Feeding the Skills Famine

James Surowiecki, author of The New Yorker’s “Financial Page,” is one of my favorite business journalists. His style and insight make him always worth reading, no matter what piece of the global economy he tackles.

But he missed a big trend in his story this week. He writes in “India’s Skills Famine” that the country’s demand for skilled workers is outstripping its supply, pointing to comments from the head of Infosys and a study by Hewitt Associates projecting that the salaries for skilled workers will rise 14.5% this year. It’s a great thesis, totally against the prevailing wisdom on the country.

But what about the skilled workers that have migrated to other parts of the world who can now afford to return to India? From my interviews with dozens of Indian investors, the biggest problem isn’t a lack of PhDs, as Srowiecki suggests, but a lack of management. As more entrepreneurs and engineers that have been successful in the U.S. and other parts of the world return to India, it’ll be like pouring gasoline on that country’s economy.