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Why US should stop cribbing on India firms

The bureaucrat from Mississippi was insistent. He wanted the stage for 10 minutes. The Tata Consultancy Services brass was not quite sure. And he wouldn’t reveal his reasons. He only told them he won’t embarrass them. Yashwant Raj reports.

business Updated: May 02, 2011 00:56 IST
Yashwant Raj

The bureaucrat from Mississippi was insistent. He wanted the stage for 10 minutes. The Tata Consultancy Services brass was not quite sure. And he wouldn’t reveal his reasons. He only told them he won’t embarrass them.

Surya Kant, TCS’s US head, needn’t have worried.

The bureaucrat — very tall, everyone recalls —only wanted to thank the company for helping the administration deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that had killed 235 people and devastated the entire state in August 2005.

Mississippi administration had asked the local TCS staff for help in setting up the backend operations for disbursement of claims. The bureaucrat then presented Kant a crystal glass Eagle, which the US operations head treasures more than his chart-bursting revenues — $4 billion in the last financial year, results of which were announced a week ago.

“That’s just a few of the things we do here in the US,” said 55-year-old Kant.

The TCS, as many other Indians companies investing in greenfield projects or buy existing firms, is not putting Americans out of their jobs by shipping them off to India or to lesser-paid Indians brought here on fancy visas.

In fact, TCS is doing more, critically getting Americans re-interested in IT. “We find that there is a drop in the number of students opting for IT careers,” said Kant, adding, “and as an IT company we need people who have an interest in this career.” Thus was born the immensely popular initiative goIT.

Every summer, TCS invites local schools to send their students to the company’s Cincinnati facility, which, incidentally hired 400 locals the past few years, to come and watch the professionals at work, and hopefully get inspired.

goIT has become so successful that there are inquiries from other states —Michigan for one. President Barack Obama might want to know more about it too, as he has been concerned by American children losing out to more savvy ethnic communities. TCS is consciously trying, once again contrary to the prevalent wisdom about Indian owned companies, to appoint as many local Americans to leadership positions especially as possible.

The IT giant globally employs nearly 200,000 people spread across 42 countries; 18,000 of them in the US, and an increasing proportion of them locally sourced — currently standing at almost 2,000.

The TCS president pointed to the jobs its creating here, at its two centres in Cincinnati and Midland (in Michigan). “We have hired people straight from campuses and laterally for Cincinnati,” he said.

There are plans to hire more. Anyone complaining about that?