Today, it’s not just foreign campuses that are keen on an international population. In a new trend, a growing number of companies, both in India and abroad, are looking beyond borders to recruit the best personnel. Even unconventional sectors have started roping. In head hunters to widen the net, In their search for the best talent.

According to the Schulich Business School, Toronto, Canada, Wipro chief, Azim Premji, during a visit, expressed interest in recruiting from other countries, underlining the-importance of an ‘international workforce’ to maintain the competitive edge in the market. And Indians have made a strong contribution to this ‘global village’ movement.

Traditionally, academics and IT were areas that attracted an international workforce, but now other areas such as ad­vertising and banking have also opened up their doors to dif­ferent nationalities. Komal Sohal, an advertising professional who has won many accolades, including the Cannes Adver­tising Award, has studied and worked in India and is now based in Dubai. She says, “Immigrants are increasingly be­coming ‘nodes’. In knowledge networks. I hire people from a variety of places, ranging from Romania to South Africa, and each person brings along a unique sensibility. The Dubai cosmopolis is a great place to work, as its economy is on an accelerating upward graph.”

Interestingly, Education, Entrepreneurship, and immigration, a US report that examined successful start-Ups be­tween 1995 and 2005, made it clear that the college an Indian immigrant came from was irrelevant to his entrepreneurial ability: I n fact, there are success stories in IT and engineering from third-tier colleges as well.

A media report quoted the author of the survey, Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University, as saying ‘This tells us more about Indians than their education; The fact is that no matter what school they graduated from, given the right opportuni­ties, they flourish/’ Many Indians who are working overseas endorsed Wadhwa’s Views; they insist that it is their hard work and skills that got them the job and in most cases their educa­tional qualifications did not matter as much.

Commenting on the new trend, Harvard alumnus Tariq Chauhan, President, KOL Corporation, UAE, says, “Globali­zation has forced international corporations to set world-scale targets, and hence research and capital are sourced from across the globe. These enterprises are working to attain global stand­ards with their products, and the pressure to keep personnel on the cutting edge of knowledge, skills and resources is un­relenting/’ Incidentally, the ethnicity of the top management at KOL spans six countries, from Canada to Indonesia.

Workforce Destinations

“Public policymakers around the world are waking up to the talent imperative, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields”, opines J Melsa, President Elect, and American Society for Engineering Education. Nations like the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are liberalising their immigration policies for the highly-skilled, under an understanding that the world needs a global system for developing and using talent for universal benefits. According to its 2000 census, there were approximately eight million foreign-born, college-educated persons in the US. However, the appropriate bench­mark is the number of such residents as a share of the na­tion’s population. By this standard the United States (at fewer than three per cent) ranks below Australia (about eight per cent), Canada (seven per cent), and New Zealand (4.5 per cent).

The results of the policies of these nations are evident in such data, which should reinforce a picture of global high-skill migration in which Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, play a bigger role than the US and UK, which are usually perceived as primary players. “For professionals from the Indian sub­continent, the Middle East and Singapore have been popular work destinations as well,” says Fahd Matloob, a divisional manager with European retail major Geant, in Saudi Arabia.

Skilled Indian professionals are beginning to find av­enues in continental Europe and Asia Pacific. Pushpendra Sharma, an alumnus of Columbia University, and working as an investment manager in Singapore, says,” I came here to be part of this excellent ‘live-work-play’ environment. Besides, Singapore is a great place to raise a family, owing to its rich culture.” The non-English speaking countries of Europe such as Germany, the Netherlands, and France are also increas­ingly wooing the Indian workforce by highlighting their multicultural industry and society.

Offshore Expansion

Business experts report that digital work, which covers perhaps 10 per cent of employment in – the US, can and will be off-shored to low-wage highly educated workers in devel­oping countries. Hence, most major multinationals have R&D centres in China or India. In addition, Indian companies like TCS, Ranbaxy, and others have set Lip their global hold­ing companies across Europe, while NIIT and ICICI have started offshore operations in regions like the Middle East, South America, and even Africa.

Changing Education

Education systems worldwide have also embarked on significantly different programmes. For instance, this year, 20 MBA students from the Massachusetts Institute of Tech­nology, US, opted to do their Global Entrepreneurship Labora­tory (G-Lab) project in various start-ups in India, from Bangalore to Mumbai, and even in Rajasthan.

Alternately, educational institutes are also seeking to expand to destinations abroad – particularly India and China.

Gary Schuster, Chief Academic Officer, Georgia Institute of Technology, US, recently signed a memorandum of un­derstanding (MoU) with the Andhra Pradesh government to set up the institute’s International campus in Hyderabad with an extension in Visakhapatnam, to be operational by 2009. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) is collaborating with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), aimed at upgrading global engineering education.

“India is increasingly being recognized as a country with a huge computer-literate and English speaking workforce. These days international exposure is the rule rather than the exception,” iterates Payal Kumar, Vice President (Editorial), Sage Publications, adding, “Personally, I have had a British upbringing and education with a career in India, and the ex­perience has been very fulfilling.*9

Talent Migration

The migration decisions of highly skilled people are shaped by economic, social, and psychological factors, but immigration policies are most important.

Australia, Canada, and New Zealand perceive immi­grants as a source of economic growth, while UK and US have historically received large streams of immigrants of all skill levels, owing to their central positions in global politics. The UK has recently taken on a more strategic perspective, emphasizing skills and education under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP), while in the US, the debate rages on immigration reforms, which has resulted in two new categories of visas that help candidates with ‘extraordinary abilities4 make America their home. France, Germany, and Japan, tend to view immigrants in general, more as threats to native workers than as positive additions to national well-being. Efforts to reform restrictive policies, in the face of glo­bal economic competition and aging native workforce, have been slow at best. In a reverse trend, foreign skilled profes­sionals are also keen on working in India. “The interest is a direct reflection of India’s heightened profile in the global economy, particularly in technology. An Indian experience counts because most businesses will face an Indian company either as a potential partner, or as a competitor in the future”, says Deepak Brahmbhatt, who was a finance professional in Canada before he started his own education consultancy venture in India.

Global Vision

Kausar Niazi, Manager-IT, Fu-com International, Bah­rain says, “Properly governed global flows of talent are a win-win proposition and are essential to combat poverty and un­derdevelopment worldwide. However, brain circulation could devolve into brain drain. Countries, from which skilled im­migrants are drawn, should be able to partake in the knowl­edge economy. In particular, receiving countries should avoid stripping talent in areas of critical human need, such as medi­cine and education.

One can hope that the incentives of high skill migration will eventually have much more to do with creative opportu­nity and less to do with salary differentials than they do to­day.