Friday, November 09, 2007

Outsourcing revisited

Yesterday, I watched, for the second time, a Discovery Feature by Thomas L Friedman that deals with the phenomenon of outsourcing in India. When I first watched it a year ago, I was impressed by the depth and range behind the feature. I stopped there. I did not bother to go through the comments to the video on YouTube. But yesterday, I found the comments more interesting. The video explores the changing relationship between the service provider and the customer. Call any service centre in the US and chances are, you will hear an Indian voice on the other end. You could have problems with your computer, your bank account, your investments, your food processor or your hair dryer and more often than not, it will be an Indian fixing it for you. This state of affairs would have been unimaginable twenty years ago. The internet, falling cost of communication and technological development have made this kind of outsourcing, not just possible, but very common. Think about it, you have decided to mortgage your house. The bank approves the mortgage. The next day, the formalities are complete and you have your money. Would this be possible in the pre-BPO world? I doubt it. For, when you are enjoying a good night's sleep in the US, India is awake and working to complete the paperwork you will need in 12 hours.

All this sounds fantastic, but some of the comments to the said video on YouTube are shocking. One person says,
"i can hardly begin to tell you how disgusting this phenomenon is. You people that are so impressed by this "great" video do NOT seem to understand that 99.9999999% of Americans HATE getting an Indian voice when they call and need something. Please take a moment and let it sink in. AMERICANS CAN'T STAND INDIA CALL CENTERS!!!"
Need I even comment? This person, who so hates getting an Indian voice on a call can't spell the word Indian properly. And yes, he seems to think that people are objects. No wonder people that are impressed don't understand something. I mean, what the &^@!?? Being American does not give someone the right to be derisive of those who are not. The last time I checked, Indians spoke English as well as anyone else. In fact, we stick to conventional English grammar more closely that the Americans. And, I thought English was English and not American. Honestly, I don't care what the Americans like and what they hate. If I were a call centre employee in India, I would do my job because I am paid for it. Whoever said I needed to speak with an American twang to be considered competent? Try telling the Quebecois that their French is not French. Or the Australians that their English is not English. You wouldn't dare, would you? So why do people assume they can say what they want about Indian English just because we have other, well-developed languages? (Or is this guy/girl simply racist?) Are we any less fluent than the Americans because we don't have an American accent?

I have nothing against Americans in general. But, this comment by one American effectively ensures that other, moderate voices are never heard. This guy (or girl) goes on to claim that the American Customer Service people clean up the mess Indians create. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Don't believe me? Visit a call centre and find out for yourself. Or, believe people like Friedman who are, at least, objective in their evaluation of outsourcing.

No matter what the Americans, or anyone else for that matter, think, the fact remains that outsourcing is here to stay. Live with it! If people don't like hearing Indian voices when they call, they should learn to live with their million gadgets that don't work. I have lived in France for two years. It is a fact that people cannot survive in the west if their gadgets were to stop working. Try living with broken computers, banks that take 8 days to clear your cheque and investments that go haywire because the financial consultant is on vacation. Then, you will understand how much easier your life has become thanks to outsourcing. The reason is simple. Indians do the same job, as well as any American (or Brit/Frenchman/Australian) for half the cost. And companies exist to make money. Indian call centres are not disappearing any time soon. The sooner the world learns to cope, the better.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Good one this is the start of the more Global world the new order that is going to emerge where all countries are involed with different dependencies...And there is a need for more peace or else we are all in trouble ...OUR ECONOMIES ARE ALL LINKED...THAT a veery good eye opener on Outsourcing Great work:-)