Outsourcing (“Cyber Coolies” by Harish Trivedi, October 2004) can allow us to focus on the core competencies of organization, generating more added value and profit, rather than wade through bureaucracy or menial tasks. At one time Ford used to own every step of its manufacturing supply chain: can you imagine it growing rubber for tyres now?
In the 1990s the outsourcing of chips, laptops, and other manufactured high-tech components to Taiwan and China lowered the price of computer and telecommunications equipment, stimulating an IT boom as these goods became available to more companies and individuals.
The Indian government has also been quick to recognize the potential that outsourcing presents for the country, and so offers financial inducements in terms of tax and land-based incentives to outsourcing operators, to encourage the industry’s growth. It has also created a number of technology parks within India, which offer brand new, high-tech facilities at inexpensive rental costs.
Moreover the cost of living and consequently salaries in India are significantly lower. An Indian agent will earn approximately one-fifth of his or her British counterpart, but in real terms may be better off.
Call centre wages are attractive by India’s standards, so much so that outsourcing companies are attracting highly motivated individuals with degrees who are looking for a career path into middle management.
If offshoring is a “win-win” formula for both sides, the process is set to give English-speaking countries a significant competitive advantage. Two million college graduates, 80% of whom speak English, graduate out of India each year. India’s labor market is also well educated and plentiful. The sheer numbers of highly educated people living in the country meant it was only a matter of time before it began to find its niche in a globally networked economy.
The article, “Cyber Coolies” by Harish Trivedi does not reflect the complete reality of outsourcing. The author has paid more attention to the current debate around the phenomenon in the US and the UK than the ground realities and has selected only the negative aspects. Moreover, he only looks at it in the context of a postcolonial framework and the sensibilities of the post-Independence generation in India.
The fact is that India has changed and moved on and the new generation of young Indians are a lot more confident and forward looking. It is these people who are working in the call centers. For them, it is a career option and a stepping stone in their quest for upward mobility. They have other options in the Indian job market and they can always leave (and they do). This is the critical difference between the coolies who went to the Caribbean as indentured labor.
The working conditions are also as good as any office in the US and UK. The workers do a better job than any American would and are better educated and hard working. I would advise the author to spend sometime in India with the employees of a call center.
The reason why American and British intellectuals are all worked up about this phenomenon is that it potentially impacts the long term competitiveness of the workers of their countries and is a threat to their socioeconomic well being. As Thomas Friedman wrote recently “outsourcing is a canary in the coal mine.” It signifies the rise of India as an economic global power. Why should the developed countries have all the advantages all the time? India has large human resources and this is one way it can compete at present. Later on, they will move onto competing at higher levels on the value chain. The IT companies, like Infosys, are already showing the way. The analogy should not be with colonial India, but with post world war Japan.
Outsourcing is good if the jobs are white collar jobs such as engineering and science research.
To serve your customer you have to learn the language, same as a South Indian has to learn Hindi to work in North India.
Call centers provide employment which India was not able to provide previously for so many educated people. Before Indians, Americans were handling their own call centers, but ofcourse in their own time zone. Maybe, the call center job should be restricted to 4 hours instead of 8. This will work in India which has excess labor force.
The author’s language in the article is insulting to our educated engineers. “Coolies” in British raj referred to mostly physical laborers with no or little education and they were denied or discriminated against in higher education. Today the doors are open for education and India produces teeming thousands of engineers and other talents. Not all of them have opportunities within the country, nor can all expect to come to US and other countries. The call centers are indirectly a boon to many of the engineers. Equated to our rupees, they are paid well, the type of money they can never see in any other local jobs.
The author is correct about their physical and mental hardships. But there are so many other areas where “graveyard” shifts are inevitable, like power industries, telephone and several other essential services.
The author should view things more realistically and use more dignified words for our talented professionals.
In the 1970’s hundreds of Indian immigrant engineers in USA, even though equipped with degrees from prestigious IITs, took up lower category jobs as designers in engineering companies, because designers were paid at time and half rate for working overtime whereas the engineering positions paid a far better rate.
I know, it is all due to economic necessity and the same is true in India for these call center coolies who have no better alternatives. New York City’s garbage is taken by barges and dumped overseas in poor places like Puerto Rico, which are paid in dollars for accepting the city garbage.
We are now seeing a different kind of slavery in the world: economic subjugation replacing the colonialism of the past. We have to accept that is how the capitalism works, otherwise what is the alternative?
Osama Bin Laden (“How Osama Won the War on Terror” by Achal Mehra, November 2004) hasn”t won anything. Wake up! The threat of terror is real guys. President Bush is man enough and smart enough to realize it. Bush will win this war!
Please get your facts straight before announcing a terrorist the winner of anything. Bush did not “scramble” for an underground bunker on 9/11. I know a member of the Air Force One Flight Crew and for your information, they were in the air all day except when they stopped for refueling. And it was against the wishes of the Secret Service who had requested Bush to go to an underground bunker. The one time they were underground was while the plane refueled at the airforce base in Shreveport.
Nineteen guys with boxcutters have terrorized 280 million, launched 2 wars, driven a wedge down the center of the US. Half the country starts praying, discarding faith in their own reason.
Leaders shoot and ask questions later, confident that being right will make it all right. Mushroom clouds, beheadings, and color coded terror wheels help keep us in fear. Comfortable in the certitude of single-mindedness they have their single issue and a leader to follow.
We are the strongest nation on earth, but others are catching up. 91/1 was 3 years ago. We must move forward. History will not wait for us to drag Islam into the modern world. Fear and faith were tools of the dark ages. Hope and reason are how we pull ourselves forward.
I read your column with the usual disbelief. You should coNsider at least putting up a pretense of fairness and nonpartisanship when writing a column to a wide audience, but once again, you have left that all in the dustbin.
Let’s touch on a few of your most egregious points, shall we?
Nobody said Al Qaeda entertained the thought of defeating, or even challenging, the US militarily. That is not the way cowardly terrorists work. They strike at women and children first and without mercy. Facing a real army is not what they do. They strike the innocent. That is what the president and vice president are warning about.
Funny how you never mention that Kerry and the Democrats have virtually given a roadmap for invasion to the country, pointing out specific weaknesses in our defenses for political gain. Guess you missed that, huh? (think “uninspected shipping containers and the constant “bin Laden allowed to escape” bogey man).
Even in New York City, I have yet to find a single person that feels he or she is “under siege.” Nobody is on edge. We all still watch “Survivor” without a second thought about bin Laden or his murderers. Americans are unique in their ability to become bored and forget about danger over time and President Bush has given them that time. Seen any terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11? I haven’t. Maybe you aren’t old enough to remember the Cold War. We functioned perfectly under a greater threat than terrorism for decades.
As for the Patriot Act (which Kerry voted for), name a single “long-cherished civil and political liberty or tradition” that you have personally lost. Name a single U.S. citizen who has been abused by the Patriot Act.
Senator Dianne Feinstein couldn’t. She received 21,434 complaints about the Patriot Act, but said “I have never had a single (verified) abuse of the Patriot act reported to me. My staff emailed the ACLU and asked them for instances of actual abuses. They emailed back and said they had none.” Wow! I am shaking all over!
Sen. Joe Biden said “the tide of criticism” being directed against the PATRIOT Act is “both misinformed and overblown.” Sounds like you, no?
To date, not a single provision of the act has been declared unconsitutional by any court. The law both before and after the Patriot Act is that a federal judge must approve requests by law enforcement officials to conduct wirtaps of terrorism suspects or searches and seizures. The act simply took existing legal principles and retrofitted them for the unique situation posed by a coordinated global terrorist network.
As for the President and V.P. being “grabbed by Secret Service agents and whisked off” to wherever, the Secret Service would have done that to a President Gore or Kerry too. It is their job.