Reverse Brain Drain


After spending some time at Drishtee, I realized that there was a high percentage of new hires (as well as existing management staff) who were Indians who had recently or in the past few years returned to India from the US.

Many had gone to the US to study for undergrad and ended up staying for both graduate school and work. A number of people had lived in the US for many years, anywhere from five to 10 (or more.) This was much different then my experience in other countries around the world, where usually people left to study overseas and never returned.

When I began to ask people why they came back, many stated they were interested in joining its growth spurt by helping to build it and take it forward. Even if family pressures were part of the equation, people had made the choice to return and turned down working at a large multi-national or Indian corporation for a social enterprise.

This is also the case at many other social enterprises, a good number being Acumen Fund investees. At a another social enterprise I know, one woman had worked in China and decided to return to India on the basis that she could do the same type of work at home and couldn’t see remaining somewhere else when the same issues existed in her backyard.

People actually research, study and write about reverse brain drain. I found an article describing this situation with Indian immigrants in the US. Yet it’s not only a US to India journey, but other countries are also seeing this happen: China, Malaysia, Brazil and Turkey. Today, much of it may be due to the financial crisis in the US and Europe, but others have returned because they were interested in working for business with a social mission.

I interviewed two new employees at Drishtee: Rahil and Upasana. Rahil currently works in Connecticut for a hedge fund and took a 6 month sabbatical to work with Drishtee on its supply chain model. Upasana returned after attending university and working on the West Coast over a period of 8 years and is part of the Process and Planning team. Watch to find out more!

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One Response to “Reverse Brain Drain”

  1. Rob Says:

    Thanks Sophie – these are great interviews! I am also a little curious as to what Upasana and Rahil’s advice is for others who are looking to mimic their paths as “reverse brain drains”. A lot of Indians, Pakistanis, Kenyans, Colombians, Mexicans, etc. are living in the US but would love to give back in a way to their home country. What skills are needed? What commitment is needed? How do you find these opportunities? Etc.

    Keep up the good blogging!

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