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UAE’s golden visa offer to coders causes stir in India’s tech sector

UAE’s golden visa offer to coders causes stir in India’s tech sector

The UAE’s latest initiative to offer golden visas to attract coders is making a stir in the Indian tech sector, with talks of potential large-scale movement of start-ups and programming professionals from India to the Gulf country, industry insiders said. Industry experts and talent search firms, however, cautioned that cost of talent could be a

The UAE’s latest initiative to offer golden visas to attract coders is making a stir in the Indian tech sector, with talks of potential large-scale movement of start-ups and programming professionals from India to the Gulf country, industry insiders said.

Industry experts and talent search firms, however, cautioned that cost of talent could be a major factor which will impact the success of this latest initiative.

The UAE announced on Sunday the start of its golden visa application process to grant up to 100,000 golden visas to entrepreneurs, enterprise owners and start-ups who are well-versed in coding in a move aimed at attracting new talent to the technology industry.

UAE’s digital strategy ramps up as it partners with tech giants

Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco, IBM, HPE, LinkedIn, Nvidia and Facebook, plus homegrown successes such as Emirates NBD and Dubai World Trade Centre, are among the names supporting the National Program for Coders which aims to train and attract up to 100,000 programmers.

“This is a highly promising move by the UAE government. We will definitely take a serious look at it as it could make good sense for us since the UAE and the larger Middle East region is among our main focus markets,” Arjun Varma, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Alcodex, an Indian start-up operating IoT (internet of things)-based weather monitoring solutions, told Arabian Business.

Some of the other start-up founders Arabian Business spoke to also expressed similar excitement about the latest UAE initiative, but said the final decision on this will depend on the fine print of the initiative and an analysis of its pros and cons.

Arjun Varma, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Alcodex.

Sandeep Ganediwalla, Dubai-based managing partner of RedSeer Consulting, which specialises in internet-based services, said the freelancer visa that the UAE introduced last year was already a step to attract talent and the new initiative takes it a step further.

“I think that this program can become attractive at multiple levels – senior professionals and entrepreneurs, especially in emerging markets, will find the excellent infrastructure, quality of life and strategic location of UAE attractive. This could also be attractive to international small-to-mid-sized technology firms who until now have used the region primarily for demand generation and not necessarily for product development,” Ganediwalla told Arabian Business.

Talent search firms also sounded positive about the latest move by the UAE authorities and said it would add further impetus to the current uptick in demand for niche skills.

“Granting golden residential visa for coders, tech firms and start-ups will certainly attract tech professionals and firms from across the globe, especially from India – the leading hub for IT talent,” Prerna Seth Garg, vice president of the Dubai-headquartered global talent consulting firm Seintiv Talent Solutions, told Arabian Business.

“The move will make UAE a much more attractive hot spot for technology talent, as the golden visa program provides additional stability for talent aiming for residential status outside India,” Garg said.

“We are [already] seeing an uptick in demand for niche skills and Seintiv is helping clients in putting overall strategy to attract, recruit and retail talent for areas like analytics, data science, core technology and e-commerce,” Garg added.

A Ramachandran, managing partner, EMA Partners UAE, a leading global leadership search and consulting organisation, said there were mainly two aspects to the latest UAE initiative in terms of its attractiveness to Indian firms and professionals.

“Proximity and cost of talents are the major factors which need to be factored in for assessing the impact of this [initiative]. In terms of proximity, since India has enough well-skilled tech talents and Dubai is closer to home, it could attract a lot of Indian tech professionals,” Ramachandran, who is also a senior partner for EMA Partners India, told Arabian Business.

“However, the cost of living in Dubai will be an issue for Indian professionals. They need to be offered more than double [salaries] than what they are currently paid in India for maintaining comparable living standards, to make it attractive to them.

This would, however, impact the economics of start-ups and tech firms as this would mean ballooning operational costs for ventures,” Ramachandran said.

A Ramachandran, managing partner, EMA Partners UAE.

Ramachandran said currently there is a huge scramble for tech talent in India – especially for some of the specialised computer programmes and languages – which is already leading to a surge in salaries.

“There are instances of even junior computer professionals with three to four years of work experience getting about 70 to 80 percent hike in salary offers within a period of two weeks as they give interviews to multiple tech firms in India,” Ramachandran said, adding that this translates to about 60 to 70 percent of individuals rejecting job offers.

Ramachandran said in the case of tech ventures and start-ups, they may look at shifting base to Dubai for tax considerations, though the new move on minimum taxes for companies internationally could gradually make it a less attractive factor.

Verma, however, said India has a highly diversified pool of tech talent and there are resources available and though they may need some hand holding initially, they can be hired at competitive costs for working in the UAE.

Ganediwalla said cost cannot be the only competitive edge that an economy should factor in.

Sandeep Ganediwalla, Dubai-based managing partner of RedSeer Consulting.

“Silicon valley didn’t become that because of low wages. It has one of the highest salaries and cost of living,” he said.

“The region already has access to funds, good infrastructure, large demand and strong local players. So, I think, what we are also trying to address here is the talent gap in the region. These visas are given to individuals and not companies,” Ganediwalla said.

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