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Big Blue now employs more people in India than in US

29 September 2017

American computer technology pioneer IBM, among the world's top 10 most valuable brands, now employs more people in India than in the US, it has emerged.

Over the course of the last 10 years, the technology giant has largely shifted its centre of gravity to India. IBM now employs 130,000 people here, almost one-third of its total workforce, compared to around 92,000 employees in the US, say a report in The New York Times.

''IBM India, in the truest sense, is a microcosm of the IBM company,'' Vanitha Narayanan, chairman of the company's Indian operations, told the newspaper.

'Big Blue', which opened its first Indian offices in Mumbai and Delhi in 1951, is now spread across the country, including Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Chennai.

Apart from managing the computing needs of telecommunications conglomerate AT&T and energy and petrochemical group Shell, IBM India also performs cutting-edge research in fields like visual search, artificial intelligence and computer vision for self-driving cars.

One of the products developed in India last year was Watson AI technology that currently helps fashion designers roll out unique clothes.

An Indian team is also working with the producers of Sesame Street to teach vocabulary to kindergarten students in Atlanta.

For a company that has reported 21 consecutive quarters of revenue decline, outsourcing is helping IBM lower its costs. However, employing more people abroad than at home, does make it unusual.

NYT quotes research firm Glassdoor to say that the salaries paid to Indian workers are one-half to one-fifth of their American counterparts.

This huge workforce in a foreign country has not gone unnoticed. US President Donald Trump, whose major plank during his election campaign was to "keep jobs in America", had during a really accused the company of laying off 500 Minnesota employees and moving their jobs to India, a claim denied by the company.

The Armonk-based company had, after Trump's victory, pledged to create 25,000 new jobs and has discussed plans to modernise government technology, while expanding tech training for people without four-year college degrees in the US.

The company had said that it was investing in the United States, including committing $1 billion to training programs and opening new offices.

Chequered history
In 1978 IBM left India due to disputes regarding foreign ownership, only to re-enter in 1993 in a joint venture with Tata for assembling and selling personal computers.

One of the first major contracts that assured IBM's coming-of-age in the country was a 10-year $770-million deal with Bharti Airtel.

The company is now on the hunt for the next crucial market in the country: the poor and lower-income segment in India which has largely been ignored by the tech revolution.

Despite shrinking revenues and intense competition from software companies in India, IBM dominated the market for a long period in the telecom sector. Now, having sold its personal computer business to Lennovo, it focuses on newer technologies such as cloud computing, analytics and its cognitive computing business Watson.

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