China’s prospering high-tech sector attracts Indian talents

By Yin Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/23 16:08:39

Vishwaraaj Shetty, Indian IT professional working in Beijing Photo: Yin Lu/GT

For Vishwaraaj Shetty, his biggest competitive advantage in the IT market will be knowing the Chinese market.

"I will have already done everything that global companies want to do in the next few years," he said. "It's why I chose to come to China. China, especially in the mobile Internet sector, is far ahead of lots of countries, including India."

Shetty comes from Bangalore, which has been dubbed the "Silicon Valley of India" for being the country's leading IT exporter. There he worked for leading technology companies including Dell and Infosys. He came to work and live in Beijing in 2011 and is now the managing director of a consulting firm that specializes in data-driven solutions.

Comparing the two tech hubs he has been working in, he said, "Innovation happens where the market lies, and the market is here. That's going to be my strength in the near future."

The world's second largest economy is working to catch up with the US in high-tech. To achieve the goal, China has made efforts, including raising research investment and adopting policies that create a better environment for entrepreneurship. It also shows resolution to enter the global talent pool. In 2016, 1,576 foreigners received Chinese "green cards" that grant permanent residence in the country, with an increase of 163 percent compared with the previous year.

In the past few years, China has attracted a number of science and technology workers from India. Metropolitan talked to them to see what their life and work is like in China, the reasons they chose the country and what they see for the future.

Go where the market is

Shetty likes his life here in China. A married man, there are a lot of factors for him to consider when it comes to making a decision as an expat IT professional.

"It could be about whether I want to live nearer to my parents in India or whether I want to be closer to the market in China," he said. 

What attracted Shetty to come to China in the first place is its market.

"Compared to the rest of the world, China is adopting new technology in a much faster way," he said. "A lot of trends happening in the tech industry are starting here. If you take a look at the sharing economy or WeChat, I think nobody else in the world has done it."

When Indian professionals move abroad, they want to see different cultures, and it also helps them to get closer to the customers, which makes China a good destination for many Indian workers, according to Shetty.

"You always want to be on the business side, understand how it works and know the customers and the people you are working with," he explained.

India's competitiveness mainly lies in its strong outsourcing sector. Considering the cost and the fact that Indians speak English, many companies, including Chinese companies, outsource some of their work to India, according to Shetty.

But China is where the market is, and innovation is happening, he said. Also, for the IT sector, the state of the market becomes a more important deciding factor when it comes to the flow of talent.

Another difference is entrepreneurship. "Startups are closer to the market. India is now evolving as a startup center. But China is a little bit ahead. Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, Guangdong Province are all startup hubs," Shetty said. "Lots of foreigners are working in China on startup projects, and you'll see fewer foreigners (entrepreneurs) in Bangalore."

He added that the most mature entrepreneur field is in the US.

Santy Patel, 33, who came to China in 2010, agreed that the biggest difference between the technology sector in China and India is that India has many outsourced projects, whereas China has more innovative projects.

An expert in database administration and big data with a master's degree in computer application, Patel currently works as a senior IT consultant and specialist with IBM China in Shenzhen.

"The outsource projects are mainly limited to the maintenance of the systems. In China, there are many new projects in new companies, which boosts innovation," he said. "For instance, at Huawei or Tencent, people are always working on developing new things."

Patel got the opportunity to lead in one of the projects on cloud computing and big data as soon as his company announced it was entering the field.

Indian talents in the IT sector find China an appealing destination to work in. Photo: IC

Gaining a competitive edge

Compared to local IT professionals, one of the advantages of Indian professionals comes from the language they speak, Patel said.

"Their education is in English, and a lot of the best technology education resources from the world, including the good books, are in English," he said. "But the younger kids learn and speak good English in China nowadays."

With a business degree from Spain and work experience in India and Singapore, Shetty has built a global network that puts him on a competitive edge in the local IT sector talent market.

"My strength lies in two parts, global companies that want to work in China and Chinese companies that want to enter the global market."

Shetty noted that the times have changed for IT professionals.

"IT used to support business. Now, IT drives business," he said. He explained that most of the business models now are dependent on how good the company's IT solutions are, which makes tech experts important for companies. 

However, he believes that opportunities will be in the hands of those who know the market instead of those who excel in tech skills.

"Previously, from 2007 to 2010, I would say that skill was an advantage [for Indian IT professionals]," said Shetty. "But at this time, I wouldn't say that's a necessary advantage. The business or the innovation is happening in the market, but we just provide services in India."

A hot destination

In India, the IT sector is highly competitive. After a few years, people would either want to get a promotion or switch jobs to get a better salary or a higher position. At that point, China becomes an attractive destination for many, including Nandan Priyadarshi.

"China is becoming more attractive," he said. "I love the food here, and the people are good. Everyone in my company is so friendly," Priyadarshi said. He plans to stay in Beijing for at least two to three years.

Indian IT professionals enjoy certain advantages in the overseas talent market.

"More than 80 percent of software work in the world is done by India, so when someone knows that you are an IT guy from India, they would be impressed," said Priyadarshi.

He works as a big data engineer in Zhongguancun in Haidian district, Beijing. Priyadarshi makes four times what he would earn in India, and he is also provided with accommodations. He estimated that for a similar job in the US, it could be as much as six or seven times the salary he earned back home.

China's Zhongguancun seems like a paradise for many, but it is still not as desired as Silicon Valley, Priyadarshi said, not only because of the salary level but also because of the opportunity to work with highly-skilled professionals in the top percentile of the field.

Patel agreed. He said China is still not yet the most preferred destination for Indian technology professionals going overseas. "One reason is that most of the IT outsourcing comes from these Western countries to India," he said, adding that going to the US would be considered more successful for IT engineers traditionally because it might be easier for them to assimilate.

To Priydarshi, China's technology sector is prospering and looks more promising every day. For instance, the second annual Guiyang International Big Data Expo was held in May in Guizhou Province, and Priyadarshi considers it representative of the city's resolution to make the transition into big data.

"Many companies are developing their business there, and they offer bonuses to big data engineers to relocate," he said. "This is a really good way to attract foreigners and other employees who work in big data."

Priyadarshi noted that some Chinese companies lean towards hiring white employees from Western countries to look more international, and said that the mindset needs to change and is changing.

"I think the Chinese IT sector will benefit a lot by attracting Indian talents here," Priyadarshi said. He explained that India's big data sector is well developed and has the most skilled workers, "so if you need talent and India has them, just bring them here."

Living in China

What Patel does at his current job in China is quite similar to what he did back home, but he enjoys a better work life balance in China. "Travelling is quite easy and convenient, which makes it easy to manage one's personal life while working full-time," he said.

He speaks highly of Shenzhen's metro system as well as its weather.

"Life is very convenient and good for the expat community due to [Shenzhen's] developed market, which gives us easy access to a wide variety of food, clothes and other important products," he said. Patel's wife is also an IT engineer. According to them, thanks to Shenzhen being one of the biggest electronic markets in the world, there's a sizeable Indian expat community in the city, most of whom work as businessmen or technology professionals.

"China is a very beautiful country. I fell in love with China from day one," Patel said.

Between the two desired destinations of China and the US, the living cost is cheaper in China and the salary is becoming as competitive as in the US, according to Shetty. He said one of the main reason Indians come to China is to save money. But he also warns that newcomers need to be aware of the high relocation and apartment rental costs.

But as both India and China are rapidly developing in the IT sector, some IT professionals prefer working at home rather than abroad.

"Previously there was a huge salary gap between what we can earn in India and wages abroad. But it's narrowing, which is keeping more people in India, but not those who want to experiment and see different cultures."

"China could be more attractive for Indian IT professionals," Shetty said. "It is an exciting time to be here."

Zhou Ruxuan contributed to the story

Newspaper headline: From one tech hub to another


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