Ashutosh Gupta, shortly after graduating from the Indian Institute of
little else. "At that time, in the early 1990s,
the land of opportunity," he says. "You studied at IIT, went on to a school
like Stanford or MIT, and then hoped for a green card."
He, like thousands of others from his generation and before, achieved this
dream, and eventually settled down to a career as an investment banker
with financial heavyweight Goldman Sachs. He seemingly had it all: Offices
Today Gupta, age 38, sits atop the crest of a new trend: IIT graduates either
coming back to
"reverse brain drain", he calls it.
Gupta is currently head of the private equity group and chief transition
officer for Investment Research at Evalueserve, a Gurgaon-based company.
Early April, his company released a study that examined this phenomenon
in depth --the seemingly magnetic power of
of IIT graduates.
The study's author Alok Aggarwal, himself an IIT graduate and recent
the most advantageous place to live and work.
A quick peek at the numbers shows that between 1964 and 2001, 35 percent
of graduates from the seven IITs moved to
at around the time when
GDP growth rates, the number of IIT graduates leaving for the States dropped
sharply. From 2002 onwards, only 16 percent have opted for 'one way plane
tickets', and as Gupta's case demonstrates, many who left
feel the call to come home. The reasons for this are nuanced, and Gupta hesitates
to pinpoint any one specific cause. Still, he agrees that post 9/11 visa difficulties,
the slowdown of America's economy, and the emergence of India as a major world
player have all coalesced to bring about the recent trend.
"The H1-B visa process has become increasingly difficult," he says. "Today's
graduates see the hard evidence that it may not be the best option. They'd
rather work two years for a Google or a Microsoft in
Indian companies like Tata and Bharti, and then later go for an MBA degree
Gupta's own case is an exemplar of the advantages: in terms of luxury and
amenities, his new home in
Americans. It has good schools, good infrastructure, well-paved roads,
peaceful gardens, watchful security, and a consistent supply of water and
"Plus, there are certain comforts you get in
"And of course, now I can spend time with my parents; that was a huge factor."
He is not alone -- Gurgaon houses about 10,000 families, a number of whom
are recent returnees.
For Parajit Garg, an IIT Bombay topper (class of 2007) who earned his five
years integrated Masters Degree in Computer Science and Engineering, the
decision to stay in
modesty, says he could have gotten an education or job placement pretty
much anywhere in the world, but opted to work for a hedge fund in India,
and locate himself in Gurgaon.
"It made sense, just looking at the way the market has grown in the past
five years. Of course, ten years ago, it was different. But things have
changed. Even if you opt to stay in
internships and assignments, for two or three months, so that you don't miss out
on the experience of working internationally."
In the case of Gaurav Kwatra, a 2003 IIT Delhi graduate who worked in
Financial Services in the
in May 2007 to work at the Public Health Foundation of India, it was "a
personal decision." He enjoyed his time in
thrilled to have had the experience.
"I travelled a lot throughout
wouldn't have: I sky-dived, I went trekking. But in the end, I wanted to
be where I was most comfortable."
What about Indian food and music, was it the same in
he laughs. "I really missed my daal chawal."
Then there are people like Karthik Narayanaswamy, an IIT Bombay
graduate who is working in management consulting in
after studying at IITD, it just wasn't enough. I wanted to see
telling me, 'I wish I could go back. You're lucky; now I'm too tied down
here.'" He says he saw the writing on the wall, and "didn't want to miss
the boat." Where it once was a great asset to boast international experience,
"Now, everyone works in
points out. "If you haven't done it; it can actually be a problem
(for career development)."
He believes further that this trend will only gain momentum. "Take my
sister, for example," he says. "She passed up a job with an investment bank
homeland; if it was
perhaps it wouldn't be such an easy decision (to work those countries
instead of the
Whatever the reasons, and despite the few hang-ups such as the
frequently bemoaned traffic of
in the minds of IIT graduates, the
Asked to predict which country would 'hold the most promise for success
' in 10 years' time, 72 percent of the 677 IIT graduates surveyed named
India, with only 17 percent citing the US. Given the overwhelming evidence,
both anecdotal and empirical, perhaps it's time to sound the
death knell of the much-abhorred, ever ubiquitous, Indian brain drain, in
favour of the highly fashionable 'reverse' brain drain.