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NRI résumés pile up at Indian HR firms

By Ravi Menon & Praveen Bose
February 05, 2010 03:33 IST
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Reduced hiring in the US market due to the lingering impact of the global financial crisis has resulted in a spike in the number of non-resident Indian resumes received by Indian human resources (HR) companies. Over 15,000 NRI resumes have accumulated in the inboxes of headhunters, and the number is set to increase, say HR executives.

A good proportion of H1-B visa holders--about 50,000--had their visas issued in 2002 and 2003. Come 2009, most of these visas (which are work permits issued for a fixed period), with a validity of six years, expired. The number of H1-B visa holders who have applied for jobs in India is now said to be between 15,000 and 20,000.

"A good number of those who went to the US after 1999-2000 have started returning. US President Barack Obama's posture has probably been one of the triggers. The reluctance to renew H1-B visas has also led to people deciding to return," said Kris Laxmikant, CEO and chairman of recruitment agency Headhunters India.

Many of the returnees have been sticking around for up to three months, vainly trying to secure a job, in a bid to extend their US stay long enough. But, in an insipid job market, a good number failed to find jobs and were forced to return, HR executives said.

"Most of the H1-B visa holders were in the US in consulting capacities. Many companies who made H1-B applications in 2003 are not keen to renew their H1-Bs, thanks to widespread apprehensions of the job pipeline for Americans thinning out. On the whole, there are fewer jobs available in the market," says B S Murthy, head of Bangalore-based Human Capital, a recruitment company.

Economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that the US unemployment rate, which was 10 per cent in December 2009 from 5 per cent at the start of the recession in December 2007, will peak by the middle of 2011, before dropping back to 10.5 per cent by the end of 2011.

Industry insiders add that reports of largescale abuses of the H1-B system has made companies go slow on visa provisioning. Fraudulent H1-B applications helped the anti-outsourcing groups gain in strength. Murthy, however, counters, "Frauds do happen but the current trend has more to do with fewer companies ready to sponsor H1-Bs."

"Most of the returnees are in the mid and junior levels, and employed in the IT industry. TeamLease has received around 3,000 NRI CVs so far and placed a significant number of them. Most of them have been placed in permanent jobs, This is an evolving situation, and hence, it is difficult to know the exact number of CVs received by Indian recruitment firms so far," said Ashok Reddy, managing director, Teamlease Staffing Solutions.

According to a senior HR manager, "Assuming 20,000 NRIs go back, these jobs go to the Americans in theory. That said, many Indians on H1-B have also received visa extensions. Once the US economy and market demand rebounds, the displaced visa holders will be welcome again. Just that they will have to file fresh applications and re-enter following a new visa stamp or a new employer."

"Not just consultants, but many of the creme de la creme of the IT industry are returning. And, salaries have picked up in India. This has been an attraction for NRIs, as they will have access to a far better lifestyle with the salaries on offer in India today. Besides, domestic helps and other day-to-day support systems are available readily," said Kris Laxmikant, who has been working to place returning H1-B visa holders at CXO levels (an industry term for positions starting with the word 'Chief') in different IT companies.

Calendar 2010 is expected to create around 50,000 fresh IT/ITeS jobs in India. A 15 per cent increment in hiring volumes, primarily in IT services, is expected in the first two quarters of 2010, while growth could cross 20 per cent or double towards the third and fourth quarters.

Vijay Gummadi, head of Hyderabad-based Carz, a multi-brand car service franchisee network, recently hired a engineer returnee. "I am getting quite a few CVs from consultants wanting to return to India or looking for opportunities here," he said. Gummadi, who worked in America's automobile hub, Detroit, for over a decade, himself returned to India over a year ago. "The quality of work being done out of India has undergone a sea change. It is no longer just support services that are being provided out of India. Hence, returning to India is rewarding, even in the midst of an economic downturn," Gummadi said.

The homeward trend is only accelerating. Since 2008, the number of people seeking to return to India has risen three-fold or more, according to recruiters. Combined with Obama's fulminations on American jobs moving from Buffalo to Bangalore, not to mention retribution planned against companies outsourcing "American jobs", there is no 21-gun salute awaiting Indian H1-B visa holders.

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Ravi Menon & Praveen Bose in Bengaluru
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