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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brain Deposit !!

In the recent visit to the USA while addressing a large crowd of the Indian diaspora of the Silicon Valley, Indian Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi mentioned an interesting term - "Brain Deposit". For him, the flow of talents from India to other countries is not "Brain Drain", rather "Brain Deposit", that he hopes that one day will return to "Mother India" with interest, i.e. with enhanced expertise. That`s what he calls "Brain Gain With Interest". According to him, that day is perhaps now or in the very near future.

Does it apply only to the IT sector or to our Oil&Gas sector as well? The Indian E&P companies including Oil India and ONGCL have experienced "Brain Drain" for quite a long time. These companies groomed talents in various fields like geosciences, reservoir engineering, production engineering, drilling etc from the very nascent stage. They hire fresh graduates, often with degrees with no direct relevance to the industry and spends time, money and man-hours to train them. After working and gaining experience for few years, many of them leave the company and the country in search of better opportunities. The time, money and man-hours spent apparently goes down the drain. The expertise and skills imparted by the Indian companies are utilized later by the foreign companies. Are these "Brain Drain"  or "Deposit" ?  

Oil India and ONGC both attempted to attract their ex-employees who are working overseas with very limited success. A number of factors play a role in preventing a successful "Brain Grain" like proper placement, work culture, financial, lifestyle change etc. 

Proper Placement: One of the main issue is placement of a returnee in the organogram with respect to his/her contemporaries. The returnee would certainly expect a position higher than where he/she would have been if continued in his / her job without the leaving the company due the enhanced expertise gained overseas. On the other hand, those who did not leave the company and continued working with full loyalty would expect the benefit of their loyalty to the company. To handle this conflicting situation is a challenge not only for the employees, but also for the HR Dept.

Work Culture: Often for the returnee, it becomes very difficult to readjust to the old work culture. Over the years they get accustomed to some unwritten working rules and ethics like maintaining work schedule, how to interact with peers, sub-ordinates and superiors etc. Coming back to the previous company, they need to relearn the old rules. Often these change become very frustrating for the returnee.

Financial: It might be a bitter truth, but the fact is salary offered in the foreign companies is much higher. That's the reason why people sail for foreign lands. Even after Indian salaries significantly risen, they still can not match up what is offered outside. This is a major deterrent for anybody to return home. Moreover, over years who lived overseas for several years, starts to invest with long term liabilities like in home loan, pension fund, life-insurance, savings for children's future education etc so that even if for some reason one wishes to come back with the reduced salary, it becomes a difficult proposition.

Lifestyle: After living in large cosmopolitan metropolis for many years, going back to a smaller town or city becomes a challenge. Unless one have sufficient incentives, it becomes very difficult to console oneself, more so to the spouse and children. They start to miss the big malls, the avenues of weekend outings, the multinational eateries, the extra curricula activities and many more tit-bits.

These are some of many challenges that an individual faces when deciding to come back to teh "Alma Mater Company" .... no matter how much emotional one becomes. From the company's perspective as well, it needs to address these challenges if it decides to attract their drained brains.

On the personal front, I left Oil India to pursue higher education in 1999 after working for the company for about 4 years. During the last 15 years of my working career outside India, I was approached by a number of private E&P companies operating in India. Once or twice I was very close to finalizing a deal. However, one or the other factor mentioned above prevented me to come back. I know, many of my compatriots working outside India have undergone similar experiences. May be,  for the Indian E&P sector, these are still "Brain Drain", not "Brain Deposit" for time being.

Nah, let's put it differently -    for the Indian E&P sector, the "Brain Deposit" has not matured yet. It will mature some time in the near future and ready to be en-cashed with a hefty interest.

Now, with the current below $40 oil-price, that future may come quicker than anybody could ever imagined.

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