President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that the creation and return of jobs to the US would be the single biggest agenda of the first 100 days of his administration has led to India's over Rs 1 lakh crore (USD 150 billion) IT services industry stepping up acquisitions in the United States and recruiting more heavily from college campuses in the US, a media report said on Monday.
President-elect Trump's campaign rhetoric, and his pick for Attorney General of Senator Jeff Sessions, a long-time critic of the visa program, have many expecting a tighter regime.
"The world over, there's a lot of protectionism coming in and push back on immigration. Unfortunately, people are confusing immigration with a high-skilled temporary workforce, because we are really a temporary workforce," Pravin Rao, chief operating officer at Infosys, told news agency Reuters.
Indian companies including Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro have long used H1-B skilled worker visas to fly computer engineers to the US, their largest overseas market, temporarily to service clients.
Staff from those three companies accounted for around 86,000 new H1-B workers in 2005-14. The US currently issues close to that number of H1-B visas each year.
While few expect a complete shutdown of skilled worker visas as Indian engineers are an established part of the fabric of Silicon Valley, and US businesses depend on their cheaper IT and software solutions, any changes are likely to push up costs.
And a more restrictive program would likely mean Indian IT firms sending fewer developers and engineers to the United States, and increasing campus recruitment there.
"We have to accelerate hiring of locals if they are available, and start recruiting freshers from universities there," said Infosys' Rao, noting a shift from the traditional model of recruiting mainly experienced people in the US.
"Now we have to get into a model where we will recruit freshers, train them and gradually deploy them, and this will increase our costs," he said, noting Infosys typically recruits 500-700 people each quarter in the US and Europe, around 80 percent of whom are locals,” he added.
Buying US companies would help Indian IT firms build their local headcount, increase their on-the-ground presence in key markets and help counter any protectionist regulations.
Indian software services companies have invested more than Rs 13, 745 crore (USD2 billion) in the United States in the past five years.
"We have to accelerate acquisitions," said Rao at Infosys, which in the past two years has bought companies including US-based Noah Consulting and Kallidus Technologies.