Go-Jek, the Southeast Asian ride-sharing startup recently made the headlines with its latest acquisition in India. The Indonesian firm recently acquired AirCTO, a Bengaluru based recruitment platform. The purpose of this acquisition is to grab talent. AirCTO’s mix AI and human-driven hiring system will aid the company to hire the right talent. The company claimed to use this acquisition to “develop products that accelerate the recruitment of talent”. Go-Jek’s present CTO (Ajey Gore) is a hire from India. As a matter of fact, the company now has a majority of Indian employees.

Go-Jek rival, Grab too seems to be following the same trend. Grab has also maintained engineering outposts in Bengaluru since 2017. Not just that, Grab also acquired the mobile payment startup Ikaaz to develop its own mobile payment strategy. The engineering team of this startup founded by former Nokia engineer Soma Sundaram will work with Grab’s Bengaluru office.

This points towards a trend that is new to the booming Southeast Asian startup ecosystem. Growing Southeast Asian startups are seeking Indian tech talent to scale their expansion. Visionary startups like Go-Jek and Grab have already taken and many more are following pursuit.

Indian Tech-Talent In The Spotlight

A recent study by Nasscom and Zinnov revealed that the tech offices of MNCs in India crossed a revenue of $28 billion in 2018-19. Their compounded annual growth rate was 10%. This has ensured that the country now has the biggest global presence of MNC tech centres. These centres now employ over 10 lakh people across 1250 MNCs.

mnc tech hub growth in india- infographic
Southeast Asia is showing an interesting trajectory in the startup ecosystem. Click to learn more about the SEA startup scenario.

The exponential growth of MNC tech centres directly translates to increased hiring for tech talent in India.  As a result, Global in-house centres (GICs- also known as MNC tech centres) are at the forefront of IT recruitment. It is estimated that GICs of large MNCs will hire at least 60,000 new people to their captive back offices in India.

Increasing Southeast Asian Interest

American technology giants like Microsoft, LinkedIn, Oracle, Facebook and Google have been at a talent war since 2017. However, this hiring trend is now fairly evident in a lot of Asian companies, as well. For example, Grab Taxi,  Great Wall Motor, and Go -Jek from Singapore, China and Indonesia respectively, have amassed quite the popularity since their inception. Despite being new to the market, they’re aggressively hiring skilled Indian tech talent in data science, stack development and project management domain.

“Indian Engineers are premium talent. The engineers we have hired have sound knowledge in programming languages like Clojure, Ruby, and Golang,” explains Adithya Venkatesan, a marketing specialist in Go-Jek.

According to the report, this growth is led by engineering, research, and development. There is an increased focus on “digital transformation and end-to-end ownership of global and local products from India.”

In short, readily available, quality tech talent continues to be one of the primary factors for global companies looking to set up their tech offices in the country. As compared to traditional outsourcing, they’re leaning more towards technology and product engineering. This also explains why 26% of the innovation centres established last year are dedicated to electronics and IT.

Why Are Companies Choosing India

GCCs in India are no longer merely cost saving centres. They have turned into innovation hubs employing digital technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity etc. The availability of talent skilled in these technologies in India has caused this development.

Presently, India offers a lot of technological development in fields such as big data and analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and robotics. It offers technologies that are far beyond being just cost-effective. For example, Illustrator, Acrobat, Indesign, some of Adobe’s best products are developed and managed entirely out of India. Not just that, it was local Indian engineers at Harman’s India research centre, who built the cost-effective hardware as well as user-friendly software architecture that embraced open source technology. This technology is now used in car systems Fiat, Volkswagen, Tata Motors, GM, Hyundai, and Chrysler.

Dinesh Paliwal On Indian Talent

The CEO of Harman International, Dinesh C Paliwal credits this to the way Indians deal with challenges. “If you challenge Indians and say, here’s the product, take this, reverse engineer it, bring down the cost to a third of what it is…they will do it. Indians are creative geniuses”, he said.

Here are a few reasons that make the Indian talent pool a great choice for Southeast Asian Companies:

Skills At Scale

Companies these days require technical skills at scale, something India offers in abundance. With a population of more than one billion, India produces 1.5 million engineers into the job market every year, according to the HRD ministry. This is nearly 15 times more than the number of engineering graduates the most populated Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia and Vietnam produce. Just in terms of numbers, India provides a larger talent pool for the Southeast Asian companies to choose from as compared to their home centres.

“Tech products could earlier be built once in three years, now it needs to be done every six months. This requires critical skill sets at scale. And MNCs home centres don’t have that. India does.” explains Sarv Saravanan, head at APJ Centers of Excellence at EMC Corporation (now Dell EMC)

The boom of Indian startups have put India on the world startup map. Click here to read more about India’s growth story.

Quality Of Talent

India is home to Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), a pioneer engineering institute in the world. It has 16 campuses, five of which make it to the list of Top 100 engineering colleges in the world. And it’s no news that graduates from these institutes make it to the top positions of almost every big company. Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, an IIT Kharagpur graduate the most popular example of that.  

Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella

Not just the IITs but even private engineering institutes in India have produced some of the most talented engineers of the world. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, for instance, is a Manipal Institute of Technology product.

And in total, India has 6214 institutes working towards producing the best tech talent. Sidu Ponnappa, for instance, who is now head of Data Engineering at Go-Jek. Sidu believes that companies historically outsourced their work to India because it was a cheaper option. “Now they are doing it because we are better.”

Cultural Understanding

While skills are primary for companies when the look for a new hire, finding the right cultural fit is also one of the criteria. Southeast Asia companies stand to benefit, if they choose from a place closer to home. The techies from India are likely to adapt and understand the Southeast Asian culture better than those from the wild West.

Is China A Rival For India?

In every discussion around the Indian talent pool serving global companies, China often seems to be a likely rival. However, India is most likely to beat even China in the talent war. Pointing out that the Chinese talent pool is not large and flexible enough, a report in the Global Times said that the Chinese talent pool is not “enough to meet the demand for the rapid expansion of innovation capability.”

Manu Sale Qoute about China

Even the managing director of Mercedes-Benz-R&D India, Manu Saale claims that India offers better talent than China. “The Chinese tend to be focussed on the local market, whereas, India is more focussed on global initiatives”, he said.

India is a young country with more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. The Indian workforce is expected to hit 170 million by 2020. With China’s workforce shrinking, India is on its way to becoming the world’s leading provider of talent. And the world is becoming increasingly aware of what Indian tech talent has to offer.

India serves a tech-hub for companies to find skilled engineers in abundance. And Southeast Asian companies stand to gain a competitive advantage globally through investments in the Indian talent pool. It would be rather interesting to observe more companies hopping on this opportunity- a likely scenario in the near future.

For companies looking to get ahead in this race, Workship can be a good platform to connect with the best tech talent India has to offer.

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