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Indian Professionals Return Home as Economy Booms

Tens of thousands of highly qualified Indian professionals migrated to Western countries in recent decades for better job opportunities. But as India's economy booms, a lot of them are now opting to return to their homeland. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.

Software engineer Sandeep Kaimal went to the United States a decade ago. He was, in his words, part of the "bandwagon" - the thousands of engineers, doctors and other professionals attracted to Western countries by better jobs, more money and higher living standards.

Life in the U.S. was a new experience for Kaimal.

"Before I moved out of India, I did not know what to do with the ATM card or what to do with the credit card, and when I moved in there everything was new…a totally new learning experience from day one…," Kaimal said.

In the U.S., he achieved the American dream - a good salary in a top company, a nice suburban home. He became accustomed to Western amenities like a centrally heated home and the best consumer electronics - and he shopped for brands he had never seen in India.

But during his annual visits home, Kaimal noticed that India was undergoing a dramatic transformation, triggered by the economic liberalization implemented in the 1990's.

"Every time I came I could see there were changes happening…Things that I had only seen in U.S., I started seeing them here: big malls, a lot of items which you could not get here before, it was readily available. India was opening up," Kaimal said.

Three years ago, the new face of India prompted Kaimal to take up the offer of a lucrative job with an information technology company in Chennai, his hometown.

It was not just the promise of a lifestyle similar to what he had in the U.S. that lured him back home. He also wanted to spend more time with his aging parents, and to expose his four-year-old son to Indian culture.

Kaimal is not an isolated case. He is among an estimated 60 thousand IT professionals who have returned to India in recent years, mainly from the U.S. and Great Britain.

IT professionals make up the bulk of these reverse migrants, because they are finding easy opportunities in the country's thriving technology industry. But other professionals, such as doctors, have also started moving back home. They are relocating to cities such as Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi.

Noticing that the tide is turning homeward, a recruitment Web site organized a job fair in the eastern U.S. state of New Jersey last month to recruit Indians for jobs in India. The site's head, Michael Bala, says the response was overwhelming.

He says three thousand people between the ages of 25 and 40 turned up to inquire about potential jobs back home. He says most came because they realized that opportunities had blossomed since they left.

"Most important reasons to top it all is India - the economic growth and India itself, and companies offering jobs which is equal or more than what is there in America itself…. It might not be equivalent to the dollar rate but the lifestyle they would be able to lead would be equivalent," Bala said.

Bala is already planning his second job fair for Indians in the United States, this time on the West Coast.

Economists say the returnees are helping to add value to an expanding Indian economy that is rapidly integrating with the rest of the world.

Economist P.K. Chowdhury of the Indian credit rating agency ICRA says their experience in the West will benefit Indian industry.

"They are…ultimately creating some kind of contact between the two countries, USA or Europe and Indian service sector, so it is having positive outcome, and it will help India in the long term. I think the persons who are coming, they are bringing with them lot of knowledge, technology," Chowdhury said.

It is not as if everything in India is attractive to those opting to come back. As in China, success is creating its own problems.
The traffic is more chaotic since they left, and the noise and pollution in the teeming cities is increasing. Some worry about the impact of India's competitive school system on their children.

But in the end, for many, it came down to a decision as to who they were. The West was like living in a well-organized guesthouse. India is home.