The New Indian
Since India became independent from
Britain in 1947, India has been facing a serious
phenomenon which is called a'brain drain'. "Brain drain
means'a movement of highly skilled or professional people
from their own country to a country where they can earn
more money" (Longman Dictionary). India's brain drain
began in the late 1950's, and India has continuously
exported highly educated professionals to developed
countries, mainly to the U.S.
In the mid-1990's, an IT boom occurred
in Silicon Valley, California, and the wave of prosperity
resulted in a huge number of engineers and specialists
immigrating from India. Year after year, the U.S.
Congress raised the limit of H1B-visas, and India was
issued more than 20 percent of the world wide total. "In
1993, 84 percent of new computer science graduates
[in India] headed for jobs or advanced study in
the United States" (Constable A23).
After 2000, the IT bubble burst, and
many people lost their jobs, including Indians who worked
in the U.S. Now, there are signs the brain drain is
reversing. The Indians who have work experience in the
U.S. are looking homeward, especially to Bangalore, which
is well known for its IT industry. It is a difficult
situation for the people who lost their jobs in the U.S.,
but for the future of India, it is positive.
Undoubtedly, India has suffered a
brain drain for a long time, but it mustn't be forgotten
that India didn't have enough opportunities to attract
well-educated young citizens. On the other hand, the U.S.
offered great possibilities. Thus, the brain drain was an
However, the situation is now
changing. Several U.S. companies are expanding their
offices in India, and they are hiring U.S. trained
workers who are interested in returning to India. At the
same time, the Indian government and other organizations
have started to encourage entrepreneurs and invite U.S.
companies and investors. India's brain drain is a relic
of the past, and the phenomenon should now be
"They are bringing back the money and
they're bringing back the business contact, it is
fantastic" said Dewang Mehta, president of NASSCOM, a New
Delhi based software lobby group (CNN.com). Although
India lost business opportunities because of the brain
drain, now India should encourage its entrepreneurs to
establish new businesses and improve the
(II. Background of
India's brain drain)
India gained its independence from
Britain in 1947, and the country's leaders began to
create the infrastructure of the new country. One of the
remarkable events was the establishment of the Indian
Institutes of Technology (IITs) in the late 1950's.
"Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru founded the IITs'to
train an elite that could build and manage massive
industrial development projects"(Constable
The Indian government has six IITs,
located in Kanpur, Kharagpur, Bombay, Delhi, Chennai and
Roorkee. Each year, more than 100,000 students take the
IIT entrance exam and only 2,000 of them are admitted.
The competition rate is much higher than for admission to
Harvard and Stanford in the U.S. (CNN.com).
Contrary to Nehru's vision, although,
the IITs and other schools, like the Indian Institutes of
Management (IIMs), Regional Engineering College, Madras
University, and Pune University, offered on excellent
education, many students left the country and went to the
U.S. without making any contribution to their own
country. The issue became conspicuous in the late 1950's,
and it has continued for a half century.
Finally, in the 1990's, with the IT
boom in Silicon Valley, countless Indian IT specialists
migrated to the U.S. In fact, the brain drain was an
unavoidable phenomenon. India is a developing country
with much poverty. There were not enough companies which
could accept well-educated young people, and the business
infrastructure was really poor.
It was natural that energetic and
smart young people headed to the West, especially to the
U.S. Many of them had ambitions to grab the American
dream. America was a symbol of freedom, and working in
the U.S. was really exciting for young people. The trend
occurred not only in India, but also in many other
countries in Asia, for example, China, Taiwan, and South
(III. Indian workers
in the U.S.)
Year after year, the process of
getting a U.S. permanent resident card (green card)
becomes more difficult, but compared to other industrial
countries, the U.S. is more receptive to immigrants.
Especially, Indians have been given priority to work in
"Although hundreds of thousand of
people around the world apply for such visas annually,
American employers like Indians because their English is
good, their demands are minimal, and their government's
educational system has given priority to computer
training far longer than many other countries" (Constable
In the 1990's, during the IT boom, the
U.S. issued a huge number of temporary (3 to 6 years),
professional working visas(H1B), to Indian workers."The
US senate increased the quota of H1B visas for skilled
workers from 115,000 to 195,000 in 2000. Indians now
receive nearly 45 percent of such visas each year"
(IV. Contribution of
Indian workers to the U.S. IT industry)
Indian workers in the U.S. have
contributed to the progress of the IT industry and
encouraged the U.S. economy. "Indians believe their
culture, language and education system create students
naturally suited to excel in areas like math and computer
code writing" (CNN.com).
In fact, large number of popular
software applications were written by Indian code-writers
(CNN.com). Kanwal Rekhi, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur
and IIT alumnus, says that the Indian mind is
philosophical and freethinking. Additionally he believes
that mathematics is a part of the daily life in India,
and Indians are mathematicians (CNN.com).
(V. Advantages and
disadvantages of Indian's brain drain)
While the Indians were working for U.S
companies, their motherland was struggling. India had
great human resources but had not profited from them.
"With the exodus of many of India's best minds to the
West in the following decades, many Indians railed
against what they saw as a taxpayer-financed subsidy for
Western industry" (Creehan 6).
According to a report which was issued
[in 2001] by the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP), India was losing 2 billion dollars per
year because of the emigration of computer experts to the
U.S. (BBC News). Certainly, India may have lost many
resources through the brain drain, but at the same time,
India acquired a reputation as an IT specialist country.
The UNDP report said:"The success of
the Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley [...]
appears to be influencing how the world views India, by
creating a sort of "branding'. [...] Indian
nationality for a software programmer sends a signal of
quality just as a 'made in Japan' label signals
first-class consumer electronics" (BBC News).
The IT boom, which swept over the
U.S., burst in 2000. Afterwards, countless IT firms went
bankrupt, and a large number of workers, including
Indians, were fired. After the terrorist attack of
September 11, 2001, the situation grew more
serious."California's employment figures reveal that in
Santa Clara---the hub for Indian information technology
professionals---over 190,000 workers lost their jobs in
the past two years [2001-02]" (United Press
If a foreign worker lost his or her
job, the person would lose the H1B visa status at the
same time. Thus, if the person couldn't find another job,
he or she had to leave the U.S. immediately. However,
these days, many Indians are choosing to go back home.'In
the past, the only way people returned to India was when
they were pushed out; now it is voluntary'(United Press
(VI. Current situation
of the IT Industry in India and the U.S.)
In the past few years, dozens of
Indians have returned to start up their own companies. At
the same time, U.S. companies have begun to pay attention
to the Indian market."A growing number of big name
American firms -- led by Microsoft, which opened a
research and development center in Hyderabad in 1998 --
are taking advantage of newly liberalized Indian laws
that allow more foreign investment and joint ventures"
For example, Oracle, a software
company, has already advanced into the Indian market."Ten
percent of the 4,000 new positions in Oracle's expanded
India location are filled by Indians formerly based in
the United States"(Jayadev).
In July 2003, Silicon India Magazine
hosted a job fair in Santa Clara, California, which is in
the heart of Silicon Valley. About 2,000 professional
tech workers of Indian origin attended the fair and
handed their resumes to recruiters of U.S. companies
which are starting operations in India. Intel, Microsoft
and National Semiconductor Company topped the list of the
28 participating (Jayadev).
"When countries create the right
conditions, including openness to new investment and new
ideas, they can recapture some of what they have lost.
The Indians in Silicon Valley are an important part of
Bangalore's success" (BBC News).
Today, India is not suffering from a
brain drain. Indeed, there are many signs that the brain
drain is reversing. These days the phenomenon is
called'brain circulation' and the U.S. media have started
to write about the Indian economy.
For example, on October 20, 2003,
The New York Times published 'Sizzling Economy
Revitalized India'. The article mentions the optimistic
prospects of the Indian economy, and it refers to other
Indian industries like auto parts and motorcycles.
One month later, The New York
Times picked up a story about India again in 'Sleepy
City Has High Hopes, Dreaming of High Tech'. According to
the article, not only Bangalore, which is a remarkable IT
hub city, but also other small cities like Chandigarh are
growing tech cities.
The New York Times used to
publish articles on the negative aspects of India, for
example, disasters, poverty, disease, or strange customs,
but now its point of view is changing. Additionally, the
Business Week magazine, which was issued on
December 8, 2003, published the article'The Rise of
India' as its cover story. Through 10 pages, the article
reported on the latest Indian economy and its future.
The U.S. Congress announced a
reduction in the number of H1B visas from 195,000 to
65,000 in the next fiscal year, October 2003 to September
2004 (Einhorn). The drastic cut will hit the IT industry
both in the U.S. and India.
S. Ramadorai, who is the chief
executive officer of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS),
India's largest IT service company, is hopeful:
"Companies will work out new business models and push
[even] more work offshore. [...] The
customer will simply send the project to India. This will
encourage [job] emigration" (Einhorn).
One of the current hot topics among
politicians and specialists in the U.S. is'the jobs that
U.S. companies have outsourced to lower-cost locales such
as India and China' (Einhorn). If the financial benefits
can be evenly distributed between India and the U.S., the
trend will encourage the Indian economy.
"Most people instinctively assume that
the movement of skill and talent must benefit one country
at the expense of another. But thanks to brain
circulation, high-skilled immigration increasingly
benefits both sides. Economically speaking, it is blessed
to give and to receive" (Saxenian 28-31).
(VII. The new Indian
The new century of India has dawned
with the beginning of the 21st century, and India is
facing the most important period in its long history.
Now, its untapped potential should be used wisely.
However, there are many obstacles to grow the Indian
economy, and plenty of skeptics are pessimistic on the
prospects for the Indian economy.
The Indian government and other
organizations should make an effort to establish a
business infrastructure and new business laws, and they
should solve other fundamental problems as well. India
has an enormous population - over a billion - and 26
percent of Indians live in poverty (Waldman A7). And the
literacy rate in India is only 65.38 percent, which shows
the necessity for more elementary education (Census of
The lack of highways prevents the
growth of industry and the construction of highways is
one of the important priorities. In fact, the new
Bombay-Pune highway shows how highways can improve the
Indian economy."Pune can ship its goods efficiently and
link up with the outside world. As a result, it's one of
India's new boom towns and is exporting globally both
software and manufactured goods such as auto parts"
(Business Week, 78).
Nevertheless, India is facing a great
opportunity."The challenge for developing countries, the
UN says, is to come up with strategies to keep some
professionals at home and encourage other to return" (BBC
News). Many young Indians who have had a relationship
with the West, especially the U.S., can now build a new
economy for their homeland as they become bridges to
connect India and the West.