Infosys steps up US hiring as more top talent flees

These twin developments may just be a key trend to watch across the Indian IT services landscape in the coming years.

The two trends may be seemingly unrelated, but Infosys's earlier decision to ramp up the hiring of Americans in the US may just be the antidote to the turmoil afflicting one of India's iconic names in IT services.

On Monday, the company's senior vice president Sanjay Rajagopalan decided to call it quits. This was not altogether a shocker considering he was brought in by erstwhile CEO Vishal Sikka to head up the newly-minted Design Thinking department -- something Sikka had dreamed up to push Infosys towards the new era of creative problem solving for the digital realm.

Earlier, in July, innovation fund managing director Yusuf Bashir, who Sikka had purloined from SAP while he was the vice president of new products, had also stepped down, mirroring the steady trickle of exits of ex-SAP employees -- 12 prior to these departures -- that Sikka had brought in since his appointment as CEO three years ago.

None can of course match the sizeable aftershocks felt upon the resignation of Sikka himself on August 18 of this year after an internecine battle with co-founder and larger-than-life impresario Narayana Murthy, ostensibly over issues such as employee compensation and corporate governance.

Despite Sikka's resignation, the company seems to be soldiering on with its plans to step up its US presence. In May this year, the company announced that it would snap up 10,000 employees across four separate locations in the US, starting with one in the state of Indiana. A new announcement a few days ago detailed a new technology and innovation hub in Raleigh, North Carolina that will hire 2,000 employees over the next four years, starting with 500 by early 2018.

Infosys hands including company president Ravi Kumar were accompanied by North Carolina governor Roy Cooper while making this announcement. They suggested that these new hires would span the red hot -- indeed vital -- new areas of machine learning, cloud, data, and digital technologies. The announcement early this year was first seen as a way to combat President Donald Trump's bellicose stance against H-1B visas, but over time, it's clear it has become the expedient and necessary course of action if Infosys is to flourish in the digital era.

Almost overnight, the world has changed for Indian companies like Infosys, ones that used to dominate the world of infrastructure maintenance and application development relied on by companies in the US and Europe for their technology needs. Cheaper labour costs and ample tech talent once made India the logical destination for tech services help. All of that has changed almost overnight. Labour costs in India have risen. Technology needs have changed as companies have to now be infinitely more agile in responding to customer needs.

Often, language barriers, time differences, and geographical distances mean that companies may no longer be able to work with tech outfits located oceans away. Moreover, Indian IT services are themselves in an existential crisis as they are being disrupted by the cloud. New skills in AI and machine learning are both hard to come by, with re-skilling apparently a huge challenge.

Infosys' Kumar instead said that what attracted the company to its US locations, and especially North Carolina, was the abundance of local talent at nearby universities and community colleges in Wake County, along with the proximity to the state's famed Research Triangle. Around $22 million in taxpayer-funded grants and a $3 million state-funded community college training program most definitely sweetened the decision -- incentives that Indiana have also offered the company.

Look for more of these announcements as Indian IT seeks to re-invent itself in the land of its largest customer base.

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