As the US looks at restrictions on H-1B visas as part of President Donald Trump's protectionist call, global firms may look to set up captive technology centres in India to tap talent in emerging areas where there is a gap in supply globally.
In the past two years, global firms have begun shifting their technology budgets to emerging areas such as digital, big data, internet of things and analytics, in tune with the market shifts. However, they are also seeing a dearth of talent in countries such as the US and are looking for people with such skills from countries like India.
The recent political rhetoric over visas has concerned them. This has prompted them to explore setting up centres or expanding their existing teams in countries such as India where they can tap engineers to keep pace with their needs.
"Among the line items that are being debated is immigration... global firms are exploring globalising in India over the next 12 months," said Praveen Bhadada, partner (digital transformation practice) at Zinnov, a global technology consultancy. "The fact that you need talent for technologies and India being a potential market are big drivers. The proposed Bills (to restrict immigration) have amplified it more."
Nearly half of the global top 500 companies have a presence in India with their captive centres, which are providing shared services in finance, accounting and HR processing. Besides, they have also set up technology teams that build software for their global teams, as well as teams that analyse data for their products and services.
"A lot of these companies are facing the same challenge as Indian IT services firms. They need to shift to digital fast and there are only so many people in new technologies," said a senior executive of an IT services firm who has a model to help global companies set up captives.
India is expected to employ nearly a million people in the over 1,100 captives or global in-house centres by this year's end, with a majority of the new recruits in areas such as digital, cybersecurity, and analytics.
The software lobby Nasscom said global in-house centres or captives have become an integral part of the fast-growing Indian IT and business process management sector and contribute 20 per cent of the software exports in the country.
In recent months, several global firms such as Standard Chartered, Diageo, and Swiss Bank UBS are expanding in India, looking to tap local talent to deliver services. General Electric has shut its research and development centres in the rest of the world and is focusing on expanding in the US and India.
"There is significant pressure on us to also cut outsourcing to other companies and bring it back internally. So, the teams are expanding and mostly in emerging areas," said an executive of a global captive on the condition of anonymity. "Because these areas are new, the company feels that we need to do it in-house rather than look outside."