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BPO Journal

Thursday, May 25, 2006

India - Week in perspective

Am visiting India after a good three years, and the difference in the country's levels of confidence and optimism is striking.

And it wasn't just about the cab driver who discussed the possibility of setting up a website or the maid's curiosity about Amway.

The Indian Railways, one of the many government-owned businesses that dominate the landscape, made an estimated profit of $2.5 bn in 2005-2006. Poor quality of service, tobacco stained platforms and long queues to book tickets are a thing of the past. Clean platforms, online reservation systems, mobile booking, frequent miles, privatization of freight carriage and a host of revolutionary ideas in the offing now mark the new Indian Railways which is galloping to keep with India's growing international image.

And India's host of technology workers, who contribute to that image, do not think of themselves as the labor force in a low-cost destination. Heck, they're the outsourcers, not the outsourcees! For example, Satyam, which is one of India's top technology service providers, has just started outsourcing some of its American work to Indian villages. There is enough bandwidth to go around, the eager, committed and educated villagers have an opportunity to stay in their village. Not only does this breathe life into the rural economy but also, there's less pressure on the urban infrastructure.

The Indian companies are increasingly becoming part of new collaborative business models that are byond the mere externalization of business processes to low-cost destinations. This best described in a recent article in the Financial Times by Tom Friedman. Friedman writes:
I was interviewing Katie Jacobs Stanton, a senior product manager at Google, and Krishna Bharat, founder of Google's India lab. They told me that Google had just launched Google Finance, but what was interesting was that Google Finance was entirely conceived by the Google team in India and then Google engineers from around the world fed into that team - rather than the project's being driven by Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.

It's called ''around sourcing'' instead of outsourcing, because there is no more ''out'' anymore. Out is over.

''We don't have the idea of two kinds of engineers - ones who think of things and others who implement them,'' Ms. Stanton said. ''We just told the team in India to think big, and what they came back with was Google Finance.'' Mr. Bharat added: ''We have entered the generation of the virtual office. Product development happens across the global campus now.''

So, that's my understanding of the country as of now - confident and hopeful. And news just in as I write - India's technology and outsourcing sector grew faster than expected in the year ending March 31, expanding by 31.4 per cent to Dollars 29.6bn - well ahead of the 26 to 27 per cent projected by Nasscom, the country's software employers' association. Exports grew by more than 33 per cent, while domestic revenues increased by 24 per cent. Jobs in the sector grew 250,000 to 1.3m.

Did I mention optimistic?

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