Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/04/micro_silicon_india/

Microsoft’s brand calls to US workers eyeing India return

Google gets the scraps

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in CIO, 4th November 2005 16:54 GMT

Into the Valley In the battle to lure top talent back to India from Silicon Valley, Microsoft would appear to have a major edge over flashier darling of the moment Google and stalwarts such as Intel, Oracle and Dell.

At a recruiting event hosted here by Silicon India last night, workers stood in a line at times 30-people long, looking to drop their resumes off at Microsoft’s booth. No other company could claim such an impressive showing. Intel, for example, had seven staffers collecting resumes but only a handful of prospective workers at any time. The rest of the vendors were lucky to have two or three candidates displaying interest.

Meanwhile, the people waiting to speak to Microsoft had to wind around other booths. New people joining the line would ask if it was in fact the Microsoft lane, as you couldn’t even see the desk where the Redmond resume taker sat.

Come back baby

All of the vendors present at the event looked to convince Indian workers here to move back home. The big pitch made by companies such as Informatica and Airtight Networks is that great opportunities exist in India for workers who have honed their managerial expertise after years working in Silicon Valley. Schools in India pump out plenty of engineering talent, but business-minded folks who know how to run a strong technical team are in shorter supply.

“Opportunities are no longer limited to Silicon Valley,” said Pravin Bhagwat, CTO at Airtight Networks, an India-based networking start-up. “They are available in other parts of the world, including India at this point. There are new opportunities that were not present 10 or 15 years ago.

“There is a huge talent pool, but what I believe is missing . . . is a layer of experienced management. Experience isn’t something you can replace.”

Applicants interviewed by The Register said Microsoft held such appeal because it offers a broad set of jobs and the most solid reputation. Hardware makers like Dell and Intel tend to have more specific requirements for engineers trained in a particular skill. Microsoft, by contrast, has myriad openings for software developers of varying talents and experience.

Google may also have a wide variety of available positions and a sexy name, but far, far fewer applicants showed interest in the advertising broker. (Google had four specific ads for positions in Bangalore, including Software Engineer, Engineering Director, Tech Lead/Manager and Programming Instructor.)

The interest in Microsoft also stems from the relative stability the company promises. Moving back to India can be a complex process that requires juggling Visa, Greencard or citizenship paperwork. Do you give India a go for six months, a year or two years?

(A charming lass from The Chugh Firm was on hand to answer many of these questions, and she was peppered by the participants for some time.)

“Resourcing” yourself to India can prove financially and culturally satisfying, according to presenters at the event.

Old country, new country

Informatica, for example, opened its India office in early 2003 and now employs 120 workers there. The staffers receive lower wages than they would in Silicon Valley but get the same stock options and other perks received by employees here, including free lunches and Friday beer specials.

Employees will have to deal with a chaotic, exploding technology scene in Bangalore. The infrastructure remains backward compared to the US and the Bangalore sprawl has forced some people to accept three-hour, one-way commutes. In addition, many of them will have to work odd hours in order to join US meetings via teleconferencing. But even that is changing with some companies requiring the US staff to stay up late, if the Indian team is bigger.

Complaints about the US losing out on Indian talent returning home can, of course, be directed in part at the government. Many workers find it easier now to apply their expertise in India rather than deal with obtaining visas here and having the FBI give you a call. In addition, Indian graduates now have more than enough reason to stay at home and give the IT market a go rather than flock to the US.

Airtight’s Bhagwat pushed the audience to be aggressive and approach a return to India from the perspective of an entrepreneur. Workers should seize the opportunity now and try to start businesses or manage parts of large businesses. In ten years’ time, plenty of Indian managerial talent will exist.

The interviewees, however, seemed more enamored with the idea of taking a traditional approach and working for a giant such as Microsoft. “It’s a pretty obvious choice,” said one hopeful.

Microsoft’s reputation could prove advantageous as IT companies of all sizes increase their business in India and China. A good brand goes a long way to getting the best talent.

For the curious, the companies looking to hire Indian staff included Broadcom, Conexant, Dell, EFI, GDA, Google, Informatica, Intuit, Juniper Networks, Metta, Microsoft, Montavlo, NetApp, Symantec, Webaroo, Yahoo!, Extreme Networks, OpusSoft, Oracle, Intel and Accenture. ®