Washington: With IT firms struggling to find quality and right number of professionals, a top American CEO has called for a "dramatic expansion" of the H-1B visa scheme -popular among Indian tech firms- to meet the growing demand.
"The entire Silicon Valley believes that the H-1B visa policy needs to be dramatically expanded," Bill Coleman CEO of Veritas told PTI in an interview. "We can't hire enough good people. They are just not available here. The salaries here are going through the roof, because everybody is competing to hire from everybody else," he said.
Coleman, a former chairman of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, is involved with the Silicon Valley for about 40 years. Early this month, he became the CEO of Veritas, which has re-emerged as a newly-independent company after its purchase by The Carlyle Group for USD 7.4 billion on January 29. Soon headed to India, where Veritas has about 1,700 people working for it with Pune being a major centre, Coleman said he plans to migrate some of his facilities to India from Florida.
"That is a priority," he said. The H1B visa is designed to allow US employers to recruit and employ foreign professionals in speciality occupations within the US. But in a blow to Indian IT firms, the US has imposed an additional fee of up to USD 4,500 for certain categories of H-1B visa.
Amidst revival of the US economy wherein the unemployment rate has hit below 5 per cent, Coleman referred to the huge shortage of quality IT professionals the Silicon Valley faces. "In Silicon Valley you go to Apple, Facebook or Google, open their websites, you will find thousands of open jobs. One of the biggest problem here is that everybody is trying to hire from everybody else. As they can't find enough good candidates what they are doing is pushing the salaries through the moon," he said.
Referring to a conversation he recently had with Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, Coleman described a "crazy" incident when the hiring-salary of a data scientist skyrocketed. "I know this is a very very extreme example. I was talking to Eric Smith a while ago. He was telling me that they had a really really top machine learning data scientist who they were trying to recruit. They ended up getting him, but with a USD 10 million sign on bonus. That's crazy," he said. Coleman said the number of H-1B visas should be based on market demand and the programme's expansion is one of the top priorities for the Silicon Valley.
Coleman, however, acknowledged that not much is expected until and after the US presidential election. "If a Republican ends up in office there is a higher chance of getting it done than of a Democrat. But I am not advocating one way or the other," he said. "But right now, it is like trying to stand up and give a talk about reason in the middle of a hurricane and nobody is listening to you," he said. Coleman said India, now the fastest-growing emerging economies of the world, offers a "great" and "long term" opportunities for IT firms and he aims to make the best of it.
"We are targeting growth in excess of 40 per cent in our sales in India," he said. Coleman said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has brought "a breadth of fresh air." "It is not that difficult to do business in India...the regulations have gotten better, but they are not up to the leading free market standards yet. Things are improving under Modi and we are happy about that," he said.
Having spent the last five years in venture capital, Coleman said at least two-thirds of the companies that they funded had Indian-Americans at senior positions. He said Indian-Americans are the first ethnic group of immigrants who can come to the US and in their lifetime become leaders of biggest corporations.