Within some IT circles, Indian outsourcing firms have become the poster child for everything that's wrong with globalization and the H-1B visa program.
But blaming a certain set of companies for taking advantage of business opportunities created by the American companies that use the services of these firms to lower their IT costs seems a little hypocritical. There's no doubt that these Indian firms enjoy a cost advantage by primarily leveraging labor resources in India, but that's not all that much different from all the manufacturing jobs that U.S. companies outsourced to China. Businesses shift work to where costs are lower unless other outside pressures are brought to bear.
According to HCL Technologies CEO Vineet Nayar, that's exactly what's starting to happen. At the company's Global Meet 2011 conference this week, Nayar noted that the Indian outsourcing provider has created 1,200 jobs in the U.S. The company has been working in cooperation with local universities and state governments to ensure that there is a supply of IT talent for those projects. The reason for this, Nayar says, is that "socially responsible" companies in the U.S. want to make sure that IT work performed on their behalf is done in the U.S., so even though HCL Technologies is not sure how profitable these projects will ultimately prove to be, customer requirements are driving the company to invest more in U.S.-based IT talent. That effort, notes Nayar, is also part of a larger effort to have greater local presence in the U.S. market because HCL Technologies is getting involved in more complex projects that require more than just the availability of low-cost IT skills. In fact, the goal is to have 10,000 employees outside of India by 2015.
IT jobs are, of course, a hot-button issue. But Nayar says that between companies in the U.S. insisting that jobs be performed in the U.S., and the fact that more than half of all H-1B visa requests are being rejected, fundamental change in the way IT projects on a global basis are being managed is starting to take place.
Long term, the real question shouldn't be so much about rolling back globalization as much as it should be about advancing the skills of the entire IT community in a way that promotes enough work for all concerned. But in the meantime, forces other than pure economics are starting to have an impact on where IT jobs are being distributed.