Outsourcing X Factor: Why Indian IT giants are sizing up the West's talent

India's big services firms have changed their tune on hiring non-Indians...

...productive and unable to fit into global teams. As work becomes increasingly complex, these new recruits are seen as bringing to the table an understanding of the local culture and an ability to engage more effectively with clients.

For Indian outsourcing companies, hiring non-Indians may be the right move in more ways than one. The visa situation with the US is "becoming sticky", according to Sean Narayanan, chief delivery officer of iGate Patni.

Tougher US visa policies

It's clear that importing overseas workers into the US is becoming tougher. The US government doubled visa fees for foreign workers last year, and the quota of H1-B visas has been steadily depleted. Companies are also finding that visa rejection rates are climbing. On top of all that, Indian organisations are being accused of using temporary business visas to get around the H1-B visa ceiling.

Narayanan describes the new strategy as a maturing of the outsourcing model, as suppliers develop the ability to ramp up anytime, anywhere in the world and then integrate that facility into their global delivery.

"The storyline is about how you offer the end solution to your customer rather than about the staffing model," he says. In the past 10 months, iGate Patni has doubled its headcount in the US to 200, nearly all local hires. In the next few quarters, the company expects to double that headcount again.

Meanwhile the US, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of India's outsourcing revenues, is heading towards presidential elections next year. As unemployment hits record levels, election-time rhetoric has resulted in anger towards companies that take work offshore.

The popular belief is that offshoring equals unemployment. Moving closer to the elections, these voices will get louder. Against this background, hiring foreign workers might help India's outsourcing industry counteract some of that antipathy.