IBM's massive expansion plans in India run head-first into the biggest problem facing the country's IT industry: people.
IBM added 16,000 workers in India last year to bring its workforce there to 39,000, and it expects a similar increase this year. Local rivals such as Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys are adding thousands of workers a quarter.
Indian universities crank out 400,000 engineering and computer science grads a year, but that doesn't mean they're ready to solve complex business problems. Only a quarter "are suitable on an as-is basis," says Kiran Karnik, president of India's National Association of Software and Service Companies. The rest have subpar technical skills, have a poor command of English, or are unwilling to relocate to India's tech centers. Even factoring in 15% growth to the 100,000 qualified grads produced each year, "if we stick at that number, it's going to be a constraint," he says. Nasscom predicts a shortage of half a million IT workers by 2010.
To find enough business-savvy IT pros, IBM will have to lure back more of India's expatriates. It's already happening. Harish Grama, a VP in charge of IBM's India software lab, which works on WebSphere, DB2, Lotus, and other products, returned to India a little more than a year ago after a dozen years with IBM in the United States, including in Silicon Valley. IBM India strategy director Inderpreet Thukral returned to his home country after more than a dozen years in Austin, Texas, and other IBM offices in the States.
Siddharth Purohit, who moved from Dallas to Bangalore in December to be a chief architect at what will be one of IBM's key global development centers, says his family welcomed the move. He and his wife are Indian, and even his U.S.-born 6-year-old daughter is sold on her new surroundings. Says Purohit, "She definitely doesn't want to go back to Texas."
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