H1-B review fallout: Infosys to hire 10,000 US workers

Infosys Ltd said it plans to hire 10,000 US workers in the next two years and open four technology centres in the United States, starting with a centre this August in Indiana, the home state of US vice president Mike Pence, Reuters reports.

The move comes at a time when Infosys and some of its Indian peers such as Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Ltd and Cognizant have become political targets in the United States for allegedly displacing US workers by bringing in Indians on temporary visas to service their clients in the country.

The IT service firms rely heavily on the H1-B visa programme, which US President Donald Trump has ordered federal agencies to review.

In a telephone interview with Reuters from Indiana, Infosys chief executive Vishal Sikka said his company plans to hire U.S. workers in fields such as artificial intelligence.

"When you think about it from a US point of view, obviously creating more American jobs and opportunities is a good thing," Sikka said.

While Indian outsourcing firms have recruited in the United States, Infosys is the first to come out with concrete hiring numbers and provide a timeline in the wake of Trump's visa review.

Last month, two industry sources told Reuters that Infosys was applying for just under 1,000 H-1B visas this year. One of the sources said that was down from about 6,500 applications in 2016 and some 9,000 in 2015.

Indian IT service firms have been accused of flooding the lottery system each year with thousands of applications, thereby increasing their chances of garnering H1-B visas (See: Nasscom rebuts US accusation of 'cornering' H-1B visas).

The 10,000 new US jobs would be a small part of Infosys' overall workforce of more than 200,000.

In filling these jobs, Infosys will hire experienced technology professionals and recent graduates from major universities, and local and community colleges, to create the talent pools for the future.

To ensure that American workers are fully equipped to innovate and support clients in the rapid digitization of all industries and consistent with Infosys' over 35-year long commitment to the US, the company will institute training programs in key competencies such as user experience, cloud, artificial intelligence, big data and digital offerings, as well as core technology and computer science skills.

Sikka said Infosys has already hired 2,000 US workers as part of a previous effort started in 2014.

"We started small at first and have been growing since then," Sikka said. "The reality is, bringing in local talent and mixing that with the best of global talent in the times we are living in, and the times we're entering, is the right thing to do. It is independent of the regulations and the visas."

The hubs will focus on technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, user experience, emerging digital technologies, cloud, and big data.

The four hubs being set up will not only have technology and innovation focus areas, but will also closely serve clients in sectors such as financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, retail and energy, said Infosys.

The first hub, which will open in Indiana in August 2017, is expected to create 2,000 jobs by 2021, the company said.

Infosys did not disclose the financial impact of its plans. It declined to comment on whether the planned US jobs would account for a large percentage of overall hiring in the coming two years.

Infosys, which added nearly 18,000 jobs in 2015, slowed its hiring pace considerably, creating just about 6,000 jobs in 2016 amid market uncertainty caused by Brexit and heightened clamour for tougher US immigration laws that led some US clients to hold off new projects.

The company cautioned last month that it would struggle to reach its ambitious $20-billion revenue target by 2020, as the Indian software service sector has been hit by cautious client spending due to a rising protectionist wave globally.

The United States is the largest market for Indian software service companies, but other countries like Australia have also begun to target Indian IT service companies that use temporary visa programmes.