Thursday, May 28, 2009

Boomerang Migration Motivation

Why does talent return home? The answer isn't money:

A recent survey of 1,203 scientists and technologists who moved back to India and China from the West found the main motivation was not, as might be expected, higher salaries. Instead, family ties and the demand for their skills was the attraction. ...

... Anu Acharyan, the founder and CEO of the genomics services specialist Ocimium Biosolutions, said demand is the key factor. “Brains go from areas of lower opportunity to areas of higher opportunity.”

The family angle won't surprise anyone. That's a big driver of migration, if you can afford to do so. Chasing a job far from home is fine until you have kids. You can't simply drop them off at your sister's house and then go out on a date with your spouse. And long-distance holidays quickly become a chore. The list of reasons to live closer to kin is rather long.

"Areas of higher opportunity" is a vague attraction. What does it mean, exactly? I would describe it as trading the life of being a small fish in a big pond for that of a big fish in a small pond. Your impact increases tremendously and you can do things never possible in an alpha global city such as New York. In a nutshell, India and Youngstown have much in common:

[Acharyan] founded Ocimium in the US, registering the company in Delaware, before moving back to India in 2000. At that time there was no genomics expertise in India and the company brought in skills from the US, UK and Japan.

Acharyan said there are opportunities and challenges faced by those contemplating a move back to India. In particular, it was a leap to come to work for a small start-up that was then the only genomics company in the country. “Most people are convinced in the end through family concerns, though the decision is easier if the compensation is right,” said Acharyan.

I'll add that the political situation in India is far from conducive to starting a business. Entrepreneurship in the Steel Valley is relatively easy by comparison. America's urban frontier is truly an area of higher opportunity for boomerang migrants motivated to return home.

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