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India’s Tech Uprising: A Reverse Brain Drain Narrative

By May 30, 2024No Comments
Reverse Brain Drain

In the not-so-distant past, Ramesh would be a typical story of India’s brain drain—a brilliant software engineer with dreams too big, finding his calling among tech giants, fat paychecks, and venture capitalists in the faster lanes of Silicon Valley. Fast forward to today, and the tide has greatly shifted. India’s tech landscape is now a burgeoning hub of innovation, drawing talent back to its roots. Ramesh, like many others, found himself packing his bags, not for the dream of Silicon Valley but to join the revolution happening in India’s tech corridors. 

It’s about a new generation of tech professionals who see the limitless potential in their backyard and a nation’s persistence in becoming a global tech powerhouse. Welcome to the new India, where brain drain is history and brain gain is the future. This shift is fueled by a surge in talent, innovation, and economic growth, positioning India as a potential global tech and innovation hub. 

Pioneering a New Era of Tech 

“Definitely we are witnessing a reverse brain drain. I would see more and more people… coming back to India,” Roopa Kumar, Group CEO of Purple Quarter was quoted in one of her recent interviews. “Aadhaar and UPI have created immense opportunities. Our economy and tech advancements are drawing talent back, including from Europe and China. SaaS companies, once non-existent here in India, now boast several decacorns. It steadily reflects our steady pace of growth than before.”

From e-commerce, fintech, healthtech, to agritech, we are witnessing a multitude of innovations across sectors. Backed by incubators, accelerators, and venture capital firms, the Indian ecosystem is witnessing the birth of the next wave of tech disruptors.  Global players are straightening up to realise the untapped potential the economy has to offer in terms of talent, as well as consumerism. 

Prolific GCC Boom 

Initiated as offshore units set up by big multinational companies in other countries, like India, to support business, GCCs in India have rapidly evolved into handling more complex tasks like analytics, research & development, and even core business operations. They’re now considered strategic partners, driving innovation and growth for global businesses. 

Currently, India boasts over 1,580 Global Capability Centers, with a projection of 2400 GCCs operating in India by 2030, comprising a market size of US$110 Billion. These stats can be validated by the increased hiring requirements of Country Heads and Site leaders, who in numerous instances, are often senior technology leaders. These talents supervise the local teams and act as a bridge for the global executive teams. 

The Rise of Manufacturing and IT Firms

In the last decade, India has witnessed remarkable growth in the manufacturing and IT sectors. While the IT sector, already on an upward curve, is projected to reach a $500 billion valuation by 2030, the Indian government has implemented several schemes to incentivise and bolster the manufacturing sector:

  • Make in India: Launched in 2015, this flagship program aims to transform India into a global manufacturing hub. It focuses on creating a conducive business environment by streamlining regulations and promoting 25 key sectors, including automobiles, electronics, textiles, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Schemes: These sector-specific schemes provide financial incentives to companies for incremental production of designated goods. PLI schemes incentivise domestic manufacturing and enhance the export competitiveness of India-made products.
  • Simplified Registration: The government has simplified the registration process for businesses through initiatives like Udyam registration for MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises). Currently, MSMEs account for around 30% of India’s manufacturing GDP and employ over 120 million people.

Adding to this, the Indian government announced INR 6,903 crore (for FY25) for the development of the Semiconductors and Display Manufacturing Ecosystem, a 360% higher jump than last year. 

India’s Tech Renaissance Fueling Growth and Innovation?

A 2023 NASSCOM report estimates that over 25% of Indian startups are founded by returning Indian-origin professionals, bringing back crucial expertise and investment.

Sarvjeet Singh Virk  – Shoonya’s co-founder and MD opines in a recent edition of The Economic Times Insights: “The increasing trend of “brain gain” signifies India’s growing appeal as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. This influx of talent, combined with the potential of the diaspora and the benefits of global exposure gained by individuals abroad, presents a unique opportunity for India.”

  1. Startup Growth: Home to over 50,000 startups, India exhibits a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12-15%, creating significant employment opportunities and driving innovative approaches.
  2. Tech Workforce: India’s tech industry employs over 4 million professionals, making it the second-largest tech workforce globally, after the United States.
  3. Investment Inflows: In 2023, India attracted over $30 billion in tech investments, marking a 30% increase compared to the previous year. This surge in investment demonstrates growing confidence in India’s tech ecosystem. 
  4. Govt-led Initiatives: The Indian government’s initiatives like Startup India, Digital India, and Skill India have played a significant role in fostering entrepreneurship, digital inclusion, and skill development, contributing to India’s tech renaissance.
  5. Tech Exports: India’s software and IT services exports are projected to exceed $150 billion in the fiscal year 2023-24, showcasing the country’s prowess in providing IT solutions and services to global clients.
  6. Competitive Salaries: The Indian ecosystem is teeming with startups with deep pocket VCs and investors who are proving to be tough contenders in talent sourcing for established global players. This has resulted in competitive salaries at par with global benchmarks, especially for senior technology talent in India. In fact, according to recent studies, the average annual salary for IT professionals in India has risen steadily over the past decade, reaching an impressive figure of $40,000 USD. Additionally, sectors such as pharmaceuticals, finance, and engineering have also seen significant growth in salary offerings, with top performers commanding salaries as high as $100,000 USD or more. 

“Lucrative salaries, coupled with a conducive work environment, have attracted top-tier talent back to the country in recent years. India’s reputation as a hub for skilled professionals seeking rewarding career opportunities has strengthened multi-fold. Tech leaders now willingly express interest in building a career here for the immense opportunities on offer,” observed Kiran Satya, Regional CEO – India, ME, & Africa, Purple Quarter. 

Indian Innovation Across Industries

For the Indian workforce collectively, it’s a great time; traditional sectors such as healthcare, finance, renewable energy, and e-commerce have undergone major tech  upheavals. Established homegrown players such as HCL Technologies and Tech Mahindra lead the charge, particularly in finance and logistics leveraging AI and machine learning to their advantage. A notable mention would be Wipro’s HOLMES platform, which is enhancing IT operations and customer service. Built from grassroots, Zoho’s CRM is the answer for numerous businesses, Indian and global, helping ace their workflow and operations.  

Startups like CropIn are leveraging AI for predictive crop analytics, boosting agricultural yields, while Reverie Language Technologies is innovating in NLP to facilitate communication in diverse Indian languages. Healthcare stalwarts like Biocon and the Serum Institute of India are driving global biotech and pharmaceutical innovations, complemented by telemedicine advancements from companies like Practo and 1mg. 

Revolutionizing the finance sector, Indian Fintech has seen some serious revolution that isn’t limited to UPI and digital payments. With loan disbursals, cross border transactions, trading, and insurance at your fingertips; the sector is rife with solution-offering companies, right from stealth mode to the mature stage. From Paytm, PhonePe, Razorpay, Digit, Acko, Zerodha, Upstox, Klub to AI-driven SME loans players like Lendingkart, Capital Float, the list of companies across fintech sub-domains are countless. In the renewable energy space, Tata Power Solar and ReNew Power are spearheading India’s sustainable energy journey, while e-commerce, giants like Flipkart, Nykaa and emerging players like Meesho are reshaping the retail landscape, empowered by logistics innovators like Delhivery, Porter, and Ecom Express. These concerted efforts are not only driving economic growth but also transforming the way industries seamlessly operate across vast corners of the country.

Wrapping Up 

Today, India’s tech talent landscape is marked by innovation, adaptation, collaboration, and, rightly, keen interest. A thriving and competitive startup ecosystem, numerous homegrown success stories, GCCs, and immense potential and convenience to build/create have augmented India’s brain gain situation sharply in recent years. While such factors are catalysts for economic growth, India still has considerable work lined up ahead if it has to become the crux of tech and innovation. It has to attract more skilled global talent, not limited to Indian-origin workforce, and provide a conducive and stable environment. A world-class ecosystem demands co-operation, collaboration, avant-garde innovation, and, inevitably, resilience. These are not reliant on external factors but on voluntary and meaningful participation internally. The next few years will prove crucial as India carefully maps its trajectory towards becoming the numero uno centre of innovation and technological excellence.


Authored by Vaishu Manjunath

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