What about America is alluring Andhra’s finest and brightest? What actually prevents those abroad from returning and contributing their talent to boost the Indian economy? We ask around.
Even in the greatest depression thus far, Indians are the fastest growing ethnic group in America at 69.37%, according to the Census Bureau report 2010. So the question remains, why have flocks and flocks of people from Andhra flown the coop to settle, temporarily or permanently in the states? And more importantly, why haven’t they returned to their sweet homeland? What keeps them at bay? What about America is alluring Andhra’s finest and brightest?
What actually prevents those abroad from returning and contributing their talent to boost the Indian economy? Maybe they’re just eager to eat a piece of that ever so famous American Pie and live the good ole’ American Dream. Or are they hesitant to return because of social, political, economical, environmental, corruption or Telangana issues that may hinder their development, or stunt the growth of their salary?
Fellow Hyderabadi, Sai Vummethala’s dream, ever since he was a young child, was to be an automotive engineer at Ford. It’s all he’s ever wanted to do. “Moving to the states was a no-brainer,” he says. Since Detroit is the Motor City of the world and its Fords headquarters, there wasn’t much else to determine his decision to reside in Detroit.
He left India in 1999 on an F1 Student Visa, and graduated from Eastern Michigan with a Masters in 2001. Sai joined Ford while he was still at Eastern as a co-op in July of 2000, and was then hired full time in August of 2001. He began as a Designer and then quickly progressed to a Chassis Design Engineer. He says, “Our titles typically don’t change, but only our responsibilities increase, and vehicle projects change as we get more experienced. I worked on the Chassis components for the Fusion, Fiesta and the Focus models, and launched quite a few cars in the US and Mexico plants.”
Even though he’s experienced at one the finest names in the auto industry, he comments, “Yes, I would still like to return [to India]. I’ve lived in Hyderabad all my life, and I would love to move back there, but the industry I’ve chosen—auto— is not in Hyderabad, unfortunately.”
Sai comments that he has been fortunate to work for a good company, since they made it through the few dark years, and are doing better than ever. And when and if he decides to return to India, he will have to choose one of the states with an automotive industry presence, such as, Tamil Nadu/Gujarat/Maharashtra—he says “they are all major players in the industry”.
“Nothing in particular,” prevents him from returning to his homeland. His career choice is the key reason that he’s been settled in the states for the past eleven years. But he adds, “It has nothing to do with my decision to live out of India, though it still sickens me to no end, seeing the Telangana issue dragging along, and hindering all the wonderful growth the state has seen just a few years ago.”
Sai’s love for Hyderabad is unconditional. He loves it just the way it is. And maybe if Hyderabad expanded and became one the largest hubs for the Auto Industry, he might book a one-way ticket back home.
For Raghu Kodumuri, working abroad was the option left, and all for personal reasons. There was no other way to support his family after his father’s business failed, and the debts and interest piled up. To alleviate stress that posed a threat to his father’s health, he immediately applied for an H1B Visa, and came to the states to work as a software programmer in 2001. Finding the next job was not always a challenge, but because he was initially a consultant and project based, he was often changing addresses every few months.
“Yes,” he replies. “I want to return to India as soon as I clear all my father’s debts, and make a permanent financial arrangement for my family, and after I earn enough money to become an entrepreneur. My dream is to build business in economically backward areas, which will help to uplift that society.” Raghu’s idea is to modernize the farming in remote areas where farmers are less knowledgeable and financially weak.
He comments that the recession in the states did not affect him at all, but he hasn’t been able to return yet, because he hasn’t acquired the needed capital to implement his idea of modern farming. And now that he has a daughter, as a family man, he has to have a plan B in motion as well. If not as an entrepreneur, then he has to be able to support his family as a professional. “I do fear the working culture in India, corporates especially, after working in the US for more than 10 years,” Raghu adds.
For Raghu, the right time to move has never presented itself. “Once I find a good platform to start something concrete in India, the very next day I will catch a flight back home. No hesitation. No fear.” He says that it all—the social, political, economical, environmental, corruption or Telangana issues—comes with the territory, since India is a highly populated, democratic country with low-resources. And he adds, “Rome was not built in a day. India is simply in a transition stage, evolving from a third world county into developed country.”
Satish had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of both his uncles, who are both physicians and live a lavish lifestyle in the states. He’s accumulated so many frequent flier miles over the past ten years, traveling to the states and back to India. And while he’s always admired his father, a distinguished doctor in Warangal, he grew extremely discouraged at how little respect this profession attracts here, compared to the states. He says, “People are not judgmental in the states, hard work is appreciated and recognized well—these are the major differences I see in the states.”
Having recently been accepted at a residency program in New York, Satish reflects on the difficulties of getting a medical seat here, in India. “I’ve grown annoyed with the Reservation System, where incentives are given to students depending on what caste they belong to rather than their academic credentials.”
The vast difference in salary is also an appealing factor for Satish to plan on settling in the states. He says a first year’s resident’s salary is not much to live on in the states, but it is still 10 times more than that of a resident in India, who works similar hours as in the states, and in the same position.
“I haven’t decided whether I’ll settle permanently or not yet, but it may be that I return to India possibly when it’s time for me to retire.” Satish says he hasn’t really focused on why he shouldn’t back to India, but he comments, “But now that I think about it, I feel it’s a constant fight here, and the one thing that I really appreciate more in the states is the esteemed care given to patients.”
Yes, pressing issues face India, but the deciding factor for these three to live abroad ultimately is a monetary one. Sai, Raghu and Satish have taught us that some professions abroad are considered far more prestigious and are compensated significantly higher than here in India. And unfortunately most like them don’t have the financial stamina to wait for the value of the rupee to increase. Like a truce flag between their financial struggles, how to achieve and maintain status, and as a means to an end, the almighty dollar waved in front of their eyes and lured them to America—the land that still proves to be of opportunity.
Category: Kona's Korner