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H-1B visa denials behind attrition, says Infosys

Company, which faced most US visa rejections in 2018, saw attrition cross 18% in Q4.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Apr 15, 2019, 08.31 AM IST
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H-1B-visa
The six Indian firms got 16%, or 2,145, of H-1B work permits, less than the 2,399 visas that Amazon got in 2018.
BENGALURU: Infosys blamed part of the growing employee attrition at the company on its inability get enough H-1B visas and said it had to come up with a “new value proposition” to help retain employees.

Indian IT firms have long sought to hold on to employees by offering the prospect of a US posting. But the US has tightened visa rules to give preference to applicants with master’s degrees, most of whom prefer American tech companies. Besides, Indian IT companies face numerous administrative hurdles in both applying for new visas and extending existing ones.

Infosys faced the most visa rejections in 2018 — as many as 2,042 — according to US think tank Centre for Immigration Studies.

Six Indian companies — Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant, and the US arms of Tech Mahindra and HCL Tech — accounted for nearly two-thirds of the rejections among the top 30 companies, the think tank said in March after analysing data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The six firms got 16%, or 2,145, of H-1B work permits, less than the 2,399 visas that Amazon got in 2018.

At the end of the fourth quarter, Infosys’ attrition had climbed to more than 18% on a standalone annualised basis, compared with 16.6% in the same period last year, and 17.8% in the third quarter. Chief operating officer UB Pravin Rao said the company was seeing higher employee losses in the three-five year experience bracket in India and the two-three year experience bracket in the US.

LOCAL ARMS OF MNCS TOO WEANING TALENT AWAY
Infosys’ attrition has been high for the past few quarters.

“For a lot of people in the three-five (experience) bracket in India, the value proposition in the past has been onsite opportunities,” Rao told reporters at a press conference on Friday. “Now, with visa restrictions that is not happening. We have to create a new value proposition.”

Indian companies are also losing out on talent with less than five years’ experience, particularly in the newer digital and cloud skills, to local operations of companies such as Amazon and captive operations of global MNCs such as Deloitte, Tesco and Walmart.

Rao said Infosys had begun putting in place measures to cut attrition, though it will take a few quarters to have any effect. The company has started milestone-based increments, and incentives tied to digital skill certifications. But Rao said arresting attrition was not just a matter of giving increments and raises.

“We can arrest attrition from expense management but to a large extent, we believe it’s more about giving them opportunities, more about a new narrative around some of these initiatives that we are doing, enabling them on their career progression and so on,” he said.

Rao added that the company also planned aggressive rotation of employees on projects — to give them experience of working on new technologies and projects. “Infosys’ attrition issues are because of more than just H-1B,” an analyst at a Mumbai-based brokerage said. “The visa restrictions are industrywide problems but TCS’ attrition didn’t grow that much.”

TCS’ IT services attrition climbed to 11.3% from 11.2% in the third quarter. Attrition typically rises in the first quarter as employees leave for higher studies.
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