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Needs job, moves to India
As U.S. jobs move abroad, more Americans are willing to work overseas.
March 12, 2004: 11:11 AM EST
By Leslie Haggin Geary, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Robert Dunn first spotted the warning signals three years ago, after the dot-com bust.

That's when his Las Vegas-based company, Creative Healthcare Solutions, which provides Internet technology services to healthcare clients, started seeing jobs being awarded to companies in India and China.

Instead of protesting against the offshoring of work that might have gone to U.S. firms like his, Dunn, 55, has decided to get in on the game. Call it a case of, "If you can't beat them, collaborate with them."

Recently, Dunn found himself contacting head hunters in Bangalore -- southern India's Silicon Valley -- where many information technology (IT) and other white-collar jobs have sprouted in recent years.

His goal is to send himself, and as many of the 20 people who work with him, to India to consult on healthcare IT projects.

The way Dunn sees it, he has 30 years of experience in the field, as do many of his colleagues. They are perfect candidates to oversee and manage work that's now being awarded to Indian workers with less experience in the field.

"It's important for Americans to collaborate more than they have been," Dunn says. "It's unfortunate that everyone has put a stake in the ground that outsourcing is totally bad or totally good. No one's looking in the middle."

Foreigners working in India

As it turns out, Dunn isn't the only American starting to look -- and even move -- abroad for work. And his contention that American workers can still find opportunity in this dawn of offshoring isn't a case of wishful thinking, according to the Indian employers he's contacting.

Geri Golemme, Bostonian in Bangalore  
Geri Golemme, Bostonian in Bangalore

"We need overseas people to work in our country," agrees Kris Lakshmikanth, founder and CEO of Head Hunters India. "In fashion, health care, biotechnology, there are areas where India needs special knowledge that is available in the U.S. and Europe. The other thing we need are people who can speak different languages, American English, French, German."

Today, experts say, there are about 30,000 foreigners working in India. That's a virtual drop in the bucket for a country that has a population of more than 1 billion -- and far less than the 250,000 foreigners (mostly English) living in India some 60 years ago, just before India's independence in 1947.

But the number of people willing to uproot themselves from homes in New York to become expatriates in New Delhi is expected to grow in coming years. In fact, it's already become easier for Indian employers to attract foreign workers.

Last week, for example, Lakshmikanth received an e-mail from a woman who worked at a call center in Kansas. Could she send a resume?

"I get two to three e-mails from the U.S. and one from Europe a week asking for jobs in India," he says. "It's the future."

The accidental expat

India wasn't something Geri Golemme, a vice president of staffing for a large financial services company, sought out. Her boss asked if she'd be willing to relocate temporarily to Bangalore to help launch the firm's new overseas operations. She'd be home in six weeks.

That was in March 2003, but Golemme's still in India, and won't return to Boston until next year. But she's not unhappy about the delay. On the contrary, Golemme says the India assignment offers abundant professional opportunity plus new adventure.

 

"When you're part of a startup, even though it's part of a huge organization, you have opportunities you never would have back in the U.S.," she says.

That's not to say uprooting doesn't have challenges. Golemme's roots in Boston are "very deep." She owns a home on Beacon Hill and misses things like going out for salsa dancing.

"I wanted to challenge myself to do something I'm afraid of doing," she said. "When I arrived in India at 2 a.m. and got off the plane, I didn't know what to expect."

Many Americans moving to India are natives who left the subcontinent in search of better opportunity. Now, people like Sam and Neeta Iyengar are making a reverse migration home.

From 1996 to 2001, the Iyengars lived and worked in New Jersey, Sam as owner of a tech company. Neeta's jobs included stints as a radio disc jockey and newspaper reporter. Their daughter, Shloka, was born in the Garden State in 2000, and Sam quips: "Hoboken is known for baseball, Frank Sinatra and Shloka. She's a Jersey girl."

The Iyengars started to feel the pull of home soon after Shloka was born. "We wanted her to be close to her grandparents," says Sam. "They were growing old."

So Sam sold his business and the family moved to Bangalore.

He now works as senior vice president at Sonata Software, a tech company. The job wasn't hard to find: a cup of coffee with an old acquaintance resulted in a job offer.

"Companies here are struggling to be more market- and customer-oriented," Iyengar says. "To have American techies and management come over here will help that process."

Though moving to India may involve a long flight, the actual process is easier than ever. Companies post job listings online, so anyone can send a resume to prospective employers with a click of a button.

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Monster.com India has about 3,000 foreigners looking for jobs on its Web site. And headhunters like Lakshmikanth are coming to the United States to talk up the virtues of relocating.

Their message is resonating with people like Mahesh Prasad.

Prasad moved to the United States 20 years ago to get an M.B.A. degree. He became an American citizen and has worked in the telecommunications industry around Washington, D.C., where his wife was a transportation lobbyist.

Neither had thought of moving back to India. Then a recruiter called Prasad. Reliance Infocomm, India's No. 1 telecom company, needed people with experience.

In the States, telecom was suffering badly. By comparison, working for Reliance "was a lifetime opportunity," Prasad said.

"We were creating a market with 35 million phones to 250 million phones in a matter of a few years," he explained. "For someone like me, it was an opportunity to do something that won't be repeated."  Top of page




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