Brain Drain – The Great Indian Movement


I always wanted to write a series that talks about my life being an Indian immigrant in the United States. Things that you may or may not have heard of, hopefully change your myths about American lifestyle and economy and especially how it relates to the Indian wealth of knowledge. Every time I thought of posting this, my gut said, it’s not the right time or I am not ready. But I think it is time and here I go!

Part 1 of the ‘Brain Drain’ Series

I was an above average student in my school days and I never had a liking for science and technology. I liked math though but I never wanted to live with numbers all the time. Later I realized I have good people skills and I like the management aspects of organization and this propelled me to choose MBA and pursue my passion for HR.

I never wanted to leave India (my homeland) for my studies even if I would have had the financial means to do so. But as it turned out I had to leave India anyways to start the next chapter of my life with my husband who is now settled and working in US after having finished his master’s degree in Dallas. Which brings me to the topic of the great Indian movement….

Yes I am talking about ‘Brain Drain’. It’s an ongoing curse that developing countries, including India, face today. Irrespective of the well known universities that we have in India like IIM & IIT, the destination for high quality learning for Indian students are the universities in US, UK and Canada. Indians are now the second-largest foreign student population in America, after the Chinese, with almost 105,000 students in the United States in the 2009-10 academic year. The number of Indian students going to US has recorded a good jump of almost 8 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Now why there is an uptrend! Students are drawn here by the internationally recognized universities where they can work and earn during and after their coursework, better job opportunities in dynamic companies, freest culture and social environment and one of the highest standards of living.

And I do agree that stepping outside your own bubble to a global environment will help you to develop new skills, learn different languages and be exposed to diverse cultures. Starting an internship in the global market will help you enrich your career possibilities with unique global experiences.

But it is sad to know that to those aspirants who couldn’t make it to their dream colleges in India, the options have boiled down to studying abroad. But why are they not pursuing colleges/universities in India?

1. Lack of quality educational institutions after the top tier institutes such as IIM and IIT.

2. Lack of better placement and richer job opportunities while businesses have emerged into a global platform in competitive job markets.

3. Employers give first priority for applicants who are studied abroad thus attaining a degree from the foreign universities makes them stand out from the crowd.

4. Lack of better infrastructural facilities in laboratories especially for courses like Biotechnology, nanotechnology.

5. Lack of flexibility in opting the courses based on your interest. For example, a math student may not be selected for a degree in the field of medicine.

6. Apart from that the bright students are being rejected by the universities due to corruption in the education system.

What is your take on this? Is India losing its resources due to lack of a better education system and corruption? And how do we retain these next generation resources in our own land?

This is a multi series blog post that you can read here every week. Next week we will talk about the struggle that international students, especially Indians, face in US job market.

Click here to read the full series.

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8 Responses to Brain Drain – The Great Indian Movement

  1. @PeopleClues says:

    RT @thehrbuddy Brain Drain – The Great Indian Movement #dthr #peoplechat

  2. Sunil says:

    Hey Nisha, Great post. I agree with every point you have mentioned. If I may add, I think the gap between a pay someone from IIT earns and someone from a university that’s only next in the rank itself is so huge. People have been inherently fed that only IITs and IIMs are the best institutes. What about all those people who lost by a difference of only a couple of marks? They never see light for the rest of their lives. Many recruiters also fail to see the fact that an individual is much more than what their college or resume says.
    I personally am from VIT. I’m trying so hard to find a job overseas and I never thought it would prove to be so insanely tough. But, IITians get through just with their brand name. I’m really at a loss as to how to pursue. I wish people change their perspective.

    • nisha.raghavan says:

      Hey Sunil,

      Thank you for adding your experiences and voicing you opinion from a student’s point of view. Despite good grades sometimes students can’t get admitted into those top universities due to the reservations and seats are limited too. You have highlighted one of the great reasons why students compete to get into the tier 1 universities as that they always get good job opportunities and outstanding salary package than any other.

      And since they get thru the hard selection processes, having beat out other candidates through various exams like JEE, GATE & JAM and completing a rigorous course it makes them stand out from the crowd. And those universities have good partnership with the industry leaders as well.

      But I do agree that most often recruiters fail to see through the skills of candidates who don’t make it to those top universities . This is again another point to debate – Are recruiters considering candidates from universities based on their academic excellence alone? and why fail to see a better candidate?

  3. Brain Drain – The Great Indian Movement

  4. I understand and sympathise with your perspectives. Not sure I really understand the corruption issue in the education system though- sounds to me as though there are just too few spots for students, so the standards have been raised to an absurd level in Indian schools.

    What a difficult situation for your country to have found itself in! Here’s hoping the Indian government can find it in itself to sponsor an improvement in post-secondary resources so as to keep promising students within their own borders.

    Of course, even developed countries lose a few students to overseas institutions, but this is truly epidemic. But perhaps those bright Indian graduates who studied abroad, like yourself, can return and form part of the solution. Not that we in North America are not pleased to have you as part of our national communities!

    What do you think?

    • nisha.raghavan says:

      Hey Dan,

      Thank you for stopping by. As you might have guessed Indians stress a lot on their educational credentials and students have been raised in such a way that they strive to learn in every walk of their life and value a high quality education.

      Their hard working nature and general inclination to Science and Mathematics helps them seek jobs in US much better than in India. And they have an added advantage here especially since there has traditionally been a high demand for skilled technology workers. 

      I am sure they will be a great asset where ever they go.

      Of course I did expect a response questioning why I would be here if I did recognize this problem and I wish I had good answer to this.

      • Sunil says:

        Hey Nisha,

        Its very true that Indians value high quality education and every family wants their children to attend best of the colleges. But, I fail to understand the point on how Indians seek jobs better in US than in India. Just to clarify, I’m not a student. I have worked with a startup after rejecting offers from huge MNCs right after I graduated. Now, I think people are really struggling hard to find a job overseas and it’s merely impossible. I’m currently interviewing with Google for a nice position. The irony is that I have been trying to find a job in US from about a month and I don’t see a single response. I definitely don’t think my profile is an obstacle here.

        What baffles me is the ideology of work experience. I never understood why people ask for work experience even before they look at your profile. People are so smart that they build huge companies but fail to realize what you need to look at is if the candidate can get the job done or not. Since when has work experience become the benchmark for how well a candidate can perform. It’s such a pathetic situation through out the world.

        BTW, if you really think it’s easier for Indians to get jobs in US, please help me out. I’d be more than grateful.

        • nisha.raghavan says:

          Hey Sunil,

          I know, sometimes you might feel like screwing all this job description and interview processes. But you have to go through that. Employers prefer experienced candidates because they want a person who can understand and relate to the way how business is done in their own industry. They want somebody who is already been in the corporate world that helps them solve the situation easier when it arises.And especially when they don’t have time to wait for a person to be trained and groomed and expect that he get results.

          The demand for skilled IT//Mechanical/ Electrical people are always above par in US and majority of the international graduates who study in US pursue an opportunity (with VISA sponsorship) in the company that they worked during their internship .

          This is totally evident by seeing 85,000 H1B VISAs getting filled within 3 months of its release this year and preceding years. However, the struggle that indian/international students face in US for getting a job is always like an emotional roller coaster.

          Probably one of your difficulty for finding a job oversees is that companies prefer candidates available locally and immediately. And going back to my previous comment, I mentioned about indian students who graduated from US.

          But at the same time I have seen indian companies settled in US like TCS, Accenture, Wipro etc bringing their worker on L1VISA for temporary basis and then later those workers continue here by extending or transferring their VISAs. I think you can try that way.

          Don’t be discouraged, attending interview will bring you an idea of what people are looking for in a particular position and that help you to get to the point in your next interviews.

          Good luck to you and look forward to hearing a happy news soon.

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