An Indian Civilizational Perspective

The Rampant "Slaved Prostitution" by the Indian IT companies!

Long back I worked for a leading IT company and came to the US for a short training and then worked on a project – with an alliance consulting partner (a Big 6 firm). Now, at that time the company had no plan in the area of my training to start anything. For coming to work on that project, I had to sign a bond to work for the company for TWICE the period I stayed in the US! And the money of the bond – that I had to repay – included:

  • my air fare
  • monthly allowance (which was pittance – $1800/month while those from the Big 6 working with me were making six figures!)
  • and an additional sum of money.

So, here I was working my backside off for the company on pittance only to be bonded and made to do whatever it wished when I went back home. Moreover the company made at least $100k-300k in that one year on me!

I moved from the company when I went back home. I stayed there for 4 months and when no one showed any interest in using my expertise that I had learnt in the one year on that US project, I thought it was time. I left.

In my resignation letter however, I did mention that I was treated like a Slaved Prostitute! A belief that I carry till date! I was asked to do the bidding – intellectually prostituting myself – while being bonded!

In my view, the act of making your people sign bonds is the most abhorable practice. A person will leave your company when he/she finds that staying in that company compromises his/her future. No one leaves just for the heck of it!

The Indian companies do it because they work on low cost model. Now, it has been successful, but low cost in itself cannot be a sustainable strategy. When the Indian companies send people to the US, I think it is important that they pay comparable US amounts that their peers get. They should get enough administrative support and money to buy/rent a car, stay in an apartment without having to hitch-hike with colleagues or just roam around the city like a zombie looking for a place to stay.

But that is what happens. People are not treated like backbone of the service company, the Indian IT companies really and truly use them like Slaved Prostitutes – despite the larger than life slogans on people and HR! Even the big three of the Indian IT are not immune from this.. in fact they lead in these practices!

And they are showing this by making bonds an integral part of their practice now.

Indian information technology firms have started asking employees who are being chosen for onsite work (at the client’s location abroad) to sign bonds ranging from six months to a year to ensure that they do not immediately quit the company when they return to India.

Wipro Technologies, for instance, asks its employees going on onsite assignments to execute an agreement on stamp paper, committing to stay with the company for a minimum period of one year following his/her return.

The bond will be applicable for employees being sent on onsite assignments after August 1, 2007. The company in a circular issued to its employees internally has defined the long-term assignment as anything that is more than three months (90 days).

Wipro Executive Vice-President Pratik Kumar told Business Standard that the policy was not new. He, however, added that the minimum period of stay was much less than one year.

If you treat an employee well in India and the US, why would he not work for you on return? I am convinced beyond doubt that an employee of an Indian IT firm will work for that company even on return if he knew that he is getting enough of a challenge and good return back for having committed that time outside. Does it happen? No! Most of these companies just send people for support and maintenance work anyways! There is no real project!

Most of the Indian IT companies have never done an end-to-end implementation in their entire lives! So, quite obviously the person thinks of his future growth and development! The truth is that most of the larger Indian IT companies have become fiefdoms – where some good, some fair and a LOT of utterly useless people call the shots! Most of the "senior" and middle management level folks in the Indian IT companies cannot even be presented in front of a client! They are there because they have done time with that company – not because they are worth that post.

The employee obviously thinks – where is the future? Indeed what is the future for the employees of Indian IT companies and their employees?

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