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Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Indian economic boom attracts US graduates

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MYSORE, INDIA

Trainees, including some born in the US, attend a class at Infosys in Mysore, India, earlier this month. In a country once regarded as a bottomless well of low-cost, ready-to-work, English-speaking engineers, a shortage looms.

PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICES

Where once the brains of India left for more lucrative pastures in the US, today a handful of fresh US college graduates are sampling the fruits of the Indian economic boom.

The recruits from the US and elsewhere are not expected to fill the looming labor pinch. But they do illustrate the efforts by Indian companies to extend their global reach and recognition.

David Craig, 23, is one of the new US imports. He had never left home in Tucson, Arizona, when the Indian outsourcing giant Infosys Technologies came calling at a job fair earlier this year at the University of Arizona, where he was majoring in engineering management.

Encouragement came from his career adviser, who, as it turned out, had just bought Infosys stock. Stinging reproach came from his uncle: Why, he wanted to know, would Craig want to work for an Indian company that might take jobs away from other Americans?

In the end, tucking away his apprehensions, Craig took the plunge. International experience, he decided, would look good on his resume. And Infosys would put him through a six-month training course on its campus in southern India before dispatching him to its development center in Phoenix. Craig would be one of its US faces.

Infosys is not alone in its quest to draw talent from abroad. A handful of other Indian companies are also making an effort to add foreign faces and accents to their rolls, though it is hardly a flood.

Only a small handful of Americans and others have been wooed by Indian companies so far.

Infosys, for instance, has just 126 in its first batch of US trainees this year.

Roughly 1 in 10 of the 72,000 employees of Tata Consultancy Services, India's largest software firm, are foreigners. Many trained in India before being sent back to one of the 35 countries where it has operations.

Air Deccan, the country's second largest carrier, is growing so fast that it simply cannot find sufficient numbers of trained Indian professionals; nearly a quarter of its pilots come from abroad.

For the job seekers, India represents a new kind of ticket. Katrina Anderson, 22, a math major from Manhattan, Kansas, accepted the Infosys offer because, she said, it provided the most extensive training of any company that offered her a job.

An added bonus was the chance to travel halfway around the world. "Some people were scared by the India relocation," she recalled. "But that pretty much sold it for me."

When she finishes the training in January, Anderson, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, will return to the US, to work in the Infosys office in Phoenix.

For the Americans at Infosys, culture shock combines with surprising discoveries. Both Craig and Anderson admitted to having their stereotypes of India quickly upturned. Craig expected elephants and crowded sidewalks; Anderson expected stifling heat and women who covered their heads.

The Infosys training center, with its 120 hectares of manicured shrubbery, is a far cry from the poverty of much of India. There is a bowling alley on campus, a state-of-the-art gym, a swimming pool, tennis courts and an auditorium modeled on the Epcot Center.

Anderson has tried to ignore what she sees as a penchant for staring, especially by men. She has stopped brooding quietly when someone cuts in line. "I say, `Excuse me, there's a line here."'

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