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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
India attracts Western tech talent
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Bangalore

Infosys training centre in Mysore
Infosys is recruiting Western talent at grassroots level
As India asserts its position as a global economic powerhouse it has begun to attract Westerners in almost every field.

The ever-expanding aviation industry boasts 350 pilots from the West.

Hospitality and tourism industries set the trend a few years ago.

Now it's the IT industry towards which Western workers are gravitating.

But most Westerners had hitherto been recruited for senior positions, such as airline pilot, company CEO or chef in a five-star hotel.

Now the IT industry seems to have pushed the boundaries a little further.

'West to East'?

Infosys Technologies, based in the southern city of Bangalore, has begun to hire Americans at grassroots management level and in software development units.

Now people have seen how fast India is growing and they see an opportunity to be part of it
University of Texas trainee Joao Almeida

The company will have 300 Americans working for it by year end. They will be joined by hordes of Britons next year.

Currently a batch of 126 Americans from some of the leading US universities are undergoing training in the company's state-of-the-art campus in Mysore, 140km (87 miles) from Bangalore.

Once the training is over they will become part of the country's fast growing brigade of software engineers.

Joao Almeida, a management trainee from the University of Texas at Austin, says it's a sign of change.

"People are now willing to come to work in India. I don't think that was there before.

"Now people have seen how fast India is growing and they see an opportunity to be part of it."

Joao Almeida (l) and Alexus Hines
Joao (left) and Alexus see new opportunities in Indian firms

There was a time when most Indian companies could not even imagine hiring Westerners on salaries on a par with Western companies.

Skilled Indian workers have been travelling to the West in search of better job opportunities and a higher standard of living.

But now it seems, in a small way, the traffic has begun to flow the other way.

Home-grown Indian companies are now not afraid to poach the best talent from their international competitors, matching their salaries and perks in India.

Different cultures

It also has to do with their business needs.

Infosys human resources chief Mohandas Pai says: "We are a global business, we get 98% of our revenues from outside India.

Mohandas Pai
Mohandas Pai says recruits should reflect Infosys's global scope

"We are trying to make sure that over a period of time our workforce reflects the countries from where we get our business."

Besides Infosys, other Indian IT companies, such as Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro, do most of their business with the US.

Joao and his other American colleagues, had not even heard of the company's name before joining Infosys. They were apprehensive, too, about working for an Indian company.

But Alexus Hines from the University of North Carolina says she did some research on the company on the internet before she decided to join it.

"I was excited to come to India and experience a different cultural surrounding. I like learning about different cultures and I just wanted to have a different environment as opposed to corporate America."

There are more than 50,000 expatriates working in India, most of whom are from the US and the UK. More than 1,000 of them are in senior executive posts.

'Guest' workers

Some foreign workers gravitate to India to experience the country's diverse culture, often working for call centres for a few months.

Infosys campus in Mysore
Experts say competition is good for Indian workers

Indian companies welcome them because they get linguistically able workers on comparatively cheap Indian salaries.

With Indian back offices and call centres expected to face a shortage of linguistically-trained personnel, companies are happy to have these so-called "guest workers".

And Westerners say the global work culture that Indian companies now offer is an incentive.

"I have done internships before with some of the top American countries. The environment here is at the same level if not better than the companies I've worked for," says Joao Almeida.

But are Westerners being hired at the expense of Indian talent as the "brain drain" of old becomes a "brain gain"?

Software engineer A Krishnamachari says the competition is good for Indian companies and workers.

According to Infosys's Mohandas Pai, Indians will only benefit by interacting with foreign skills.

He says he finds it gratifying that people find India interesting and want to work here.

"I think it's becoming a trend. We hear every day that Indian companies are going out and hiring people not only to join them outside but also to work in India."

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