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33 Talent Expat Series: India


Jen Mullen is a serial expat, having lived in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and most recently Chennai in Southern India. Having spent 15 years in the recruitment industry, she is an enthusiastic advocate of global talent mobility. If you're interested in sharing your own expat story, get in touch with Jen via Linkedin.

An insight into moving to India by Expat and writer Jen Mullen

This month I shall be “upping sticks” with my partner and young children to spend 6 months in India. When I say “upping sticks” I don’t mean taking in the Taj Mahal from a grand tinsel clad caravan, a bit like Peppa Pig meets Bollywood. No, I mean a genuine expat West-meets-East secondment through my partner’s work.

Traditionally India has always represented a destination that people moved away from to seek career opportunities in the west. A counter trend is however slowly emerging, where a growing number of professionals are leaving their home countries to experience expat life in India. Currently, approximately 40,000 expats work in India and the number continues to increase.

People’s reactions tend to vary, when you tell them you are choosing to trade in the splendour of Sydney for life in a developing country. The less enthusiastic comments tend to whisper about OHS concerns, such as poor sanitation and the fact that 36% of all rabies deaths happen in India (source: WHO). The positive camp paints an enthusiastic picture of one’s maid whisking up a Bombay Sapphire for breakfast and weekends languishing on a houseboat in Kerala.

So what is driving this trend?

For global companies there is the realisation that off-shoring work, such as IT development, can bring considerable financial savings, yet is fraught with pitfalls, such as communication barriers, time differences and instructions which simply get lost in translation. There are some factors, particularly cultural, that a Skype call cannot easily address, such as the need for off-shore teams to demonstrate better initiative and think independently.

For Managers:

The benefits of relocating team members are clear, and that an organisation can benefit from a two-way transfer, of knowledge, skills and experience

For the Expat:

Despite the corruption, poor infrastructure and endless bureaucracy, a wealth of experience can be gained from the exposure to a completely different way of life. International assignments can help increase cultural literacy, as well as expand the professional network, and broaden perspective. Suddenly the office politics and the endless arguments about "being on kitchen duty" in an Australian office are firmly put in perspective.

Indeed, the whole dynamics of global talent mobility and entering a period of profound change, regarding the way the international workforce is sourced and managed. Better investment in domestic education at home means that skilled employees from emerging markets like India are increasing in demand at home, which in turn has fueled issues, such as painfully high attrition rates and job-hopping.

PwC have predicted that global assignments will rise by 50% in the decade ahead, reflecting the need to dispatch skilled employees to markets in need of talent. For those involved in strategic talent management, this could involve initiatives, such as openly promoting international assignments to their staff. This in turn would also have advantages from a retention perspective, particularly amongst Millennials. PWC’s study showed that 71% of the 4,000 graduates polled wanted an opportunity to work and live abroad during their career.

For us it is not about the material benefits of being expats, but simply about having a "working adventure". A stint in India will be a fascinating insight into the corporate mindset of this emerging super power. Whether we tour at the end of the 6 months in the tinsel clad Peppa Pig caravan is still open for discussion.


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