore and other corners of the globe. It would not be presumptuous on my part to say that they were suckered into becoming HTNRIs by simple demand-and-supply economics; and, although most of them knew that the risks-and-rewards go hand in hand, they seem to be recoiling to the change in market conditions like a deer caught in a headlight. Many are experiencing, perhaps for the first time, the affects of losing a job along with the uncertainty of having to start afresh. They are taking a hard look at their lives and careers, and are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Instead of trying to look at the silver lining and preparing for the next wave, both sides of the camp — Indian companies and HTNRIs — seem to be content to throw up their hands in the air. Reminds one of Indian farmers waiting for monsoon?

I would be preaching to the choir if I were to reiterate the basic law of economics and stock market — what goes down would go up. Brings us to the question, should the Indian IT industry be huddled in a reactionary mode? Shouldn’t we be proactive?

The solution
The reaction to this slump will determine our growth trajectory. Indian IT companies should not only position themselves to emerge successfully from the slump but should be in a position to move up the value chain. While the global community is reacting to the slowdown, we should be building on our strengths. The strength of Indian IT has been our people — teeming hundreds of thousands of qualified programmers, software engineers, designers and analysts that we unleashed on the global community. During boomtime, not so long ago, many of them joined the HTNRI brigade. The timing is perhaps right for us to welcome them back into the fold.

Aggressively recruiting HTNRIs during this downturn may be one of the best strategic moves that Indian IT houses could make. HTNRIs, who are increasingly growing disillusioned by the whimsical ways of corporate America (or UK or Singapore...) may be open to reviewing their career trajectory, not because of any patriotic fervour but because of growth opportunities that could ensue. A win-win proposition if there was one.

Going global thinking Indian
Many, if not most HTNRIs who are permanent residents of US or UK and other countries still have strong ties with India, and probably started their careers working for Indian software houses. Indian work and corporate culture is not foreign to them. Along with an exposure to the workings of complex IT systems, many of them have had an opportunity to build strong business knowledge, managing and leading teams working on complex systems, solving the needs of their business users. They have also been moving up the corporate ladders. HTNRIs are as comfortable working with their Indian peers as they are with their native hosts. Having made their share of cultural faux paus, they are comfortable in a cross-cultural environment. Just the kind of people that Indian IT industry needs in its endeavour to move up the value chain.

Recruiting HTNRIs may not be as easy as it sounds. These professionals, living abroad have probably got used to the western standard of living and will not come cheap. They may be reeling under recession but will be unwilling to chuck it all and sign up for a few rupees more. The mindset of some Indian executives who were content to build their corporate cultures around “enslaving” employees with bonds and golden handcuffs will have to give way to more modern management practices. Of course seasoned executives who can see the forest for the trees and build strategies around these issues will come ahead of the curve.

The ‘old boy’ (and sometimes girl) network among HTNRIs is still strong and could act as a powerful conduit. Case in point, my company — Indus Demographics LLC — that studies NRI trends in the US, decided to conduct a straw poll by publishing an e-mail calling for Indians on work visa’s who were recently laid off by US corporations. In a matter of days, with merely the word-of-mouth behind us, we were able to amass a database of dozens of Indians. Needless to say, a focused recruitment drive would do wonders.

Indian IT needs to evolve to where it wants to be and the timing is right for us to start planning for our future. At this point, we do not need a disruptive revolution but a strategic evolution. If even a few Indian IT giants start building their strategies to move up the value chain, they will be miles ahead of any global competition when (not if) the cloud of slowdown lifts. 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.
  • Sponsored Advert

    Advert: Visitor's Travel Insurance

    Click for free online Quotes


    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©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


    GaramChai® 1999-2005