India’s Rise Means a New Dawn for Recruiters

India has the largest English-speaking population in the world, but it’s not just words that connect it to the West. As an emerging world power, India is already facing many of the talent challenges we’ve become accustomed to, but often on a larger scale. Its response will have repercussions on the U.S. talent supply and will forever change the meaning of the “War for Talent.” Indian Americans number more than 2 million and have the second highest income of any ethnic group in America. They are better educated than the average American, accounting for 38 percent of all doctors in the United States, 12 percent of scientists, and 35 percent of Silicon Valley start-ups. They form the largest group of foreign students. In short, they are an important part of our talent pool. And they’re leaving. In the past two years about 5,000 IT workers have repatriated to India, and the trend is accelerating.

According to India-based blogger Gautam Ghosh, there are more than 20,000 recruitment firms in India already. Many Indian recruiters, along with their counterparts in Singapore, Australia, Ireland, and elsewhere, understand that the pursuit of top talent is global. And in many cases, these recruiters have their governments behind them. In India, ongoing global promotions brand the country itself as a great place to work, live, and study. The government of India is working to convince the best of the massive Indian Diaspora to return home ó often appealing to a sense of patriotism and offering opportunities that might be hard to come by even in the United States. While I was in India last month, two world-renowned scientists who had been invited to the United States by American universities became so frustrated with the U.S. immigration procedures that they publicly declared they had no further interest in setting foot in the United States.

A Bigger World for Recruiters

Recruiters had it easy before 1995. Relatively high unemployment and a steady, if small surplus of talent combined with low turnover made it a cushy job. The “War for Talent” between 1995 and 2000 created a new recruiter, far more aggressive, far more technologically savvy and far more connected. After a three- to four-year lull, the game is again changing for recruiters. For a short while, some may get away with a provincial, shortsighted view of talent. But while they’re tapping an ever-decreasing pool of US-based talent, their colleagues and competitors will be nurturing global relationships and building their networks into the farthest reaches of the planet. Needless to say, the latter will ultimately prevail. Having recently returned from a six-day, three-city tour that started in Delhi and ended in Bangalore, I urge recruiting executives to get on the plane and go East.

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I traveled with executives from DNL Global, an innovative recruiting firm based in Dallas, that saw the light years ago and has already built an impressive clientele both in India and the United States around the identification and recruitment of globally capable managers. As DNL builds its global talent pools, it will become a “go to” firm for companies desperate for the type of talent and thought leadership that can build bridges and create a competitive advantage in the global workforce. In the best Indian business schools and in the top companies, one seldom hears HR and recruiting discussed in their traditional sense. In a nation that has been the recipient of more HR and recruitment outsourcing business than anywhere else, India’s answer to skill shortages and sky-high attrition rates is an emphasis on talent management. Everywhere I went, organizations were immersed in strategic workforce planning and analytics. They were tying performance management and retention to compensation. Due to high attrition, “talent relationship management” is approached methodically and creatively in many of the business-process-outsourcing call centers I visited. Everywhere, employment-brand building, particularly through heavy investment in employee development, is a cornerstone of workforce initiatives.

On the acquisition front, Indian multinationals are nurturing relationships with talent while in school, building talent pools and enticing overseas workers, particularly those who left India and have built skills in the west. In the business-process-outsourcing call centers, some are reaching into high schools to develop call-center skills so that they will no longer have to rely solely on college graduates for the millions of customer-service positions being created each year. I’m not surprised that the conversations I had with business leaders, human capital consultants, and university professors in Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Bangalore are so similar to those I have in North America. While there remains a massive income, poverty, and infrastructure gap between cities in India and the West, the language of business and human capital management is nearly identical. Human capital professionals and leaders in the West have as much to learn from their counterparts in India as the other way around. I had to learn this for myself, and so should you.

Allan Schweyer is the Executive Director of the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and author of Talent Management Systems (Wiley & Sons, 2004). HCI helps professionals and organizations leverage human capital for competitive advantage. On April 6-7, 2006, HCI will host its first national summit at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in Chicago. Register at


7 Comments on “India’s Rise Means a New Dawn for Recruiters

  1. Allan

    I have taught recruiting strategy in India also and I agree with your analysis.

    I find their best there to be at least twice as agressive as our US corporate recruiters. They also make most other regional recruiters (AUZ, NZ and China) look like lap dogs.

    Will we listen and change? Call center managers didn’t and I predict US and European recruiters will be next. In a recruiting war, the most agressive and bold ones win. The only new variable is that where they live and recruit from… no longer matters.


  2. It is noteworthy that a majority of the total recruiting firms in India today have come into existance only in the last 5 years. Despite their infancy,the maturity, celerity & innovation in their processes cannot be easily ignored.

    In sectors such as IT & BPO, salaries which are not just comparable but match the ones offered in the US for critical roles are being offered in India, & due to the significantly low cost of living, a far higher standard of living is made affordable. This is the biggest driver for expatriate Indians to return. However, they have stiff competition for such plum assignments from the locals..

    Another point to note is the increasing number of cross-border assignments which are originating from India for potential employees not just in the US or UK, increasingly in countries like Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Holland, Canada, Mexico, France,Russia et al.!! I’ve been personally involved with clients trying to get their recruiting strategies in place for each of these countries.

    This surely seems like the best time for international recruiting firms to set afoot in India as despite the thousands of local recruiting firms, there are only a handful of the big-ones. Hence the opportunity for mid-sized firms to link up with Indian counterparts for an effective network.

    Rgds…Vikram Bhardwaj

  3. Thanks for the link Alan !

    I have blogged about this article too 🙂

    Some thoughts added on my blog post.

    Warm regards

  4. For any that would like another angle on the world view of Americans, pick up the recently published ‘THINK’ by Michael R. LeGault, whose thesis is that in America emotion and subjectivity [Blink] has replaced objectivity and critical thinking. LeGault writes, ‘THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE around the world who view America as an anti-intellectual brickyared and feel that the country will have an insurmountable disadvantage in today’s knowledge-based, global economy. It is a damning, demeaning assessment.’

  5. Great article, It very much mirrored an article that appears in this weeks newsweek magazine.

    I understand though that as the boom extends in India, retaining employees for long periods is becoming more difficult and the average tenure of an individual that falls within the scope of this article is declining as the landscape becomes more competetive and a shortage of talented new and recent grads looms.

    It reminds me of the ‘tiger economy’ of Ireland back in the days of the dotcom boom, and the many young expats that returned to Ireland with the promise of a bright career after having to leave because the future was not so clear and the opportunities scarce…


  6. Yes, I’d agree with the general points made. Good article and discussion.

    However, a ‘warts and all’ heads-up before we get too excited about recruitment in India. It’s just like any other big developing Asian country. So you’ll find more than your fair share of innovative approaches but also unethical recruiters and market practices. Also, a lot of the work done is volume-driven and quality is elusive at times. There are few firms which are really mature in the area and the market is really open for partnerships with more evolved players.

    But the bottom-line is that India’s one of the most exciting markets for an HR person / provider to play in today, especially those in staffing. Try and get involved if you aren’t already!


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