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Key Official Quietly Replaced PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 17:29
BANGALORE: Infosys has quietly replaced a key official handling immigration issues with a veteran specialist from rival Wipro, triggering talk that it may be setting its house in order after being accused of visa abuse in the US.

India's second-biggest software exporter has hired Vasudev Nayak, the former head of the overseas operations cell at Wipro, in place of Eshan Joshi, an associate vice-president at Infosys' human resources division and head of its immigration department, at least three people familiar with the matter told ET.

Joshi, an Infosys veteran of 13 years, is currently on a 'sabbatical', said one of them, a company executive who requested anonymity. An Infosys spokeswoman declined to comment on Joshi's employment status. A Wipro spokeswoman confirmed that Nayak has quit the company. Joshi did not answer phone calls until Monday evening.

The change comes when Infosys, one of India's most admired companies globally, has been accused of visa misuse by a US employee Jay Palmer, who accused it of using illegal work permits, and even testified before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee in July.

The replacement of Joshi, who earned nearly 3 crore and 2.5 crore each during the past two years in stock options alone apart from his salary, has triggered feverish speculation inside and outside the company.

"There is talk of Joshi being made a scapegoat. Another version is that he is being held accountable for the way Palmer was handled. It's difficult to say which one is true," said a company insider who knows Joshi and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity around the case.

Another person, a senior official at one of India's top-three software exporters, said Nayak.

Managing immigration better

"Nayak will have to ensure that Infosys is heard better and is prepared to fend off what appears to be a false charge," this person said.

Infosys has denied Palmer's accusations, but the allegations have gained traction at a time when lack of domestic jobs is a top political and economic issue in the US. The accusations have also put an unwelcome spotlight on the employment practices being followed by Infosys and the rest of the Indian IT sector, especially in the US, their mainstay market.

For Infosys, which gets more than half of its $6 billion revenues from the US, and the rest of India's IT sector, the latest episode has underscored the need to manage sensitive issues of immigration better, especially given the high unemployment in the US.

The US has increased visa fees and there is increased scrutiny by US immigration authorities of Indian IT professionals, both of which are being viewed by Indian the technology firms as an unfair trade practice.

Indian companies are also facing delays in acquiring work permits for their employees from India to travel and work at client locations. Indian tech firms, along with industry group Nasscom, have intensified their lobbying efforts with US policymakers and have even hired top lobbyists.

But experts say these companies need to tread carefully. "If the issue is actually 'lobbying', which connotes more overt efforts to sway decisions in favour of the firm doing the lobbying, this may work against vendors if they are perceived as being too aggressive," said Rodney Nelsestuen, senior research director at US-based Tower-Group, a firm that advises outsourcing customers.

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