A recent Bill by the US Congress aims to tighten the existing H-1B visa norms that have shaken the Indian IT industry. These amendments are in line with President Donald Trump’s “America First” strategy that would potentially jeopardise a good number of the IT sector jobs which are currently outsourced to India.
The US is the most important market for India’s $110-billion IT services export industry. Some of the worst hit by this new Bill will be Indian companies such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro who together have around 3.5 million employees on their payrolls. Besides Indian companies, global giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Accenture, Microsoft, etc, who use the H-1B visa to hire non-Americans would also be severely impacted. While this has prompted India to raise the concerns of its IT industry with the Trump administration, the American firms are equally concerned as their costs of service delivery, in the absence of their H-1B visa enabled employees, will shoot up.
So, could there be any beneficial outcome of this crisis as far as India is concerned? If the cards are played right, then the answer is yes. Considering that today a lot of business activities can be done in a virtual mode and on the cloud, India must look at the H-1B visa issue as a boon in disguise. Considering our capabilities, India should not be lobbying with the US or any other government to take our highly trained human assets out of the country; they have the potential to be the engines of the country’s economic growth and prosperity. The government should rather attempt to recreate an environment that has been fostered in the US—India will do well to, for example, create an Indian Silicon Valley.
The task isn’t easy, but who says achievements are attained easily. A virtuous cycle in the IT sector linked with all other sectors of the economy needs to be nurtured with the objective to make India a global powerhouse hub to provide IT services the world over.
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At the recently held India Today Conclave in Mumbai, Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani echoed a similar sentiment. In his address, he said, “It’s high time our brightest and the best work for the benefit of India and Indians … by whatever fate they are brought back to this country, they can help improve the lives of 1.3 billion citizens and put together a new developmental model … there cannot be a better blessing in disguise.” He added there is a need to retain data generated domestically as “keeping our data onshore will ensure that talent, technology, know-how and investments will flow into the country rather than flow out, and will create more jobs for us” and urged the government to start a “Keep in India” initiative for this.
If India could develop its own navigation technology, one of the reasons was that India didn’t want to rely on the US Global Positioning System (GPS). This, and the way India has moved ahead on developing jet fighters and other technologies, is proof enough that the country has the potential to go the extra mile to meet challenges.
The Indian IT services companies need to play their part in this process, and could work towards finding strategic ways of bringing more work to India—suitable to national priorities and availability of resources. Thus, instead of encouraging the exodus of the highly-trained Indians to foreign shores, they should be persuaded to become part of the needed economic, social and cultural resurgence in the country. Let’s look forward to the emergence of an Indian Silicon Valley.
The author is director, FORE School of Management, New Delhi