Infosys continued to execute its new business strategy by hiring 500 Americans for its technology hub in Raleigh, N.C., bringing its total in just about a year to 4,700 people.
US President Donald Trump's onslaught against the H1-B visa, which Indian IT firms procured en masse to execute projects in the US, has certainly been a powerful factor that has forced Indian firms to look at hiring domestic American workers.
However, the reality is that, Trump apart, radical structural change was already in the works. IT's old business of infrastructure maintenance and application development, having become thoroughly commoditised, was firmly on its way out, and the new era of cloud, mobile, social, and AI was quickly becoming the core to winning any contract. Even before Trump's war, there had begun a marked slowdown in H1-B applications by the IT majors. A general realisation that using labour arbitraged talent from Bangalore was not going to become the way forward. Then, there were the increasing frequency of lawsuits filed by non-Indian Infosys employees who claimed that the firm was being exclusivitism in its hiring practices.
Consequently, Infosys was quick to sense both the imperative to change and the opportunity ahead. It announced last year that it would hire 10,000 Americans and establish a plethora of technology and innovation hubs across the US, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), user experience, emerging digital technologies, cloud, and big data. It subsequently opened up these hubs in Indiana, Connecticut, and Rhode Island and added Raleigh to this list a few days ago.
Whether it is part of a savvy PR strategy in country that has witnessed the shooting of Indian engineers by Americans incensed at job losses or something else, Infosys via the Infosys Foundation USA recently provided a number of grants for classroom technology and computer science training that have reached at least 3,938 students, 102 teachersl and 94 schools across North Carolina.
"Supported by academic institutions in North Carolina and around the country, the Hub allows us to co-locate, co-innovate and co-create alongside our clients and build on our passion for creating the next generation of top US technology talent through world-class education and training," said Infosys CEO Salil Parekh.
The fact is, Infosys is not alone in snapping up American talent and bolstering science education in the US. TCS, India's largest and most valued IT Services firm that is part of the Tata family empire, has been amongst the top two job creators in the US amongst IT Services company, according to The Cambridge Group, and has hired at least 12,500 Americans.
The company's community engagement program, goIT, claims to have provided upward of 100,000 hours of "high-impact skill building" for students, and last year, TCS launched Ignite my future in school, which tries to inject computational thinking and problem solving into core subjects such as math, history, science, and humanities. Wipro and HCL, the other big IT firms, are similarly engaged in teacher-training and classroom support.
For Infosys, as with its peers, the path to digital has been excruciatingly slow. According to Salil Parekh, the new man at the wheel for Infosys, revenues from digital are 28 percent of the pie--higher than the 20 percent or so a few years ago, but not exactly growing at the scorching pace it needs to. Acquisitions are one way out of the death march of the old business, as Accenture has shown, but doing many such deals to bump up revenue and capacity from digital don't seem to be attractive options for Infosys and its peers.
Nevertheless, the US hubs and hires will be important milestones for the company, as it tries to enter new businesses that require expertise in emerging fields such as AI and machine learning, with engineering talent geographically close to its clients and sales teams. But will it be enough and does it need to do more will always be big questions -- as long as it continues to lean heavily on the rapidly ebbing nectar from the old IT model.
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