Foreign tech companies woo USA's best, brightest

By Jon Swartz, USA TODAY
Updated 51m ago

SAN FRANCISCO – While politicians and tech leaders decry a lack of engineering talent in the USA, and college graduates struggle to find work, a growing number of tech companies overseas are swooping in and recruiting some of America's best and brightest.

The catch is that many of the recruiters are foreign-born tech workers who left the U.S. because of visa issues and now plan to take Americans back home with them as employees.

Kunal Bahl, CEO of Snapdeal, one of India's fastest-growing tech companies, visited four top U.S. universities this month in hopes of snagging 20 to 30 engineers, product managers and marketers. The recruiting trip had stops at Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University and Stanford University.

Mahindra & Mahindra, an Indian automotive company, is recruiting at Penn's Wharton School of Business, as are the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.

The India-born Bahl, 28, was educated at Penn but unable to get an H1-B visa to stay in the U.S. Last year, he founded online-coupon company Snapdeal in Delhi, where he helped create 850 jobs. It expects $100 million in 2012 revenue.

It's not that those U.S. grads won't get job offers domestically, says Bahl, a former Microsoft employee. But they want high-level engineering and product-development jobs that are hard to get in the U.S.

"Spending a couple years overseas is not a bad idea professionally, and our work environment is similar to a U.S. company," says Bahl, who adds that résumés from students are pouring in and about one-third are from Americans. "There is a dearth of engineering talent in India and China."

The domestic brain drain comes as President Obama and others ask lawmakers to change strict U.S. immigration law.

"While we shut our doors and keep entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists out, other countries are welcoming them," says Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.

He got a firsthand look while in India and China this month. Chinese leaders announced a plan to attract 1,000 scientists, engineers and business executives — all foreign nationals, and many from the U.S., he says. The Chinese government is dangling permanent resident visas, comparable salaries and other incentives.

India-based CEOs, meanwhile, say they are pursuing top developers in Silicon Valley, Wadhwa says.

Such job movement could portend an alarming trend for the U.S. economy, which has relied heavily on immigrants, entrepreneurs and risk takers, says immigration lawyer Michael Wildes.

"Immigration should be used as a way to improve the economy," he says. "We should not only educate foreign talent, but make the track for work visas more open in the U.S."

Stanford grad student Harley Adams, 23, is interested in doing marketing and branding for Snapdeal in India. "I didn't expect to get a job out of college," says Adams, who graduates in December. "But this is a special opportunity." ... 51241884/1