India’s top tech firms lose appeal for engineering students

India’s top tech companies are becoming less appealing for the millions of engineers the country produces every year.

Three of the country’s top outsourcing firms all dropped in the latest annual ranking of the most attractive employers for Indian engineering students by research firm Universum. The top 10 was dominated by American tech giants like Google and Microsoft.

“The growing presence of multinational [companies] in the last few years has seen them replace domestic ones” among the top choices, said Daniel Ng, Universum’s head of research for Asia. Companies such as Facebook and Apple are perceived as offering a more “creative and dynamic work environment” than their Indian rivals, he added.

In the survey, IT firm Infosys fell out of the top 10 for the first time, slipping to 13th from 9th last year. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the country’s biggest outsourcing company, slid from 14th to 18th. Bangalore-based Wipro sank from 17th to 25th.

In fact, only two Indian companies — infrastructure firm Larsen & Toubro and government-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) — made it into the top 10.

It doesn’t help that Indian students remain obsessed with working abroad. While most millennials around the world put “work/life balance” as their top career goal, young Indians’ main objective is to work outside their own country, Universum said.

Out of the 29,000 Indian students surveyed, 43% said they wanted “to have an international career,” the research firm added. It seems to be getting tougher for firms like Infosys and Wipro to offer them that opportunity.

More than 60% of the Indian tech industry’s revenue comes from the U.S., where President Trump is pushing his “America First” agenda.

Trump has demanded a comprehensive review of the H-1B work visa program, saying it is unfairly used to replace Americans with cheaper foreign workers. Infosys, TCS and Wipro are among the top recipients of H-1B visas, 70% of which go to Indians.

Infosys recently said it will hire 10,000 American workers over the next two years, while TCS has cut its H-1B visa applications by two-thirds.

Other popular destinations for Indian tech workers like the U.K. and Australia have also enacted policies that make it harder for them to move there.

Ng said it is “certainly possible” that the opposition to work visas has contributed to India’s tech firms being deemed less attractive as employers.

But it’s not just big outsourcing companies that Indian engineers don’t want to work for. They’re also losing interest in high-flying startups at home in favor of global competitors.

Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart is also becoming a place where fewer engineers want to work, according to Universum. It ranked 33rd in this year’s survey, a sharp drop from 18th a year ago.

Amazon, which is challenging Flipkart in India, broke into the top 10 for the first time, rising to 8th place from 13th.

U.S. tech firms also top the list for Indian business students, accounting for three of the top five choices.

Indian students’ preferences contrast with those of their counterparts in China, where a Universum survey last month showed students increasingly favoring homegrown companies over international ones.

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