Homebound Indian expats: How welcoming will be the domestic job market?

Some skills and roles will be much in demand, whereas some will be unwanted. However, the truth is that the ‘worked abroad’ tag has lost its shine.

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Globally, the economy is in doldrums. Job losses have already begun to engulf all nations. Given the situation, Indian nationals working abroad may also lose jobs in large numbers. These include engineers working in The Gulf region or IT professionals in Europe and the US. Besides these specialists, there may be a large population of blue-collar workers affected by the job loss as well.

In such a scenario, the Indian expats will have no option but to head back home. The question is, will India Inc. welcome these specialists with open arms or will there be apprehensions?

A lot will depend on the role and functions of the expats. The obsession with the ‘worked abroad’ tag is long gone, and it has lost its shine.

Adil Malia

This lockdown period is going to redefine things, and has given people a lot of time to think differently. It will also re-question everything, and a lot will depend on the value people bring in and create

As Adil Malia, a senior HR professional, and CEO, The Firm, says, “Gone are the days when we used to think that developed countries in the world have the experience we lacked. Right now, the paradigm has shifted for the whole world. We are now realising that they do not have any more experience of working in a different way than we have. Therefore, in today’s situation, no expat is going to be able to stand up to any great challenge better, or with any extra advantage than Indians in similar profiles.”

However, there will be enough scope for super specialists. “If the expats have worked in a certain domain — such as online logistics, online services, online supply chain— their skillsets will remain in demand, as these kinds of services still require a lot of development for the future Indian market,” adds Malia.

Jayant Kumar, joint president-HR, Adani Group, also offers a similar opinion. He believes that the value of an Indian expat will finally depend on the individual’s merit. However, certain roles and functions will score over the others.

Rajeev Singh

Indian expats who have experience in manufacturing in developed economies, will bring in the understanding of best practices in the sector and also quality, which are perceived to be better there than in India. Their expertise will be of great use in our country

For instance, when it comes to business operations, sales and marketing, the local talent available is superior. The understanding of the Indian market and its nuances cannot be obtained abroad.

“However, when it comes to functions such as research and development (R&D), finance and commercials, people who have worked in developed economies will be preferred because they can add a lot of value to innovations,” says Kumar.

Besides, international exposure in handling large-scale and complex operations in different markets is what India Inc. is looking forward to from the Indian expat talent.

One area, where even the Indian pharma industry will be happy to welcome the global Indian talent, is R&D. “If the expats bring in niche skills in functional areas, such as R&D and drug development, the companies will always value them,” says Rajorshi Ganguli, president and global HR head, Alkem Laboratories.

Rajeev Singh, CHRO, ATC Tires, says, “Indian expats who have experience in manufacturing in developed economies, will bring in the understanding of best practices in the sector and also quality, which are perceived to be better there than in India. Their expertise will be of great use in our country.”

Rajorshi Ganguli

If the expats bring in niche skills in functional areas, such as R&D and drug development, the companies will always value them

At the same time, Singh is also worried that the manufacturing sector, being badly hit due to the lockdown, may not be open for hiring at the moment. “Currently, the manufacturing sector is going through the toughest time, as compared to other sectors. There has been a temporary halt in hiring due to the financial burden. In order to make the sector survive these tough times, investment plans as well as cost reductions are all around to keep,” he explains.

Malia believes that the situation can change swiftly if India emerges as the manufacturing base for the new world, post Covid-19. “Then maybe, these jobs which bring in a certain demand, will be able to absorb expat skills. Until that time, it will be a period of wait and watch,” he says.

Rituparna Chakraborty

IT industry has thrived by working remotely during the lockdown. Besides, the world is looking at this sector for innovations, be it going paperless and touchless or cashless. There is also a huge demand in cyber security and drone technology

Another sector, which employs Indian talent in large numbers is the IT sector. Rituparna Chakraborty, co-Founder, EVP, TeamLease, feels the only sector that would have gained from the COVID-19 situation is the technology sector.

“IT industry has thrived by working remotely during the lockdown. Besides, the world is looking at this sector for innovations, be it going paperless and touchless or cashless. There is also a huge demand in cyber security and drone technology,” she points out.

According to Chakraborty, the probability of Indian expats losing jobs in technology is the least. And even if it does happen, they will be in great demand in India.

Jayant Kumar

when it comes to functions such as research and development (R&D), finance and commercials, people who have worked in developed economies will be preferred because they can add a lot of value to innovations

However, a senior industry professional from the IT sector isn’t in agreement with Chakraborty. He believes, even in this sector, the value lies in speciality. Those who are not into innovation or product development, will be of little value in the Indian market. General coders and those in IT servicing are in abundance back home.

As Malia concludes, “This lockdown period is going to redefine things, and has given people a lot of time to think differently. It will also re-question everything, and a lot will depend on the value people bring in and create.”

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