'America First' could turn into 'India First'

‘America First’ could turn into ‘India First’

America is great because of its willingness to accept talented immigrants.

He would say that to Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of billionaire Infosys Technologies, he would tell President Trump that he has opportunities.

“If you really want to keep the U.S. … globally competitive, you should be open to overseas talent,” Nilekani said on the sidelines of CNN’s Asian Business Forum in Bangalore.

Infosys (INFY) is the second largest outsourcing agency in India and a major recipient of US H-1B visas. The documents enable that company to employ a huge number of Indians on American jobs.

The Trump administration is now considering significant changes to the visa program. Spokesman Sean Spicer said in January that Trump would continue talks on reforming the H-1B program, among other things, as part of a larger immigration reform movement.

Visa restrictions could hit Indian workers hardest.

India is a leading source of highly skilled labor for the US technology industry. According to the US government, 70% of the extremely popular H-1B visas go to Indians.

Shares in several Indian technology companies – including Infosys – collapsed spectacularly two weeks ago amid reports of an accelerated break in work visas.

Related: The technical industry is pushing for Trump’s visa reform

Nilekani said it would be a mistake for the administration to follow.

“Indian companies have done a lot to help American companies become more competitive and I think that should continue to be the case,” Nilekani said. “If you look at Silicon Valley … most companies have immigrant founders.”

India’s contribution to the industry – especially at the highest levels – is enormous. Current CEOs of the company Google (GOOG) i Microsoft (MSFT)for example, both were born in India.

Related: India has panicked over US plans to change highly qualified visas

But Nilekani, who is also the architect of India’s ambitious Indian biometric personal identification program, has suggested that India will ultimately benefit from any new restrictions placed under Trump’s “America First” plan. If talented engineers can’t go to the US, they will stay in India.

“This visa issuance always appears in the United States every few years, especially during the election season,” he said. “It actually accelerated development work [in India], because … people invest more to do business here. ”

Nilekani cited the Indian government’s own projects as an example.

The Bangalore-born entrepreneur left Infosys in 2009 to launch a massive Indian social security program, known as Aadhaar. As a result of the initiative, the vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion citizens now have a biometric ID number that allows them to obtain government services, execute banking transactions, and even execute biometric payments.

“It was built by extremely talented and dedicated Indians,” Nilekani said. “Many of them had a global experience, but that talent and experience brought them to solve Indian problems.”

Nilekani said that the massive youth population in the country is increasingly deciding to stay at home and move in.

“First is India,” he said.

CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First published February 13, 2017 at 2:19 PM ET

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *