Look Homeward, CFOs

More Indian companies are succeeding in pulling back talented professionals to their homeland.
Mike ChambersFebruary 29, 2008

Since the ’90s, the trend for many Asian workers was to move out of their home
market and grow their careers through international experience.
Many countries have felt the sting of this brain drain. Some even sent millions
of people overseas to study and train in an attempt to feed their growing
economies’ need for skilled workers.

For India, too many stayed abroad. Now it seems the tide is turning as more
and more Indian companies are succeeding in pulling back talented professionals
to their homeland.

Aditya Birla Retail, the Indian supermarket giant, scored big recently when it
convinced Giri Giridhard to leave his job in pinstriped London for the teeming
streets of Mumbai. Giridhard had spent the last five and a half years abroad,
first in Singapore and finally in the UK. He was business development director at
advertising agency Diageo when Aditya Birla called.

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“My wife and I wanted to get back to spend more time with parents and give
the kids a more Indian upbringing,” explains Giridhard. And he is not alone, as
more non-resident Indian executives also look to cash in on the booming Indian
economy. “It is difficult to generalize — however, we are seeing some
trend to move back to India,” he says.

With the market for finance top guns still tight worldwide, however, only
time will tell how successful emerging-market companies will be in enticing
expats home. According to a survey conducted late last year by financial recruiting
firm Robert Half International, Asia has been hit especially hard by the general
lack of qualified candidates. For
instance, the survey found
that 82 percent and 83 percent
of respondents from Hong Kong
and Japan, respectively, found it
challenging to find skilled
finance professionals.

Giridhard hopes that his
expertise working with new
technologies will help modernize
and streamline finance
operations at Aditya Birla.
What would he most like to see
more widely utilized? “Business
performance management is
probably the biggest,” he says.
One concern for returning
executives is how the workings
of an Indian conglomerate
differ from a big MNC. In this
case at least, the returnee may
end up helping transform the
Indian firm, instead of adjusting
to its ways.

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