NEW DELHI: More than 500,000 skilled Indian workers might have to come back from the U.S. if a proposal by the Trump administration not to extend H-1B visa of those waiting for permanent residency (Green Card) is implemented. The move would not only disrupt careers but also families. On top of that, India is already passing through a jobs crisis.
The grim outlook, however, has a silver lining.
While it will be a big loss for individuals, it could be a huge gain for the country. Just when India’s new-age enterprise is taking off as innovative startups mushroom in all big cities and the government is keen to make doing business easier, the return of such a large number of Indian tech workers can give a big push to Indian business.
Most of these workers are the brightest Indians who have passed out of elite Indian institutions. While Indians are proud of Sundar Pichai who heads Google and Satya Nadella who heads Microsoft, they are still American success stories.
It’s true that it is easier for bright Indians to make a mark in the U.S. given the right ecosystem and an overall helpful atmosphere. A Pichai or a Nadella won’t have been as successful in India as they are in the US. But it is also true that India is changing. The startup sector has just taken off and the government has shown commitment to reforms, as reflected in India’s jump of 30 spots in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings.
Of America’s 87 unicorns— as startups valued at more than $1 billion are called—were founded or co-founded by Indian entrepreneurs, the highest among 44 by all immigrants. 26% of all startups in the US have been founded by Indians.
If India gets back even a small part of such a huge pool of talent, there is bound to be a new rush of blood in India’s business sector. Even if some of these people are working in India—innovators that they are—Indian business will get a big boost.
That’s why Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra Group, welcomes them. Responding to the news of changes in the H-1B rules that can led to return of these Indians, Mahindra tweeted a few days ago: “If that happens, then I say ‘Swagatam, Welcome Home.’ You’re coming back in time to help India Rise…”
For long, India has lost it’s best talent to the West in what has come to be called brain drain. Trump’s decision can trigger a reverse brain drain. This could be an unintended benefit of an otherwise disruptive move.
In the long term, the move can also help Indian information technology (IT) industry evolve beyond its labour-arbitrage model. From being called “body shoppers”, Indian IT firms can turn into true innovators, something they can’t do without in times when emerging technology is already roiling their business prospects.
(The information has been taken from reputed Indian news media Economic Times.)