Monday, December 08, 2008

Brain Gain India and Cleveburgh

Indian expatriates are discovering a world of opportunity in their homeland. As Silicon Valley matures, Bangalore soars:

If Bangalore is losing some of its luster, it remains the world’s fourth largest technology hub and claims to have the fastest-growing wealth base in the Asia-Pacific basin. And for many Americans, this means Bangalore is both a threat and opportunity: A threat because it now boasts at least 160,000 technology workers compared with about 175,000 in Silicon Valley. Moreover, much of this talent, especially at the middle and top levels, has been transplanted from the San Francisco Bay area to India. Bangalore also represents an opportunity for US companies to tap into India's prodigious brainpower and entrepreneurial spirit. From Bangalore, Americans and citizens of other developed countries are having their tax returns prepared, CAT scans and MRIs read, mortgages analyzed, lawsuits researched, airline reservations confirmed and computer glitches unsnarled – all at the speed of light, thanks to broadband internet connections that make the city as close as the shop or hospital next door.

One of the factors facilitating this boomerang migration is US immigration policy. Green card limbo is making life difficult for foreign born talent trained at American universities. Some analysts expect that to change once Barack Obama assumes the Office of the President of the United States. Rust Belt cities should prepare to take advantage of this opportunity.

However, US immigration law is somewhat besides the point. Silicon Valley, more than anywhere else, stands to benefit from the brain drain to Bangalore. Sand Hill Road venture capital will welcome this growth market. The Indian talent leading the Bangalore boom is Silicon Valley connected, a pathway of trust and financial capital flow.

The above is the Silicon Valley Diaspora (see Google Diaspora). Exporting talent can yield substantial returns. This dynamic is why I think Cleveburgh should engineer its out-migration. I'm not recommending the increase of people leaving the region. I'm talking about the value of channeling the inevitable talent exit to strategically advantageous destinations (e.g. ideal export markets). The focus on decreasing brain drain is misplaced. A better approach is to target brain drain.

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