outsourcing-A commentary and a plea
Sreelata Menon | 15 Sep 2006
Why the west needs to take a hard look at the reasons why they outsourced in the first place and asking them to treat the outsourced world better
In 1989 when Kodak's CIO Katherine Hudson broached the concept of outsourcing, by negotiating the Kodak –IBM deal she would not have known that she was introducing a whole new lifestyle in business that would catch on so fast that it would soon transcend borders, go global and create havoc among the then existing ethics of business and exchange. The Kodak IBM deal, apparently it would seem, changed the rules of IT management irreversibly in the United States. If a company such as this could do it to save costs and protect its core competency, would others allow themselves to lag behind? IT service vendors became the 'in' thing within the country. And soon, sure enough it went global!
Today 15years later, the world, specifically the western world, has moved onto outsourcing practically everything including medical services to third party vendors not only in their own neighborhoods but right across the world as did GE to India and China. Why did they?
It wasn't that they didn't have the manpower or the where withal or even the required skills within their borders. They did it because they needed to cut costs! Undoubtedly and indisputably so! They did it not out of any philanthropic notion, any love of mankind or even for mobility. It was pure and simple economics, and the need to survive in their own market place. They needed to cut costs and protect their core competency interests. The American economy had been in recession and they had needed to fire or go under. Then when it turned around, they needed immediate results to pull themselves out of the doldrums and so willy-nilly found themselves in a position of having to go looking for instant skilled labour that was cheap. So it was outsource or close shop. If they couldn't find it at home, they would find it elsewhere. They had to and so they did, in India and other developing countries, even as the outsourcing debate of whether it was a boon or a bane raged on domestically.
Then suddenly 'outsourcing' became the new hate word. The probable boon suddenly became the absolute evil bane. Why? It was no longer domestic it had gone foreign. The workforce of the outsourced world was now ripe for targeting, ridiculing and disparaging, even while its skills were being celebrated. Everyone in America, England and elsewhere was ready to jump on that particular bandwagon even while running after it.
India or indeed the entire outsourced world didn't invent outsourcing or even create it. The west chose to introduce it to India and elsewhere for their own selfish reasons. The Indians only chose to grab it with both hands and turn it around to their advantage no doubt, but primarily, again, to suit American and British purpose. And in doing so if they were able to match them strength for strength surely the benefit would be mutual?
The US and UK companies are doing well, their profits are up, their costs down. Who benefits? To the average American and Englishman on the street it needs to be said, that they do .It may have come at the cost of some of their jobs but the decision to sack and outsource arose from amongst them to save their own skins so to speak! Their CEOs who chose to come to India are solely responsible for their pink slips, not the Indians. When layoffs occur in the normal course do they blame the fellow who gets their jobs or the company? So then how are the Indians to blame?
Call Centers, BPOs, Banks and entire government departments begging to outsource. Is it that Indians are as good or even better despite being termed' inferior' that is annoying, or is it just losing to one, not of their kind that rankles? America herself a nation of cross cultures could surely not be that intolerant? As also England. If the quality of service is what irritates, has theirs always been picture perfect? Would conditions at home been better off without outsourcing?
To be 'Bangalored' is a decision that is being taken by many of their own. So it would perhaps be better if they turned their ire against them rather than the Indians or they could change their mindset and embrace globalization just as their courageous chief executive managers have done, as a phenomenon that has come to stay. Wouldn't it be wiser not to let provincial animosity kill the proverbial goose! A prosperous world could be a happier world!
So the next time someone in the United States or the United Kingdom hears a strange accent over the phone please be kind. Isn't America and even England a cross bed of accents? Please don't be rude. Be patient. Make an effort to understand the person. She is doing the same. She has in fact had to change her name, speech and sleep patterns to suit and accommodate you. She didn't put herself there. Your countryman did. In order to cut costs and make money for his company, for you. The fact that she isn't sitting in your country shouldn't bother you. Would you have been able to see her even if she were?
Next time some of these youngsters come to your country on OJTs please be nice to them. Please don't be nasty; don't be unkind even if you can't make them feel at home. They didn't come on their own. Your companies sent them to be trained in your operations. Don't blame them. Blame the profits your firms are hoping to make. To make life more comfortable for you!
Their knowledge of your language is your strength. Whatever a few of you might say, the educated youth speak it and write it exceptionally well .You are using it to your advantage. Please don't decry it, Please don't denigrate it .Use it well.
Not just their IT skills but the entire educated workforce of the Indian subcontinent is also yours for the asking; please don't belittle it even while using it
Most of all please don't blame them, for your ills, even while you are using them to get rid of them.