Reverse Brain Drain Continues, More Senior Executives Relocating To India


For a long time there have been questions on India’s ability to retain its talent. The fact that countries like U.S. provide better opportunities for both studies as well as jobs gave way to unabated brain drain with India ending up on the losing side.

However, in the last 3-4 years there have been signs of reverse brain drain happening even though i have questioned whether the reverse brain drain is real primarily because the education and research infrastructure in the country has not improved drastically.

But the times, they are changing! More and more folks are looking forward to come back to the roots and put their talent to use right here in India and hopefully in some cases for India.

There has been a double digit increase in Indian origin and NRI senior executives shifting base to India.

There has been an up to 20% increase in the number of CEO movements compared with last year, as persons of Indian origin and non-resident Indians return home

Major executive recruitment firms are reporting a constantly increasing number of senior executives in the US, Europe considering a move to India for good. A look into the economic environment is enough to suggest that this trend of senior executives relocating is not entirely driven by the desire to return to homeland and participate in the betterment of the country a.k.a reverse brain shown in Bollywood movies

Global economic environment is the biggest driver for reverse brain drain. Even as countries like US and Europe battle with debt crisis and high unemployment, India has grown very well in the past few years and despite inflationary pressures, it is expected to outpace the growth in the developed countries.

Additionally, there has been major improvements in the education infrastructure in the country. Major foreign universities have shown interest in setting campuses in India and even though the pace might be slow, there is a window of opportunity for talent students to chase their dream right here in India.

Sectoral demand is another driver for increasing reverse brain drain. Industry sectors like Pharma need senior management level folks with global experience and understanding of the nitty-gritties of navigating the global markets. This has created opportunities for senior executives working in the US or Europe to consider relocating to India to take on new challenges while at the same maintaining the fat pay packets they are used to.

What are your thoughts on more and more senior executives relocating to India for work? Do you think it is a short-term trend and will reverse once the economic conditions in the developed countries improve or the reverse drain will continue unabated?

  1. […] Reverse brain drain is continuing – more and more senior executives are returning back to India, partially due to the fact that economies are in doldrums in the West, while India choc-o-block with opportunities! […]

  2. Prashant Agrawal says

    I will not call it as a reverse brain drain rather a 'Brain Return'?

  3. Medona Jacob says

    There has been an up to 20% increase in the number of CEO movements compared to last year.

  4. Rohit says

    It is a long term trend. The economic situation in foreign countries is not going to be stable soon and at the same time Indian economy is on the rise. So expect more and more senior executives relocating to India for work in future.

  5. Altaf Rahman says

    May be what I write down here may not be liked by people. I request people to look into this point of view also.
    Normally Indian media thrives on hype.
    When Indians are travelling abroad for jobs, they cry saying that brilliant Indians are leaving India. (Indirect message is Indians are brilliant and other national are stupid and they need to import Indians to survive)
    When Indians are coming back, they convey indirect message that reverse brain drain has started and now India is in a position to absorb brilliant people.

    My view is that, people started going abroad because there is beurocracy back in 70s till 90s and enterprising people can not succeed in India and they took to forign shores to succeed in life. Also at the same time, forign shores were short of skilled people. So it worked positively for all.

    Now due to recession in West (more prolonged and more severe in West compared to India) every one struggled there.
    Some stayed back facing the difficulties. Some tried to test their luck back home. May be due to less recession compared to West could absorb some of the returning. This can not be called reverse brain drain.

    The difference in finer details is like pull push. If India pulls talent from abroad, it can be called reverse brain drain. If people are pushed out of west, it is not reverse brain drain.

    Just my two paisa :)

    1. Ankit Agarwal says

      Altaf, valid points there. Infact i have taken this into account in the post that the reasons for movement could be because of the economic headwinds. So yes, it might be a push. But i took an optimistic view wherein India is able to pull the talent back. or saying that India is not the only country growing positively, there are other countries in Asia and even in the west, not every company is in shit. All in all, the point being that whatever factors may be at play – India is exhibiting the pull factors necessary to retain/draw the talent. It could be short-lived no doubt but then with similar pay packages and roles i think execs with leadership roles might as well stick around

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