Jobs follow growth

Since May 2009 there has been a spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia. The Australian high commission has guided a ten-point action plan for student safety by the Universities Australia and has had an Australian delegation travel to major metros in India to reassure students, parents and government officials here.

But media reports have suggested that the incidents, called racial by some and criminal or opportunistic by others, have affected the morale and sentiment of Indian students wanting to pursue higher studies in Australia, and made them seek other destinations such as England for higher studies. Student incidents in Australia have not, however, impacted the working immigrant community there. An Indian executive working with Telstra Australia, commenting on the student attacks, said on the condition of anonymity: These kinds of attacks have been happening for seven years that I am aware of, but are not racist. While it has not affected the morale of immigrant workers, yes, there will be an impact on students seeking opportunities, as they are on the other side of the fence.

E Balaji, CEO of Ma Foi Management Consultants, agrees, terming the incident as a storm in the teacup, which will settle soon and nobody from the Indian professional community overseas will make a major career decision because of this. Namrita Jhangiani, partner at Egon Zehnder, too holds a similar line. Career decision at the senior management level is driven by the opportunity and exposure, and not by racial reasons, she says.

Avneesh Raghuvanshi, partner at search firm GKR Daulet-Singh, says professionals wont be deterred by Australia-like incidents. The trigger for professional movement is to go where the growth is, he says. Indians working overseas have been following the pattern.

Since the global financial meltdown triggered by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy last year in America more and more non-residents have expressed a desire to return to India. These are professionals doing fairly well in their host countries but are lured by the India story. There is a perception that there is more happening here than in the US and UK.

Adds Raghuvanshi, Recruiters are getting more calls than before from candidates wanting to move back to India. In the last 12 months, in almost all senior level assignments, specially technology related, our firm has presented to clients at least 2 to 5% overseas candidates who want to relocate. A notable feature is that companies in India are not paying premiums for candidates returning from overseas. Nokia India, for instance, used to bring expatriates to India on expatriate packages. Now close to 90% cases, people are coming on Indian packages.

The reverse brain drain is a reality. Vivek Wadhwa, senior research associate, Harvard, estimates that over the last 20 years, 50,000 skilled workers returned to India with their families. Over the next 4-5 years, 1,00,000 will return. Wadhwa says, During the 70s and 80s, India suffered from a brain-drain. The belief was that Jawaharlal Nehrus investment in the IITs had been wastedthat India lost its best people (to other countries.) If he were alive today, he would have been very happy with the end result. Both the West and India ended up benefitting. And India is getting its best and the brightest back.

Joy Nandi, partner, Korn Ferry, adds another perspective. A lot of Indian companies are also making a global footprint in other geographies and are looking for executives who are culturally aligned and have a familiarity working with Indian companies, where the leadership style is action-focused and hierarchical.

But, in general, emigration from India has come down. Ma Foi, for instance, saw a 14% reduction in overseas recruitment in 2008-09 over the previous year. Balaji says Indians working overseas are considering positions in India more seriously over the last three years. This has also dissuaded Indians from seeking employment in the West or the Middle East. Balaji also says discrimination has been a reality for the immigrant community. Indian professionals, such as chartered accountants, who have been working in the Middle East for several decades, are not seeing the same positions or salaries as qualified UK CAs, he says.

Meanwhile, recruiters in Australia claim it is business as usual for them. Steve Shepherd, general manager of Randstad HR Solutions, says, Workforce from India alleviate some of the critical skills shortages that impact our employment market. The recent incidents within the Indian student community in Australia have not had an impact on the flow of applications from candidates within India nor affected overall employment opportunities; its business as usual. Randstad has not seen any impact on the employment market.

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