Cassidy: U.S. graduates headed for India and other high-growth markets - San Jose Mercury News I can't say I was surprised when I heard that Indian startup entrepreneur Kunal Bahl was touring U.S. colleges on a hunt for MBA talent for his New Delhi-based digital commerce company. After all, the U.S. economy is in the tank. The job market is tight, maybe even for MBAs. Plenty of bright students have come here from India to study. Home is no doubt a draw. Why not India? No, the surprise came when I caught up with him at a coffee shop on the Stanford campus and asked him how his recruitment drive was going since he started his push with social media last month. "In the subsequent three weeks," he says, "we received 2,000 rÃ©sumÃ©s." Yes, from the United States. And, says Bahl, 28, a survey of the applicants' names indicates that 30 percent of them are not Indian or of Indian descent. Turns out if you're a smart, ambitious, strategic, energetic, risk-embracing MBA student, like the sort who become, well, MBA students, there is nothing like diving into an emerging economy that is growing at a blistering rate with no end in sight. "With this acute flattening of the world, people just feel it's the next big frontier," says Bahl, an Indian native and University of Pennsylvania Wharton School grad who planned to stay in the United States but lost out in the H-1B visa lottery. Instead, he returned to India to launch SnapDeal.com, a rapidly growing cross between Groupon and Advertisement Amazon. Think about it: How much room in the United States is there for yet another social network, or another mobile shopping model or music-selling and storage site? But in India and China, Brazil and other emerging markets for that matter, the sky is the limit. Whole new middle classes are rising in countries around the world, adding millions and millions of consumers to markets. Internet use and e-commerce are in their infancy in many emerging markets. Mobile initiatives in India and other parts of Asia have huge potential upside because of rapidly rising smartphone adoption. "I think that many of our students are looking at the growth story in Asia, in particular, and they see something happening that happens only once in a lifetime and they don't want to miss it,'' says Pulin Sanghvi, assistant dean and director of the career management center at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Not to mention that a stint overseas is practically mandatory for those who want to rise to the highest ranks of corporate leadership in the United States, says Maria Jenson, executive director of Stanford's Center for Global Business and the Economy. Customers are global; suppliers are global; workforces are global; and managing them all requires a global mindset. So it's no wonder that Stanford's business school has seen a spike in the number of graduates leaving the United States to start their careers. About 20 percent have gone overseas in the past two years, compared with the 15 percent who have typically gone abroad in previous years. And those figures don't account for graduates who choose to get their early experience in the United States and then go international. Valerie R. Wagoner, who grew up in Modesto and graduated in 2005 with a Stanford masters in economic sociology, was out in front of the trend's acceleration. She is on her second Indian startup, ZipDial, a Bangalore-based mobile enterprise that helps companies market to consumers. She understands the appeal of leaving home. "I have a real passion for emerging markets and a passion for tech startups," she says. "It was very natural, putting those things together." Some might fret over a U.S. brain drain and see the trend of graduates leaving the U.S. as another black mark against globalization. But the fact is the U.S. economy could benefit from the global seasoning that future business leaders are gaining by working abroad. "These guys may come back and probably will come back," says Bahl, who visited Stanford, Wharton, Columbia University and Northwestern University. "They'll add value to companies here." But for now, he's more interested in the MBAs' trip from the United States to India. He'll worry about the return trip some other time.