Thursday, January 04, 2007

Shaky Ivory Tower

A few weeks ago M and I were talking about how no job except that of a hair dresser is outsourcing proof. Being a M&A analyst, he tends to look down upon IT types - specially the code cutting variety even though his ivory tower may come crumbling down to forces set in motion in Chennai. Ironically, he mailed me the link to the Forbes story.

One of the things that is helping Indian companies in the strategic consulting business is the returning of expat with foreign education and years of work experience abroad. They have lived and worked in the US long enough to be able to put the client at ease - they speak the same language even if not in the same accent.

Having relocated to India they would even be willing to take a pay cut so it works out well for everyone. It may be hard for even the best b-school grads from India with no experience in the west to get in front of a client in the US, have credibility and get their respect. With 10-15 years of experience in the US on their resume it would be fairly simple.

Increasingly, the trend is unless you bring something exceptional to the table, chances are your job will get outsourced - sooner or later. It makes sense to be closer to business than deep in IT. It also helps for the work to require high cultural acclimatization, need for continuous face time with the business customers. Finally, in a global market where everyone can compete as equals the playing field is leveled - being at the top of your game is essential for survival.

The interesting thing with media coverage of outsourcing news is they go to one extreme (OMG the Indians are taking away every last job in the US and the companies are saving gazillion dollars by using slave labor) or the other (there is zero long term savings from outsourcing and the desis are a bunch of morons that are costing the economy in lost employment and increased cost of goods and services arising from their incompetence). The truth from what little I have seen lies somewhere in between


cheti said...


If you look at your own various takes on outsourcing etc : they themselves go between the extremes. I wouldnt blame the media for this. That is the kind of interpretation that satisfies the general mood !

The thing that is helping Indian companies are not expats who are returning, but local recruits. If you look at the consulting arms of Companies : they are heavily localised. American office will have Americans. Australian office will have Australians - so on and so forth : precisely because the reason that you state : its hard even for the best b-school grads from india to face clients in the west from day one. These guys occupy the second ring ! and will eventually face the clients.

Another thing is soon the term "outsourcing" might become irrelvant ! What "out" stood for is not clear any more with india not being the only "out" ! What "in" stands for is blurring too with client's markets base spanning the entire globe and their "local" spanning across the globe!

Finally, no one is able to figure out why American, European and other global cosulting firms pay Indian B school graduates the money they pay ! THe amount they pay might be normal for where they come from - but its not normal at all for where they are recruiting !

Heartcrossings said...


Indian vendors typically put their best put forward in terms of liasion managers, onsite leads and so forth. They are often the smartest and brightest they have and are successful in creating a great impression as is their brief.

On the flip side they set the wrong expectations as well. The client expects a team of superstars which is hardly ever the case. So when rank amateur work comes in from offshore the relationship suffers sometimes to the point of no return.

What is missing on the tech side of the house these days is strong mentors. The young kids don't get the benefit of learning from the gurus and are pretty much on their own.

Some of the ambivalence around the true state of the outsourcing industry in India depends on perspective. If you have been in the trenches trying to pull teeth to get some work done, apalled at the quality of work etc you'll rant.

If your interaction has been limited to the hot shots that vendors use to get their foot in the door you'll be raving. I have been in both places and have done both and come to settle at the average.