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Overseas Indians return in search of better jobs and to escape protectionist regimes

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By Sreeradha D Basu, Prachi Verma, ET Bureau | Oct 23, 2017, 06.14 AM IST

There’s been a big surge in the number of overseas Indians trying to come back home in the past few months.

Leading recruitment and search firms say they have been inundated with requests from Indians in the US, UK, the Gulf, even Singapore and Hong Kong, who had moved abroad in pursuit of greener pastures but are now actively exploring options in the country.

Their reasons include protectionist regimes, job redundancies and geopolitics. There’s also been a decisive turn against migrant workers as evidenced in elections and referenda in the US and Europe.

Drawing them back are better opportunities—especially at the senior level—now available in India in sectors such as IT, technology, healthcare and pharma, among others. Research and development options have also opened up and there’s greater opportunity to work with new technology.

“There is a clear trend of companies in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, automobiles, healthcare shifting more and more research and development work to India,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, cofounder, Team-Lease Services. “In fact, quite a few companies are making India the hub for all R&D activities. This trend is leading many Indians to return from overseas to lead prime projects.”

Some of the most senior such appointments include Nitin Mantri, CEO of Alliance Tire Group, who came from Cummins Inc USA; Kumar Srinivasan, COO, Hike, who was with Nordstrom earlier; and Satyaki Ghosh, CEO, domestic textiles at Aditya Birla Group, who joined from L’Oreal.

Monica Agrawal, senior partner and head of Indian financial services at Korn/Ferry International, said that over the past year, she’s seen a doubling in resumes from global Indians. The two ‘hot’ sectors in financial services for CXO-level executives are non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and global captive shared services (in-house BPOs).

“We’ve seen at least half-a-dozen CXO-level placements in the last six-nine months courtesy this trend. Several others are currently work-in-progress. The maximum interest is in analytics, risk and technology,” said Agrawal.

Countries such as the US and the UK are increasingly looking to hire locals, said James Agrawal, managing director of BTI Consultants.

At the same time, India is opening up to new technologies, including data sciences, machine learning, analytics and cloud computing.

“Many of the tech professionals are driven by the quality of work,” he said. “There is a huge demand for those who have already worked on new technologies and they are commanding a premium in the market for that.”

Korn/Ferry’s Monica Agrawal agreed. “There is plenty of opportunity for wealth creation. Overseas Indians are realising that not just are Indian salaries competitive, the lifestyle one can afford in the country is better than what many would get abroad.”

Microsoft, Facebook, Accenture, Google, Bosch, Toyota, JPMorgan, Barclays and Novartis are some of the companies that have appointed returning Indians at leadership levels or are in the process of doing so, said a consultant.

“India is being pegged as one of the top markets for companies globally,” said Sunil Goel, Managing Director, GlobalHunt. “Many companies have the largest workforce sitting out of India. Indian talent is getting credited with more and more success stories. Roles like global marketing head and global technology head are being shifted to India.”