Between hectic parleys with customers and presentations at Nasscom's India Leadership Forum in Mumbai, Helen Huntley takes a few minutes off for some coffee and conversation. "Farmshoring is on the rise," says the Vice President of research at market intelligence firm, Gartner. Huntley, who spoke at the software lobby's flagship event, is referring to a new trend among American companies. Wary of outsourcing jobs , they have begun setting up operations outside metropolitan areas in the United States, where labour is cheaper. Milford, a suburb in Cincinnati, Ohio, is one such place. In a presidential election year, when US unemployment is still high , at over eight per cent, farmshoring is resonating well with the American public. Clearly, the sustained rhetoric against outsourcing by US leaders on both sides of the political divide is taking effect.
That political pressure, combined with a stringent visa regime, is also forcing large Indian IT firms to hire more locals. Currently, there are around 25,000 US nationals and Green Card holders working for Indian IT companies, estimates Mohandas Pai, former board member and HR chief of Infosys. That is a tiny fraction of the industry's 2.8 million workforce. But the number is set to rise - Indian companies may have to hire about 10,000 Americans every year or lose business opportunities, say industry watchers.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has already begun ramping up its headcount. Since 2009, it has increased hiring in the US by 200 per cent. The firm has created 4,700 jobs thus far, of which 2,200 are short-term hires. In January, it opened a centre in Santa Clara, California, indicating that more hiring is on the way. Infosys employs about 2,000 US citizens. The majority - about 1,200 - was recruited last year. The firm is looking to hire another 1,500 in 2012, says board member V. Balakrishnan.
| GETTING PROTECTIVE|
April 2009: Senators Richard Durbin and Charles Grassley introduce the 'H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act', seeking to limit the number of H-1B and L-1 workers in a company's workforce. It fails on the Senate floor.
May 2009: Criticising the US tax system, President Barack Obama says: "It's a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York.
Aug. 2010: Senator Charles Schumer calls Infosys a "chop shop" (a place where stolen cars are dismantled and their parts sold).
Aug. 2010: US-Mexico Border Security Bill, which seeks to finance border security through higher visa fees, passed. Visa charges rise by $2,000 per application.
Sept. 2010: Ohio Governor Ted Strickland proposes a ban on offshoring of government IT projects and other back-office work.
Sept. 2010: Nine Senators introduce 'The Creating American Jobs and End Offshoring Act'. The Bill fails.
Dec. 2011: Representatives Tim Bishop and David McKinley introduce the 'United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act'. It requires BPO agents to disclose their location and can penalise US call centres failing to report any offshoring.
Jan. 2012: US Vice President Joe Biden calls for more "insourcing" of jobs. Imitates an Indian call centre employee's accent during a speech in New Hampshire.
|WHAT WILL MAKE THEM STAY?|
Women constitute more than 30 per cent of the Indian IT industry's workforce. However, only about five per cent are in leadership positions. Many drop out at the mid-level, when they become mothers, or when their life priorities change. As a result, the industry loses some great talent.
BT and Nasscom organised a roundtable on the issue at the recently concluded India Leadership Forum. The panellists - Aruna Jayanthi, CEO of Capgemini India; Avinash Vashistha, Chairman and MD of Accenture India; and Darcy Antonellis, President of Technical Operations at Warner Bros - debated over how to improve the "pathetic" numbers. Business Today Editor Chaitanya Kalbag moderated the roundtable.
"Sometimes, it is a matter of breaking biases people have; not just men but even women themselves," said Vashistha. Why not link a manager's, or for that matter, even a chairman's pay to the number of women in senior positions, suggested Kalbag. "Some level of targets will help. But there need to be checks and balances," responded Jayanthi. Such a move could open the floodgates for poor talent if managers just want a bonus, she warned.
At Warner Bros, high-potential women are made to manage projects with chairman-level visibility, said Antonellis. "This has helped them feel confident about their abilities and learn to communicate better." All the panellists agreed that the industry was opening up to the idea of giving women flexible work options. That could see more of them rise to senior positions in coming years.
For a more detailed report go to www.businesstoday.in/nasscom2012