scorecardEXCLUSIVE: HCL Tech is expanding operations in Canada as H-1B visa issues persist
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EXCLUSIVE: HCL Tech is expanding operations in Canada as H-1B visa issues persist

EXCLUSIVE: HCL Tech is expanding operations in Canada as H-1B visa issues persist
Business2 min read
  • HCL Technologies is looking to expand its operations in Canada with the US tightening the reins on H-1B visa eligibility, according to HCL Tech’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Apparao VV.
  • In an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Apparao explains that offices in Canada would allow HCL Technologies’ employees to work in the same time zone without physically being in the US.
  • Nonetheless, a certain section of the workforce will get redistributed if the uncertainty around H-1B visas continues into next year.
The uncertainty around the Trump administration’s H-1B visa regulations is forcing companies to get more innovative, especially when it comes to Indian IT services. The H-1B visa rules may not directly impact them, but many have started to prepare for the worst-case scenario — including HCL Technologies.

If it can no longer expand operations in the US, the country’s neighbors seem to be more than willing to accommodate. “We are expanding our operations there. We already have large operations in Mexico — in Guatemala,” HCL Tech’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Apparao VV told Business Insider in an exclusive interview.

Setting up operations in countries that are next door to the US is known as near-shore operations. It allows IT employees to be in the same time zone and service clients without being physically present in the US.

Impact of H-1B visa regulations on HCL Tech
Setting up near-shore facilities in neighboring countries like Mexico and Canada may redirect a lot of the pressure, but that doesn’t mean H-1B visa regulations won’t have an impact.

“The number of people in focus are very small,” explained Apparao. However, if the visa regulations aren’t resolved by next year, he believes that there could be an impact again when H1-B visas come up for renewal.

The company has also identified some sites within the US itself that are in the same time zone but will be low-cost centres, according to Apparao. “There is some redistribution of the workforce that will happen,” he explained.

Canada is the new hotspot for Indian IT companies
According to Apparao, it’s not just HCL Tech that’s looking to expand. “Canada has become strategic for companies across the world,” he said.

HCL Tech’s peer, Infosys, is also looking at Canada as the next frontier. It has been scoping out locations for a new hub, from Moncton to New Brunswick, to begin incremental hiring. "We have expanded our presence in Mexico and Canada to offer same time-zone services to clients," Infosys COO Pravin Rao said during the second-quarter earnings call.

What does Canada get out of it?
These expansion plans may not be extensive but are significant for both Canada and IT companies.

“Talent is always a big issue. The way HCL approaches hiring in every country — whether it's Lithuania, Poland, or Bulgaria — is to become a part of the workforce. We don’t only hire, but we also want to train the people there,” said Apparao.

So, for Canada, welcoming companies like HCL Tech means getting new skill sets at scale.

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