Career Move to India

May 21, 2011 4 MIN

Career Move to India

You probably read the Economic Times article titled “50% of US green card holders plan to return home”. It might not be 50%, but based on the number of inquiries I get from friends wanting to move back, it does feel like a good number who want to move back and be part of the vibrant Indian economic growth story. I was reading Shyam Kamadolli’s blog about “India as a career move” and having gone through this process and also helping out a handful of friends move back to India, wanted to share some thoughts. The comments pertain to people who want to move back and find a job in either an MNC, startup or VC (three areas I’m familiar with). Most people focus on the move alone and miss out on focusing to find the best opportunity possible while moving. The following points (in no particular order) are to help you focus on finding the best opportunity possible while living out your dream of moving back to India:

  • Shortlist cities – Once you decide on the move shortlist the list of cities that you want to live/work in. If you have family, please talk to the rest of the family (particularly spouse) and get consensus on the top 2-3 cities you want to live/work in. It’s important you zoom in on these cities to help focus on finding great opportunities in those cities (sounds obvious but most people who move back are initially open to anywhere in India and this makes it tougher to find good opportunities)
  • Make a few trips to India – Once you are sure you want to move, budget at least a year to find the right opportunity and make the move. Start out that year with a trip to India to visit your target cities and meet potential employers. In the middle of that year, you could make another trip with family and hopefully close on the right opportunity. And by the end of the year, you could make the move. People with kids would have to plan this around academic years. But note that December holidays in the US coincides with holidays in India as well and so, this is probably not the best time to try and close job offers.
  • Target industry and create list of potential employers – Many people, especially on the business side, are agnostic to industry while making the move. But, employers want people with relevant background in their industry. And so, look at your resume and figure out which industries fit you the best (background and interest). Also, if you are looking for VC or startup opportunities (which is what I get pinged most about), it is important to identify the top 10 to 15 firms that you want to talk to. (e.g. if you are interested in e-commerce startups, figure out which are the top 10 to 15 e-commerce startups in India that you want to work for. You could use blogs – many listed under EntrepreneurToolBox – as well as talk to experts in that target sector to shortlist the companies you want to talk to)
  • Tap your social network – Once you shortlist the cities and firms you want to work for, look at your Facebook (try BranchOut app) and LinkedIn contacts closely to find out ways to network into relevant people in the companies you want to work for. 
  • Informational interviews – Once you find relevant first/second level contacts in your target firms, instead of straight away asking for a job in your first conversation, have a more open-ended informational interview with them over the phone. Share with them your intent to move and that you are talking to a short list of firms to learn more and see if it would be a mutual fit. Once you develop comfort that this is the right firm for you and develop rapport with the person, you could take the conversation to the next level and mention about your upcoming trip to India and to see if the person can help set up meetings/interviews for you.

Now for a few items to watch out for:

  • Family not in sync – one of the best pieces of advice I got when I initially thought about moving back to India was from the legendary Indian entrepreneur, Desh Deshpande. He asked me where my wife wanted to live and raise children and advised me to figure this out beyond any doubt before planning my next step. It turned out to be very sound advice which I would like to “pass it on”
  • Industry and Role switch – as mentioned earlier, top companies are very picky on who they hire. They want you to be an expert in the industry and/or role before hiring you. And so, if you are planning to make a move to India (new geography, especially if you haven’t worked here recently), try making only one of industry or role switch. For e.g. if you work as an engineering manager in a semiconductor company and want to move to India and want to become a marketing manager in an internet startup, it will be very tough (both to find a job and to do well in it). In this case, the person has to decide what’s more important, the role or the industry switch and take one step at a time. Goes without saying that if you are already an expert in industry and role and only making the move to India, you stand the best chance to find and do well in that job.

Those are some of the quick points that I could think off. Would love to hear from others who have made similar moves on what worked or didn’t for them.