CALCUTTA, India, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Recently when a senior hotelier learnt that he had to meet the general manager of the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, Pierre Jochem, for a job interview, the first thing he did was to brush up his French that he learnt in school. Not that the jobseeker had to know or use the French language at his new job, but he wanted to impress Jochem, a French national who had been recently brought in from a European hotel chain.
Or, visit the offices of Daksh eServices, one of India's largest back-office service providers and you would come across quite a few Germans floating around with interpreter in tow. No, they are not delegates on a business trip, but a few of the 80 Germans Daksh has employed recently for their non-English work.
Stories like this are not strange in India anymore. Yesteryear expatriate managers who came into the country were bosses of multinationals subsidiaries like Coca Cola or Pfizer. But now another breed of expats are entering the country by planeloads hired by all types of Indian companies for their businesses right here in India.
Headhunters say that over 20,000 expats were recently recruited by Indian companies, most of it in industries such as telecom, media, pharmaceuticals, hotels, retail and biotechnology. Traditional manufacturing industries too are hiring people, mostly in the area of manufacturing process controls. The salary levels for traditional industry sectors, however, are more attractive ranging between $250000 and $400000 a year in addition to normal perquisites. They are coming in at all levels, sometimes in bigger cities, but equally often in the interiors of India's manufacturing towns.
Consider these instances. S Kumars Nationwide -- a garment manufacturing and retailing company has just hired John Paul Vivian, a London-based designer earlier with Yves St Laurent, for its Tamarind range of garments. Ranbaxy Labs, a drug maker, recently brought in British national Brian Tempest as regional director (Europe) to help develop European markets for its products.
The upstart Reliance Infocom, which is soon emerging to be India's largest telecom company, is in the process of hiring 25 to 30 expatriates, all for the various new businesses that it is entering. Not to be left behind, Bharti Televentures, Reliance's closest competitor, hired Norman Price, an American national, as group chief technical officer who will be responsible for network planning, operations strategy, deployment of technology and driving quality across service areas. And, Sterlite Industries, a metal manufacturer has already hired 18 expatriates at its factories, mostly for manufacturing process management.
But these are just one side of the coin. Drop in at India's new dollar spinning back-office outfits, and you will find French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swiss, Japanese, besides English rubbing shoulders with Indian executives and working at 25 percent of the salary levels of their home countries. Lower salaries do not bother these expatriate Information Technology-enabled services professionals.
"The cost of living is lower in India; I responded to an ad and here I am," says 29-year old Ethel Graff of back office service provider Technovate Solutions, a subsidiary of London-based ebooker Plc. Before coming to India, Graff used to work with an international law firm in Paris for about $3000 per month. And, for Finnish, Kati Koivukangas, a telesales consultant who worked as a hotel receptionist in Helsinki, it's the attraction of "the experience of working in India that will add to my resume," which brought her here.
While most expatriates are accepting India assignments because of the opportunities the country offers, a primary reason is also the state of their own economies. Many companies in the U.S. and Europe have been axing jobs over the past 18 months to keep their heads above water. Taking up a job in a more stable economy such as India's makes sense to most of them. According to the Global Relocation Report, India has been steadily improving its position amongst emerging destinations. It is now at fourth place up from a fifth a year ago.
"A person's nationality does not matter any longer. If his skill sets are what the company is looking for, the job is his," says Vikram Chhachhi, project leader, Amrop International, the global search firm.
Corporate India is not just hiring expatriates in India. Companies now also prefer to have their overseas offices managed by expatriates, who these companies perceive, understand the local markets better. Recently, for instance, Gujarat Glass hired a Brazilian national to look after its sales office in that country, something that would never have happened a few years ago.
"Expatriate induction into India has become more a rule than an exception," says R Suresh of Stanton Chase International. "If Indian companies have to stay in the business, they have to identify the right talent."
Although there is a perception that the increasing trend of hiring expatriates at higher than average Indian salary levels could cause heartburn among Indian managers, human resource managers say this is not really true.
"This definitely was an issue at one point of time, but Indian managers have come around to accepting expatriate managers as people bringing specialized skills to the table," says Arvind Agarwal, head (human resources), RPG Group. "But it does become an issue if the expatriate turns out to be a wrong hire,"
Still, according to consultant Cap Gemini, "with India increasingly looking like the international growth engine of tomorrow, it is to this country that the world would be headed." Optimistic predictions indeed, but reflects a trend, which is real.