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Return to India Program: A Reprise

This white paper examines the factors involved in understanding the trends, challenges & critical success measures in conceptualizing and activating a potentially successful “Return to India Program” for competing India based technology companies, especially the one in the e-commerce space.

Return to India Program: A Reprise

Monday July 10, 2017,

6 min Read


R2I stands for Return to India. It’s a term used to describe the return of an NRI (Non Resident Indian) or PIO (Person of Indian Origin) professional relocating back to India after a significant amount of time abroad especially the USA - Bay area / Silicon valley, Texas, Boston/ Jersey/ Tech centers in the USA.

Since 2009, the Wave 1- R2I, it was the Technology Services Companies of Tech giants with captive Tech or R&D operations in India who drove the programs for getting the leadership talent, which could bring valuable insight into the client side work culture and expectation for developing the delivery capabilities.

The Wave 2- R2I is focused on the hunt for Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence experts who can interpret the required data sets to help businesses make better strategic decisions. Hiring’s are being done with compelling rationales for making a shift from a Google, Yahoo, and Facebook to a Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola or Zomato in Bangalore.

Current State of Attracting Talent in E-Commerce/Mobility App space

Competing for Bay Area Talent - Intense competition is emerging in this area as India based companies like Flipkart, Ola, Zomato, Snapdeal are articulating & communicating ambitions on a global scale to hire Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence experts from the Bay Area.

However, the Leadership talent of Indian origin in the specific areas of Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence is not abundant, as multiple companies chase the exact fits as trophies. Also, talent in Bay Area, working in cutting edge or complex areas of Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, often see a departure from the Bay Area Ecosystem as a career negative. Countering this would translate into institutionalizing cutting edge Tech development programs and committing resources for their maturity.

Communicating Vision & Ambitions Effectively- For Silicon Valley's top talent, nothing attracts more than a mission to dominate the world. "The idea is always world domination”, currently if you speak anything less than that, you are not ambitious enough or the Vision may not be motivating enough to buy into.

Matching and bettering Salaries is the New Normal- And may not be enough- All salaries being offered look handsome and silicon valley-competitive in dollar terms, and most assignments have to involve complex technology solutions for the mobile platform in order to appear as an attractive career opportunity for a top notch talent.

Challenges at the Candidate Level

At a candidate level, a number of challenges are involved in executing an R2I career move. A typical return entails a lot of planning and a lot of decision making. The process takes three to six months and requires total commitment from the whole family.

Some of the concerns include

• Financial and tax issues to take care of matching salaries.

• Citizenship issues, for children born abroad.

• Selling of house and car.

• Education & School admission for kids.

• Housing & lifestyle.

• Losing Professional / Social Connects.

• Ability to return back to USA in Future-should one chooses to.

Conceptualizing and executing successful R2I program

A successful R2I program in today’s context involves a higher strategic approach than ever before, involving a number of initiatives beyond JDs and compensation up-sells. The battle for talent is now on top of the agenda of all well-funded e-businesses. Hiring head hunting firms may not deliver results beyond a few trophy hires.

The challenge of creating compelling reasons for candidates to consider a position in India especially for the tier2 and tier3 levels requires more than top management commitment and a compensation war that technology leaders from the Bay may demand. Bay Area hires for their rank and files require the R2I programs to maintain the momentum over long periods, requiring frequent reinvigoration and media campaigns.

It involves addressing multiple areas. Some of them are highlighted below:

1. Ensuring clarity in the Objectives of the Program at all levels.

2. Establishing the Program Leadership for engaging the R2I talent.

3. Developing unique career propositions and career Roadmaps e.g. Cross border Labs as the in-house yet independent development organization.

4. Identifying Potential R2I candidates and network from Target companies in the space.

5. Identifying the Key factors, that inspires them think R2I.

6. Keeping the R2I candidates motivated and keeping them integrated with the Bay area Ecosystem.

6. Developing and orienting and managing vendors across shores, uniquely positioned to execute various stages of the program like pre-empted reach outs, propositioning and recruitment programs.

7. Developing and delivering the Program experience in a Communication package touching social media, networks and forums. Almost like giving a walk-through of the R2I experience to a potential Incumbent. Relocation & integration Support at candidate and family level.

8. Ensuring Engagement Quality at all stages including engaging their spouses effectively as well.

9. Compensation & Benefit strategy- Matching and better USD salaries. Savings opportunities.

10. Professional Development as a part of the R2I program execution.

A Case for Potential Employers- Pre-empting the questions

• While communicating, as a Market leader looking to raise the Bar may be a good starting point to excite R2I trophy’s, a key question will be asked -What a potential employer wants to do at world level and the market apart from innovating within its current focus?

• Also what specific technologies that will enable innovations and such a future needs to be communicated.

• What’s a potential employer take on competition “Creating an On-demand Future” needs to be visualized, articulated and communicated as a part of its corporate communication strategy to set a direction of its innovation and strategic intent.

• Other questions may include- Can the technology developments, fire up developments of other apps and can its API’s create an ECO-system? What is the vision of such Technology intent and what does the R2I hire is expected to do in this context?

Answers to these questions will create the foundations of communicating the strategic intents to fire up the imagination of potential leaders expected from the R2I program.


The R2I program execution is an emerging specialization and competitive area for the Talent management organization with in Tech companies. Very few recruitment vendors or consultants can run it at a strategic level, ensuring all areas of the program development and execution are addressed effectively. The companies expecting to win the war of talent in the Wave 2 need to run their R2I programs with a lot more commitment at the strategic level than the tactical hiring done in Wave 1 scenarios in the past. 

-Deepak Kaistha

TurkBlue Management