After spending nearly six years in the U.S. , most of it in pristine Colorado , I recently packed my bags and
decided to head back to Bangalore . As is to be expected, the move was wrought with trepidation and
involved some bit of soul-searching. I was giving up a "nice" job with Compuware, a mid-sized S&P 500
company, where I had spent over five years working with some great people, and was heading back to
Bangalore where I had begun my whirlwind career in IT nearly a decade ago.
It's been a little over four months since I moved back and things are finally getting into a groove. I am
enjoying working with some of the brightest and driven people at Infosys' SETLabs. Along the way, I started
receiving my paycheck in rupees. Looking at my paycheck, intuitively converting it into dollars, I was not
surprised at why all the multinationals are flocking to India : the paycheck is indeed a "fraction" of what I
would have received in the U.S. for a similar job. Once settled, I started fielding calls and mails from friends
in the U.S. , most of them of a similar genre and questions about my move and life now in India . Here are
some of the most common questions and a few of my thoughts.
How are you coping with the crowd, traffic and pollution?
It hits you the moment you step out of the international airport (maybe even during the immigration queue)
that things are different in India . The level of pollution and the amount of traffic are definitely more than
one would see in most cities in the U.S. However, for those of us who were born in India and spent the
majority of our youth here, it takes just a few days to regain one's bearing. Even after spending years
cruising along interstates and driving on the right side of the road, it took me just a couple of days to hit the
road in our Maruti, and I realized that the "Indian road sense" hadn't really left me.
Bangalore is unquestionably polluted. However it might surprise you that the level of pollution has reduced in
the past few years thanks to the new ring-roads and flyovers. I don't want to give you the impression that
things have turned utopian overnight, but they are definitely moving in the right direction. I hear from
friends that the same is the case with other metros including Hyderabad , the other major silicon hub.
What is the job market like?
The job market is quite vibrant, definitely more than in the U.S. This is especially true because of the influx
of software giants including IBM, Accenture, EDS, Microsoft and others. Requirements for technical skills
range from demand for programmers with knowledge of wireless and embedded systems to mainframers. Yes,
surprisingly, mainframes are making a comeback in India , especially because of the number of large legacy
systems being outsourced. Companies like IBM, Microsoft and Intel are also hiring professionals for their
R&D initiatives. Call centers and BPOs are the other niche market employers.
How senior where you in your U.S. job and what seniority are you at
Interesting question: Many organizations in the U.S. have "flat structures," especially for people in the
technical track with the billing rate/salaries being the major differentiator. Compuware had a dual-career
track for people in the services side: technical or management (read marketing and account management). I
was in the technical track during my tenure with them-managing projects, architecting solutions and so on.
At Infosys, I got a lateral move as a project manager with their SETLabs (Software Engineering and
Technology Labs) which involves a mix of research and "consulting to consultants."
How is the cost of living, versus the salaries being offered?
I cannot give you an exact amount, even an "average" that a techie in India earns since it is highly variable
and depends on a number of factors including experience, technology, company, location, and so on.
With an average Project Manager or Senior Architect's salary you will definitely be able to rent a two or
three bedroom house in a fairly decent locality (like Indra Nagar, Jayanagar, JP Nagar in Bangalore), pay
for all the essentials: food, clothing, servant, entertainment and so on. However, the affordability of a good chauffeur may be questionable. Even when drivers or chauffeurs may
be affordable, most techies prefer company buses to being driven around in chauffeured cars. (Personally I
love the convenience of traveling by the Infosys chartered bus that leaves from a stop about 10 minutes walk
Perhaps the key is to learn NOT to convert back to dollars what you earn in Rupees because even though the
amount may be about a third of what you were used to, a Rupee still goes a long way, at least in India. Saving
potential will take a hit on moving back, especially since the salary package will go down considerably.
Would there be a way for you to continue your greencard if you don't get to travel here?
My lawyer advised me to apply for a "re-entry permit" before I left the U.S. , which I did. I am not sure of
the legalities involved in continued stay out of the U.S. if I don't get to travel there. However, given the
vibrant market and global opportunities, I don't consider lack of travel opportunities a major deterrent.
How is the work culture in India (as compared to the American work culture)?
Although it is too early in the game for me to form an opinion, the atmosphere at Infosys does live up to some
of the hype. The atmosphere around the Electronics City campus is classically collegiate. In a way, I guess I
am glad to get back to a "campus" after WORKING for over nine years. I hope to spend some time here
experiencing the much hyped "great culture organization" that they have created. The organizational culture,
policies and work environment is definitely global.
Work culture is similar to that I have experienced in the west, probably because most of the seniors and
managers have been exposed to work culture in the west and they are comfortable "importing" the best
Thinking in Java (apologies Bruce Eckles) is what Java programmers do whether they are in Bangalore or
Boston . Another way of looking at it: shorn of all the jargon and buzzwords, the underlying "mechanism" a.k.a
building-blocks in most technologies remain the same. At the end of the day, technologies and techies are
there to solve the business problems faced by users and the "right" technology is just a tool.
Bottomline: Work and technologies, project cycles, implementations and systems are still universal, especially since the
clients of Indian software companies are predominantly American.
Mohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The article originally appeared in
Revenue Sources for Web Portals
- Part I