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A share of the India pie: Expat Indians eyeing desi roles as US tightens visa curbs – Economic Times

New Delhi: Expat Indians working at middle and senior levels are increasingly eyeing opportunities in the country even as the US is tightening curbs on foreign workers, executives at talent search firms like Stanton Chase, RGF Executive Search, and Korn Ferry said.

They attribute the trend to increasing visa restrictions in the US and some other countries since the Covid-19 outbreak, besides the desirability of ‘India experience’ on a CV, and a sentiment of wanting to be with family amid the pandemic.

Enquiries for India roles from expat Indians have increased 300% compared to pre-Covid days, said Mala Chawla, managing partner at Stanton Chase India.

The Donald Trump administration in the US had been pursuing a conservative work visa regime, and since the pandemic outbreak it has brought in more restrictions. In June it temporarily suspended new work visas until the end of the year. On Monday, it restricted federal agencies from hiring foreign workers including H-1B holders.

“Most companies in the US, especially IT companies, are hiring locally now due to the H-1B visa issue,” said Sanjay R Shastry, managing director of RGF Executive Search (India).

The US is one of the biggest markets for Indian IT companies and pharmaceutical companies.

Shastry said RGF is in the process of appointing an Indian expat from the US as the CTO of an Indian electric vehicle company.

The government’s push to promote local manufacturing could help create many attractive opportunities for expats, search firm executives said.


Due to restrictions on international travel, many expats are joining their new jobs in India remotely.

While air travel is being opened up, many expats don’t want their families to travel at this time when the pandemic is still raging in several parts of the world including India, search executives said.

“People are reluctant to relocate alone,” said Shiv Agrawal, managing director of ABC Consultants.

He said one executive that his firm placed as a project management leader at a real estate firm in India will join remotely from the Middle East.

Navnit Singh, managing director of Korn Ferry (India), too, said many top executives are being placed remotely.

Korn Ferry recently placed an expat from Europe as the head of a large retail FMCG in India.

Expats want a share of the India pie as there is still immense demand for global leaders who have both experience in developed markets as well as large markets like India or China, Singh said.

How does the pandemic fit into calculations? Expat leaders eyeing desi roles don’t see it as a concern anymore, Singh said. The best hospitals in India are comparable to those abroad and senior talent will have access to these, he said.

Some are even willing to take a pay cut to move back to their home country.

“While there are better paying options abroad, there are emotional reasons to coming back as well,” said Stanton Chase’s Chawla, citing two CFOs living abroad willing to take a pay cut to come back.

However, those who are highly in demand globally, like food scientists are not willing to take pay cuts.

Pallavi Kathuria, managing director of Egon Zehnder’s India operations said that while there was no overall uptick in expats coming to India, most who had joined since March were Indians, and these were remote starts. Anecdotally, all moves, and not just to India, will slow down at this time, she said.