Thursday, October 28, 2010

Organized brain drain?

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend of mine who works with an IT firm in Bangalore and he stated that most of the people from our batch of engineering 2002, are now working abroad.

The increasing debate about outsourcing needs to also look at another dimension of this business model which is the loss of qualified people from India to the western economy. It is understandable that with an unemployment level close to 9% in US, there is going to be strong political pressure on the government to use all possible ways to reduce loss of jobs but that cry doesn't imply that outsourcing has only given economic dividends to India. Its not that one party's loss has been the other party's game alone. The net result has been a mix of wins and losses for both the countries. It therefore depends upon what you see and what you don't want to see.

This is how it has worked in India so far. People complete their graduation from Indian universities. Once they are through with it with all their hard and soft work, they adopt two routes to enter the developed world:

1. Go for higher studies. Once they are there, they fall in love with the culture, work environment, opportunities, money and decide to trade it with the possibilities of coming back. Many a times the higher studies is in such a niche area that it may be difficult for the person to come back to the native country.
2. Work in an IT company. Wait for an 'on-site' opportunity. Seek a better opportunity and stay there
3. Seek a work opportunity in US directly. This is a difficult possibility considering that there are employable people out there in US looking for jobs

Personally speaking its a complex sentiment to have towards seeing people from your batch settling well at the same time you realize that for ones own country, its really not that great a news. We are free to make our choices whatever they are as long as we don't intend to do any conscious damage in the process. The point is this otherwise innocuous way of going to the western world- which is primarily 4 to 5 countries (US, UK, Canada, Germany majorly come to my mind ) has lead to phenomenal loss of trained and capable human resource which could have otherwise tempered employability debates that we read in our newspapers on a day to day basis. The fact that only 4% of our graduates are good enough for working in IT product based companies while Microsoft office of Redmond has a major chunk of people from India etc. Or for that matter the number of doctors from Indian origin in UK while our rural hinterlands languish due to dearth of health care facilities. Yes, government has a lot to be blamed for this too.

The reason it deserves significance is that the IT industry which has brought tremendous glory to the country is now going to be very much part and parcel of the way we live and move. Thus the silk route from India to the US is not a distant possibility or a matter of chance. Its an 'organized emmigration route' which is much lauded by one and all.

There can be few reasons for lack of concern on this front:

1. The boost in economy as a result of remittance of people settled abroad (though i am not sure what that value is)
2. Lack of efforts in the direction of research on this subject in the country. It is likely that someone in some foreign university may do a PhD in understanding the impact of outsourcing model of IT sector on brain drain.
3. The Indian economy is doing well and hence we don't mind this leakage of intellect. Thankfully this has lead to some reverse brain drain but I am still not sure to what extent has it been able to check the flow of talent.

Immigration into areas of better opportunity and living has been a trend since atleast past few centuries since transport across sea routes became easy. Which was around 17th century.

History has instances of Britishers getting enamoured by the excellent weather conditions and highly favourable land vs people ratio of US and bought huge tracks of land over there to settle down forever. Records state that around 175000 people migrated from British to Colonial US during 17th century. The rule of communism in Eastern Europe lead to a huge migration of people from these countries which has enriched US economy like anything. The US government realized the value in opening its doors to immigrants after seeing the value that they bring to the table. In fact poor governance in other third world countries has immensely helped US and its economy. Secondly the culture of the country which is based on the principle of individualism and libery gives ample space to whosoever wants to enjoy a comfortable life. The moment you move from a repressed culture or economy to an open one, you are bound to fall in love with it.

The point is, whose problem is it? Is it India's? What is India if not its people? Which implies when both government and citizens are happy, would anyone want to even consider it in the light of an issue worth reflection?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Towards inclusive growth

There is a remarkable organized effort in the direction of enhancing the prospects of an inclusive India. Do check out the grand scheme in this article

While on one hand Sam Pitroda is leading efforts to connect the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats through broad band, the UID scheme lead by Nandan Nilekani is geared to provided the much needed identity so that people who should be getting services under various schemes of the government rightly get so. It is very difficult today for an urban youth to understand how UID would change his/her life. Probably the benefit is going to be secondary or tertiary since today he is not the person whom the government is much concerned about.

The challenge lies in terms of bridging the yawning gap that has arisen as a result of globalization making inroads into the length and breadth of a nation where the majority was not in a position to take advantage of the opportunities. Thus when millions of people who are mobile are short of public services simply because they don't have the requisite proof of identity important for that particular state, they may miss out on that important service which could be of value to them.

Moreover in the absence of a consolidated reliable single database of people whom the government wants to reach out to, the possibility of leakage of funds is higher particularly when we talk about a situation where values hold no importance in the eyes of people delivering these vital services.

Thus as internet penetration increases, telecom infra along with the unique identity would have the capacity to ensure that the person is able to get access to funds directly into his bank account without him having to reach out to the evil offical out there waiting with bated breath for his cut in the deal. Schemes like NREGA may be able to make a much better mark in that scenario.

Thus in short these are interesting times for the nation and we should all hope that the effort and vision behind these initiatives actually brings about the change that the country has been waiting for so long a time.