India has the largest assembly manufacturing plant in the world. Its much larger than a pepsi/coke bottling plant. The raw materials, that is students, are processed into engineers and doctors and dispatched to various destinations based on the so called QA process (quality of colleges).

An engineer from a good college (an engineer from a good college is considered a good engineer and vice versa, which according to me is untrue) leaves India for better opportunities in US or Europe while the remaining (either uninterested in engineering or those who are conceptually brilliant engineers who couldnt get into the so called “coveted colleges”) who stay back in India either join a government office or a services company. And they end up posting questions on Quora asking for advice on changing jobs! Quora is a great site to see how frustrated engineers are!

So lets look at the outcome. For every new engineer that comes out of a good college, US and Europe benefit directly as they join startups in the US and play a key role in innovation . Some engineers even become hydrologists or oceanographers to help conserve the environment or enforce urban planning rules. Now coming back to the crux of why do people leave for US and Europe. The answer is simple. A great lifestyle with a fantastic infrastructure. More than money, it is the experience of living a trouble free lifestyle in an environment full of greenery and great urban planning.

So how did US and Europe get to where they are ? Because, they didnt build an assembly plant to manufacture Engineers and doctors. They developed a very healthy and well balanced job demand for an extremely diverse skillset ranging from town planners to water management experts to environmental conservationists to doctors to engineers. The naturally gifted engineers chose engineering while the environmental buffs chose other skills based on interest. They didnt need a Kota or a Brilliant tutorials to process them into engineers. When all these naturally gifted professionals from different backgrounds come together, you can see the result for yourself. More importantly , the politicians who owned the portfolios were experts in their field and ensured they had the right people for the job.

Now lets take a look at India. There is a lot of talk about reverse brain drain and many professionals coming back to India. But what do they actually do after coming back? They join a startup based in the US with a team in India catering to the US/Europe market. The reverse brain drain still helps US but by reducing cost for US venture capitalists. The remaining work for the Flipkarts/Amazons which dont contribute much value to core engineering or building products that India can sell. Ofcourse , we cant blame these professionals. The indigenous companies arent able to match the salary offered by MNCs. So the contributions of these engineers never reach India irrespective of whether the engineers are in US or in India. Reverse brain drain is a mirage.

There is hardly a demand for town planning professionals in India because most of politicians have no clue about their portfolios and whatever budget allocated is eaten up. So most of the water experts, geologists and oceanographers are just titular heads languishing in government offices unable to add much value to environment. The chennai floods were an eye opener that showed the lack of planning and we still repeat the same thing. Infact , a country can probably live without engineers because engineers build things. But environmental experts deal with nature which cannot be controlled, as we saw in the chennai floods. We need environmental experts much more than engineers. Decide if you want an apple macbook or water?

Unless we realize that a great economy is built on diverse skills, not just engineers and doctors , we will continue to fall in the vicious circle of losing our most gifted environmental experts to foreign nations who will continue to capitalize on our best human resources

The same applies to doctors though i didnt speak about them. True reverse brain drain would happen when India can provide the infrastructure, quality of life and the overall standard of living that the developed nations provide by leveraging the innate talents of a diverse group of people , thus creating a well balanced job demand for all kinds of skills, not just engineering and medical !