Reverse Outsourcing

In the late 1980s I began working with Bell Laboratories headquartered in New Jersey. Our software team in Kansas City worked with several of their teams. Over the next few years I established many work relationships with immigrants from Pakistan and India who worked at the Labs on work visas. I found these new friends to be family oriented, technically savvy and very hard workers. Since that time I have worked on several projects with folks from that region and have enjoyed wonderful friendships.

About seven years ago I was working on a software engineering team here in the Kansas City area and found myself in a conference room with about 20+ others as we connected by phone to another group of 9 engineers located India. I remember looking around and realizing that I was the only US citizen in the room.. it was an eerie feeling.. it was at that time I began to understand this phenomenon of "Reverse Outsourcing".

Here are a few excerpts from a Christian Science article titled Why Indian IT companies are outsourcing – to US and subtitled "Two decades after they began running US operations from Bangalore and other cities, Indian IT companies are hiring Americans to do work that was once outsourced. What gives?":
Just as Japanese automakers began manufacturing in the United States in the 1980s, Indian outsourcing companies are locating in the US to reap similar benefits. Wipro calls it "reverse outsourcing."
Wipro and other Indian IT firms use thousands of H1-B visas, designed for skilled workers, to send Indians to work at US client sites. Wipro's CEO reportedly met with US officials, including White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, last June to warn that proposed curbs on H1-B visas could start a trade dispute with India. Wipro's concern: a Senate bill that would require firms with more than 50 employees to have no more than half of them on skilled-worker visas. Indian firms were the top four users of H1-B visas in fiscal year 2008, with more than 10,000 visa grants.

Though proposed curbs on visas are one driver for their move, its executives say there are many reasons behind the shift. They compare themselves to Japanese automakers who, in the 1980s, began setting up shop in the US.
If this "reverse outsourcing" model works, Indian firms could be looking to expand in the US.
With unemployment in the United States hovering around ten percent I think that the curb on work visas by the congress could have mixed effects. I am thankful that companies like Wipro are creating jobs in places like Atlanta for US workers. I am concerned however that unrestricted work visas could fill many of those jobs with non-US workers - and possibly US workers could find themselves, like I did, in a conference room in Atlanta surrounded by people here on work visas.

This global economy is a dicey one. Players like Wipro offer some employment opportunities but offer them at a cost.. that cost being the insourcing of foreign workers to fill American jobs. Interesting phrase there: "American jobs".. hmmm.. why do I think these are "American jobs"? Because companies like Wipro are consulting type of firms.. like IBM and EDS.. companies who are basically guns for hire. The jobs they fill are ones that were previously filled by folks who actually worked for local companies before the work was outsourced to these consulting companies.

So I wonder where it will all go? Will the congress move to limit the numbers of work visas or will companies like Wipro influence them to keep the existing rules in place? In my gut I think that congress should limit work visas.. but I am not unbiased.. I have friends who are out of work and could fill those jobs.

What do you think about this phenomenon of "Reverse Outsourcing"?


  1. I think all illegal immigration should be stopped first. Work Visas. hmmm. I think it would make sense to limit the scope of such visas. IF these people are paying taxes, I would be less averse.

  2. Off course they should limit it. The situation currently insane. One day the job is done by capable US permanent residents and the next Indian nationals are flying to the US to take those jobs replacing whole US based staffs working at all levels within IT.

    Either clamp down on the unnecessary visa or open it up completely. I would like to see what happens when mechanics, city bus drivers, law enforcement, and everyone else in the US economy is subjected to same near unrestricted competition for their jobs.


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