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India's reverse brain drain
India sends a higher number of immigrant entrepreneurs to the United States than many other countries. But, as India's economy grows, will more Indians choose to start their businesses at home? Bianca Vazquez Toness reports from Mumbai. 
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Adapted from the broadcast audio segment; use the audio player to listen to the story in its entirety.

When we think of brilliant foreigners working in the high-tech industry in the U.S., chances are we will think of engineers and computer whizzes from India. 

So, what do we import from India? We import people; really smart people. This story aired on 60 minutes ten years ago. The reporter goes on to say that many of those smart people graduated from the same school:

“The smartest, most successful, most influential Indians who've migrated to the U.S. seem to share a common credential: they're graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology, better known as IIT.

31-year-old Megh Solanki is one of those smart IIT graduates - the only thing is, he hasn't left India. I caught up with this aspiring entrepreneur outside a restaurant in his manicured Mumbai suburb. He says the job opportunities in India are too good to leave:

“Look at finance. Look at insurance. Look at manufacturing. Everywhere, the jobs are so many.”

Solanki works for the American insurance giant AIG. It’s one of the many multinational companies, or MNC’s, here in Mumbai. He makes a handsome salary, lives alone, and eats out three times a week - something his family never did.  He has a comfortable life, but is determined to start his own online company - something his parents never would have done.

“If I had told my parents five, seven years ago that I want to quit my job and start something of my own, take the huge risk - they might not have been okay with that. So now, they are totally supportive of the fact you should try and do something new - you should try create some more jobs. The perception has completely changed.

Bianca Vazquez Toness: “Is that because you’ve been working on them? Or is that because the world around them is changing and they’re…”

“The entire mentality is changing - so for example, seven, eight years ago it was very cool to work with an MNC - right now it’s much cooler to work with a start up." 

It’s hard to measure just how cool it is to work for an MNC or start-up, but if you go back to IIT, it’s clear that getting to America is no longer at the top of the to-do list. 

“Maybe twenty, twenty-five years back, almost the whole class used to go for grad school in the U.S.”

Professor Avijit Chatterjee heads job placement for the IIT campus in Mumbai.

Now, he says, only about 10 percent of recent graduates move to the U.S. The rest stay and get jobs with multinationals, or increasingly, they become entrepreneurs.

“These are going to strike out on their own in India. As opposed to say to California, Silicon Valley, which was the trend maybe. So, they are looking at India-specific problems. Because I think they perceive a lot of untapped opportunities in India.

But still not every aspiring entrepreneur is satisfied by those opportunities.

“Going to states is something which I never really explored. It’s only been at the start of 2012 that I’ve started to weigh that option.”

33-year-old Avinash Singh analyzes stocks and writes reports for investors - he loves equity finance research. But in India the industry is new, so he’s trying to land a job in New York, where the industry was born - but he says the odds aren’t good.

“If a country has seven, seven and a half, eight percent unemployment rate, why would they want to have someone from a different country? They would rather hire internally, so I have to be much better than what options they have from internal resources. I should bring something really incredibly brilliant to the table that they should even start to consider talking to me or interviewing me, basically.”

If Singh does get to work in the states, his plan is not to stay forever. He wants to learn the equity finance business in America and take what he learns back to India. 

Reported by Bianca Vazquez Toness for America Abroad.


Immigration and the Global Talent Search / Produced by Samara Freemark, Bianca Vazquez Toness and A.C. Valdez. and edited by Martha Little, with additional production help from Flawn Williams. Special thanks to Colm Coyne/ Web Producer: Philippa Levenberg / Images courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons contributors: Tyson Crosbie and SEIU International, and AP photos by Andres Kudacki, Grand Island Independent, Lane Hickenbottom and Rafiq Maqbool. Video courtesy of PBS Newshour.

Host: Ray Suarez / Length: 51 minutes / Airdate: May 2013

This program was made possible with the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation and the Stuart Family Foundation.

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