Published August 10, 2023
Published August 10, 2023
India has emerged as a preferred investment destination over the last two decades. One of the key drivers for this preference is the availability of skilled workface at competitive prices. This puts India at a position of continuous growth even as the world is facing a huge economic crisis. But at the same time, according to the Indian External Affairs Ministry, every year 2.5 million Indians migrate overseas, making Indians the world’s largest overseas diaspora. According to government data, over 1.6 million people have relinquished their Indian citizenship since 2011 leading to loss of billions in tax revenue for India. This phenomenon is being referred to as the Great Indian Brain Drain.
Many Indians have friends or family living overseas and they share stories with their families back in India of how their lives have changed for better. The infrastructure, social welfare, healthcare, equitable pay, quality of life and so on. These stories have surely planted seeds in the minds of many young Indians, who have made migrating overseas their life’s biggest dream. This is not to say that there are no horror stories. There are several stories of racial discrimination and micro aggressions at the workplace. Yet, several Indians continue to want to work overseas.
Through this article, let’s explore some of the obvious reasons and also the underlying cultural reasons to better understand why so many Indians continue to migrate overseas. Let’s also consider what Indian companies can do, if not already, to attract and retain talent.
Having stated the primary driving factors, we need to think about some of the deeper aspects of Indian culture that are related to the Brain Drain phenomenon.
The conservative Indians consider the western influence as a negative phenomenon. However, for the middle class and the rich the western way of life opened a new worldview. They began to dream a life that would be bigger and better than the one they had. This led to a rise in materialism and consumerism in India. There is social inequality and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Many have abandoned the traditional practices in favour of western ones. Indulging in international cuisines, appreciating pop culture, following international fashion brands and such led to a natural neglect of the ancient Indian wisdom, art and traditions.
When some of the Indian practices such as Yoga or eating plant-based food were embraced by Westerners, they suddenly became more acceptable in India. We seem to need a ‘stamp of approval’ from the Western world. This is the impact of colonization, which instilled an ideology of perceived superiority in cultures and a loss of self-cultural identify. If it is western, it must be better. Working overseas is also perceived as a ‘feather in the cap’ for most Indians, a significant achievement.
What the millennials want from their workplace is usually found in Western companies. Those who have worked in India or with India, will know that fair pay and profit sharing and not easy conversations for an employee to have with their employer.
Indians are very hierarchical and find it extremely inappropriate to bring up conversations on pay and profits. Also, communication from management on the purpose and expectations are also often indirect and contextual. Needless to say, prioritizing personal life over work rarely happens as Indians struggle to be direct or say ‘No’ in fear of how they may be perceived by their superiors. Even though, things have changed over the years, especially with multi-national companies in India, there are still those deep-rooted Indian values that conflict at the workplace, often leading to job dissatisfaction.
Having explored these reasons, we know that the Great Indian Brain Drain will continue. However, this drain of intellectual and highly skilled workforce does impact the Indian economy in the long-term. In 2015, the Indian Government initiated a National Skill Development Mission with a mission statement that reads: ‘to rapidly scale upskill development efforts in India, by creating an end-end, outcome focused implementation framework, which aligns demands of the employers for a well-trained skilled workforce with aspirations of Indian citizens for sustainable livelihoods.’
This mission does have a strong focus on the education system, which if executed well, can provide students the quality of education they are looking for overseas. Governments do what they can in terms of policies and reforms. However, we know these are long term, take time to materialize and unfortunately, sometimes fail. But, what can Indian companies do in order to attract and retain talent?
All of these recommendations are perhaps easier for multi-national companies based in India, as they tend to have a company culture aligned to the headquarters. However, execution by the local management to maintain the same level of employee experience is key.
For Indian companies, funding or budget allocation could be the potential problem in achieving these goals. There isn’t an easy way ever, nevertheless, companies need to start thinking about these best practices in order to be successful in the long term.
Global Business Culture helps numerous organizations with these types of challenges by helping them align their company culture with the strategic direction.