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Article by Mohan Babu


US media empathises with Indian workers

The mainstream media in the US is willing to show Indian workers in a positive light and empathise with their problems, writes Mohan Babu

The change in direction of the economy and its impact on IT professionals, especially on those from India (and other countries) on H1-B, seems to be generating a lot of interest among the techie community in the US. The buzz being generated by Indians has not gone unnoticed. Interestingly, even the mainstream media in the US seems to be taking note of the views of Indians in the US. I had an interesting conversation with an editor of Computerworld one of the premier IT journals in the US a few days ago and I thought I’d share the gist of my discussion with readers in this column.

The editor called me and wanted to interview me about my experiences as a ‘foreign worker’ in the US. Especially on my reactions on how Indians felt about the current business environment, especially after the September 11 incident. As I mentioned in my earlier column (Impact of terrorism...), Indians techies have, by and large, been immune to the aftermath. Most of us still maintain a status quo and continue with our jobs and lives the best as we can. However, we need to brace ourselves for an uphill climb. During the interview, the editor was impressed by the success of the Indian community in the US and was particularly awed by the daring shown by youngsters who took the plunge, coming to live in a foreign country.

I explained to her that what we saw in the nineties (the influx of Indians on H1 visas) was extremely beneficial not only to Indians but also to the US economy. People who came here were trained technical people who imported their valuable skills with them. Of course, kudos to the Indian education system that provided us with the excellent training that helped us build a strong foundation.

The editor wanted to talk to me about my views as a foreigner, especially since foreign workers were the coveted guests when the economy was booming in the nineties. The fact that most magazines and journals are even considering articles on H1s and immigrants, and the fact that they want to feature Indians goes to prove that we are a sizeable force in the new economic equation. Americans have loved immigrant success stories; this is especially true for the vast majority who can trace their ancestry to various European countries. The Indian influx, especially the influx of Indian techies on H1s, provided a real fillip to the technology lead boom that we saw during the nineties and Americans are just starting to recognise the positive impact of the Indian diaspora

We then got talking about the current economic situation. Experts are already predicting that the affects of this incident on the US economy are going to be incredible. Wall Street Journal, the revered American business journal, in its October 9 edition said, “the estimated hit to the U.S economy so far: at least $100 billion this year, on top of tens of billions in property damage and the staggering loss of human life”. The article went on to add that US’s $10 trillion economy is expected to shrink by nearly 1%. Just to put these numbers in perspective, a billion dollars is almost equivalent to 4,700 crore rupees.

During our conversation, I also mentioned to her that if Indians can ride the downturn with the same élan as they did during the boom period, we are going to come ahead resilient and stronger. She then drew a parallel saying that our success is almost like that of the successful Jewish community in the US. Like Jews, even Indians are brilliant people, respected and looked up by Americans. Even after a spending few generations in the US, Jews still take great pride in their heritage and maintain a strong sense of community. Similarly, Indians are used to chaos in our lives and we try to compartmentalise the different aspects of our life — family, socialising, religion, faith, career etc.

Even after spending a few years abroad, we derive our strength from our values, culture and traditions. However, one aspect of American life that we are not used to is the drastic changes in the economy. We are used to a slower economic cycle and sometimes find it hard to accept that an economy, which was super-hot, even eighteen months ago, is tethering on the brinks of recession.

Layoffs are a still a taboo in India and Indians attach a strong stigma to layoffs. However, many Indians, who have lived through a few economic cycles here in the US do not seem to think much of layoffs, or even economic downturns. They focus instead on the big picture.

The editor who interviewed me said that she had interviewed a number of other techies in different parts of the country. In the process of researching for her story, she was surprised to find the strong networking among people of Indian origin. Interestingly, SAJA - the South Asian Journalists Association - has done a wonderful job of providing links to the latest happenings in the Indian and South Asian community, especially after Sep 11. They have been collecting and publishing stories on a whole range of topics including Ground Zero, the backlash and `The War’. They are also trying to undertake an unobtrusive public relations campaign that will immensely benefit Indians in the years to come.





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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    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


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