Techies on coming back to India after years abroad

Usually it’s the other way around. Most IT professionals who are posted ‘on-site’ (deputations abroad) for long term assignments – we’re talking years, not months – usually prefer to settle down in those countries moving onto other assignments/jobs when their projects end. Of late, though, more and more of techies are finding their way back home, some to their old jobs, some moving up the career ladder and some to even start their own businesses. It’s still a trickle of a phenomenon but a trickle nonetheless.

At Technopark, for example, there are only a few handfuls of such ‘on-site returnees’. “Home is home, after all,” muses Asish Z. Koshy, Global Business Head, Travel and Cruises at IBS, who returned home after an eight year stint in the United States (U.S.). “It comes down to individual attitudes. I, for one, was never ‘settled’ in the U.S. From day one, I always knew I wanted to come back. In that regard, I made certain lifestyle choices such as renting a house instead of buying a house that would enable me to come back home without too much hassle. Once you are settled and you have a lot of fixed assets it’s very difficult to uproot your life,” he adds.

Asish’s wife, Anna, also a techie, lived in the U.S. “on and off for six years” before returning to India. “The U.S. is a lovely place but it’s like a suction pump! Once you’re sucked into the U.S. way of life it’s nigh impossible to get out. I kept myself aloof from it because I too never had any plans to settle there,” she says.

Most often it is personal issues or crisis that triggers the decision to return. Techie Vinod Anand, for instance, went on site to the U.S. when he was with Patni Computers. He was there for over a decade until 2009 when his father fell ill and he chose to come back to Kerala. “I have no regrets about coming back. I wanted that time with my father and was able to be with him till the end,” says Vinod, who is now a partner of Kochi-based software firm Thinking Code.

Anand Gopalakrishnan who works at IBS after working in Tokyo, Japan, for six years says: “I had to return because of the prospects for higher education for my child was limited.”

Most of the techies also don’t seem too enamoured with the work culture or their professional lives abroad. “Life is like a process in the U.S. It’s way too regimented for my liking,” opines Vinod, adding: “If office hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., then that’s it. You won’t find anyone in the office before or after.” Now, surely, that’s something to cheer about, considering the day-night work schedules for techie’s here…? “Not if its work, work and nothing but work, while at work,” quips Vinod.

Anna explains: “Work per se is the same everywhere. Unlike in India, though, everything about work is impersonal in the U.S.. There is no camaraderie with your colleagues at all. Here most of my colleagues are also my friends. There you get to office, sit down and work. Even if you take a five minute coffee break, you take it by yourself. It can get lonely.” It’s an opinion seconded by Krishnakumar Balakrishnan of Kreara Solutions who went to Fort Lauderdale for a brief on-site visit. “I was startled by the impersonality of the office. People were very accommodating but clearly you are on your own for everything,” he says.

Higher cost of living is another factor that prompts some of them to return. “On site salaries are not that great, to be honest – actually 50 per cent less than what you would earn outside. You can lead a comfortable life if you are single. But if you have a family to support and especially if your spouse doesn’t work (as is often the case in the U.S. where dependants are not allowed to work) then its not economical to stay there,” says Joseph, a recent California-returnee who works at an multinational in Technopark.

As happy, and in the words of Asish and Anna, at “peace of mind” as they all are back home, they do miss some aspects of life abroad. “I miss the better work-life balance,” says Asish, as his wife adds: “Life and lifestyles are more convenient abroad, whereas here everything is bit of a chore.” Adds California guy: “Career-wise its great when you’re on-site. You are the face of the team back home and therefore you get more visibility with your clients, which, if you’re smart, you’ll capitalise on!”