The United States is great because of its willingness to accept talented immigrants.
That’s what Nandan Nilekani, the billionaire co-founder of Infosys Technologies, would tell President Trump if he had the chance.
“If you really want to keep the United States… globally competitive, you should be open to foreign talent,” Nilekani said on the sidelines of CNN’s Asian Business Forum in Bengaluru.
infosys ( is the second largest outsourcing company in India and a top recipient of US H-1B visas. The documents allow the technology company to employ a large number of Indians in jobs in the United States. )
The Trump administration is now considering significant changes to the visa program. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in January that Trump will continue to talk about reforming the H-1B program, among others, as part of a larger push for immigration reform.
Visa restrictions could hit Indian workers the hardest.
India is the leading source of highly skilled labor for the US technology industry. According to US government data, 70% of the very popular H-1B visas are granted to Indians.
Shares of several Indian tech companies, including Infosys, plunged spectacularly two weeks ago amid reports of an imminent crackdown on work visas.
Related: Tech industry prepares for Trump’s visa reform
Nilekani said it would be a mistake for the administration to move forward.
“Indian companies have done a lot to help American companies be more competitive and I think that should continue,” Nilekani said. “If you look at Silicon Valley… most companies have an immigrant founder.”
India’s contribution to the industry – especially at the highest levels – has been enormous. The current executive directors of Google ( and )microsoft (for example, they were both born in India. )
Related: India freaks out over US plans to change visas for high-skilled workers
But Nilekani, who is also the architect of India’s ambitious biometric identification program, suggested that India would ultimately benefit from any new restrictions put in place under Trump’s “America First” plan. If talented engineers cannot go to the US, they will stay in India.
“This visa issue has always come up in the United States every few years, especially during election season,” he said. “It has actually accelerated development work (in India), because… people are investing more to do the work here.”
Nilekani cited his own projects for the Indian government as an example.
The Bengaluru-born entrepreneur left Infosys in 2009 to head India’s huge social security program, known as Aadhaar. As a result of the initiative, the vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion citizens now have a biometric identification number that allows them to receive government services, execute banking transactions, and even make biometric payments.
“It was built by extremely talented and committed Indians,” Nilekani said. “Many of them had global experience, but they brought that talent and experience to solve India’s problems.”
Nilekani said the country’s huge youth population is increasingly choosing to stay home and pitch in.
“India comes first,” he said.
CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First published February 13, 2017: 2:19 pm ET