World Economy

Trump's visa threat doesn't scare leading Indian IT firm

H1-B visa reform won't derail US investment: TCS

BOAO, China — President Donald Trump's talk of visa reform is a major thorn in the side of India's software services firms, but one of the industry's biggest players says it isn't worried.

"We're pretty strong in the U.S. — we have a large presence of U.S. nationals working for us, and we continue to invest," Girish Ramachandran, Asia-Pacific president of Tata Consultancy Services, told CNBC on the sidelines of the Boao Forum in Hainan.

"We feel confident … but overall, we're pretty optimistic about business across these markets."

For years, IT firms in the world's largest democracy, including Tata competitors Infosys and Wipro, have relied on the American H-1B visa program to send employees to the U.S., which is the industry's most important overseas market. TCS, for instance, gets roughly half of its revenue from the U.S.

The program was launched decades ago to allow companies to temporarily bring over skilled foreign employees if they couldn't find Americans to fill the spots. But Trump has called for an overhaul of the program amid concerns that it was stealing jobs from Americans.

Earlier this month, the White House suspended expedited services of H-1B visas.

Changes to the policy could mean higher costs for the Indian IT industry, which has prompted firms like TCS to recruit more heavily at U.S. universities.

Pedestrians walk past a Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (TCS) building in the Electronics City area of Bengaluru, India.
Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"We are recruiting a lot from the local talent, and we continue to invest directly in the campuses," Ramachandran said. "We strongly believe that we will have a business model to sustain that."

It's a move that keeps him "confident" in the firm's continued success, even in the face of potentially higher costs and lower margins.

He also called China's financial technology sector "very, very vibrant," identifying it as an area that TCS would like to continue engaging.

For China's overall tech sector to keep growing, however, it must find a way to scale up and succeed in foreign markets, Ramachandran said. He also stressed that reforming the mainland's state-owned enterprises would allow start-ups to flourish in the world's second-largest economy.

"That would really grow a lot of opportunities for us."