Ming the Mechanic:
The Indian computing revolution

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 The Indian computing revolution2004-03-13 05:35
picture by Flemming Funch

Wired has a good article about people working in computer companies in India, who do a lot of business that is out-sourced from the U.S. It can well freak out a lot of high-tech employees in the U.S. that what is a $70,000 a year job in their area is more like a $7,000 a year job in India. And it is today both technically and organizationally very possible for a large company to oursource big chunks of their work to a place like India. And what might freak out the guy in the U.S. even more is to realize that his counterparts in India are well-ecucated, professional, well-organized, and probably willing to work harder to get the job done.

I can certainly have the same fears. My expectation of how I will be paid is along the lines of the U.S. scale. But I also notice increasingly how there are programmers on the net from Russia or Asia who apparently can do large jobs for what I would consider impossibly small amounts of money. And they seem skilled and professional. I obviously can't compete on price with somebody who'll do for $200 what I'd need $5000 for.

But that Wired article makes it seem natural and positive. Which I'm sure it is. In a global free market, those who're best suited to do a job, and who can do it the best, for the lowest costs - of course it makes sense if they do it. It would be silly to try to use laws and protectionism to force people to needlessly pay 10 times as much for the same work. Efficient telecommunication tools allow high-tech industries and booming economies to grow and flourish in places where they otherwise couldn't. That's a good thing. That a lot of the business comes from other places than where the workers are does in no way have to be any problem.

So, the answer is of course to be flexible, and to do the things that ARE needed in one's local area, and which one can make a valuable contribution towards. So, maybe one might put the business together, or structure it, or sell it, or consult about it, rather than necessarily doing all the work locally. There are always things to do. Like, how Aparna Jairam, the project manager on the picture, quotes from the Bhagavad Gita:
"Do what you're supposed to do. And don't worry about the fruits. They'll come on their own."

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14 Mar 2004 @ 00:52 by maxtobin : Rent a coder
Did you not put up the rent a coder link Flemming. India is a good place as they speak and write English (or a version of it!!) China offers even cheaper labour and equally skilled/educated people. We have partners here who are fluent in both (English and Mandarin) and expert in all the latest technologies.
I can still remember my first trip up there with a laptop and the latest Microsucks operating system just installed (98) and they had already 'had it' for a good long time and knew all the tricks and short cuts along witht the weak spots.
Its a brave new world guvner!!  

14 Mar 2004 @ 03:28 by Michael @ : Outsourcing
The UK is outsourcing lots of Call centre work to India now too. These were the jobs that were supposed to replace the Industry we lost in the 80's and 90's. This is really no differnet than any other free market product though. Look at a watch as an example you can buy a TAG watch for about $2,000 dollars or a Swatch for about $60 and they both do the same job equally well.  

14 Mar 2004 @ 04:44 by jazzolog : Delete
I called my Gateway warranty techie last week, after I inadvertently deleted a hunk of driver wrestling with some spyware, and ended up talking to India. The guy was relentless and kept after the problem for over an hour. When the pressure finally was off and my mistake remedied, I tried a couple jokes on him about outsourcing. He really seemed unaware of the sensitivity. I wished him well and asked him to extend greetings to his family.  

14 Mar 2004 @ 12:00 by Roger Eaton @ : nonviolence for Indian programmers
The cruise company I work for is outsourcing a lot of programming work to India. The Indians typically come to the data processing center here in California, and learn the system and the business. Then they go back to India and work from there, gradually building up a knowlegeable staff. Of course all the American programmers see they might well be in line to be outsourced, so you would think this is a recipe for a lot of friction, right? Actually what happens is that the Indians are so congenial, so easy to get along with, that the tension is defused. One fellow confided that he was trained to treat the host company programmers "as God"! How curious it is to see God put to use this way -- and it works. There is something ironic about it, but I can't quite put my finger on it.  

14 Mar 2004 @ 15:06 by vibrani : can you imagine
what it would be like if the U.S. programmers would treat the Indians as God, too? I think this is the start of something beautiful. May it snowball.  

15 Mar 2004 @ 03:43 by Ashanti @ : Consequences
The spin-off here is always that someone loses, which is not good. A good friend of mine in Boston is in dire straits, because his company let go all their IT people, and outosourced to India. He hasn't been able to find work since.

The other aspect to take into consideration is that while India sells their considerable skills for less, their overall cost of living, after you've taken currency exchange rates and proportional GDP into account, is much less than in the USA. This is what enables them to sell their skills for so little.

I have several colleagues in India, as South Africa and India have extremely good and growing bi-lateral relations. My colleagues are extremeley bright, savvy, motivated, energetic. I would posit that they have a competitive edge duw to natural intelligence, which is enhanced and enabled by an education system that is not designed to "dumb down" the population.  

15 Mar 2004 @ 03:52 by Amrit Hallan @ : Outsourcing misconceptions
Globalization has both pitfalls and benefits. The US has been demanding entry for its goods into the Indian market. It has also been demanding favor in the field of agricultural products (which is still the backbone of the Indian economy), and at the same time, it is posing restrictions on outsourcing. Outsourcing is not as big a threat as it is considered to be. In fact, from what we read here in India, more jobs are lost in America due to various scams and the bursting stock and tech bubbles. Software and BPO is a very tiny segment of the economy, although it is booming.

Besides, things like cost cutting hurt here too. A job that a serious web designer does for Rs. 10,000/-, a less skilled person can do in Rs. 2,000/- and in freelancing, such people are getting more work and making things harder for professionals. So what do we do? We diversify into things that depend more on skill, knowledge and experience and less on software tools and labor. For instance, previously I was doing web designing and coding. Since there are two many people doing it at a far cheaper rate, I've started writing optimized web content and general content for clients for whom website content matters. I know very few people can compete when it comes to writing good.

In the rapidly changing scenario, the key to success is adaptability.  

15 Mar 2004 @ 04:16 by ashanti : Adaptability
I agree totally. Adaptability, and multi-tasking/skilling. My comment above was related to the USA education system, which seems to not produce en-masse, people who are able to adapt. I see here at NCN, the most creative and adaptive and enlightened USA citizens - the creme of the crop, but by no means the majority. When I visited the USA, I was asked by people if we had elephants and lions walking down the streets. Literally. I was incredulous. I asked USA citizens to pinpoint me third world countries, and many had not even heard of them. They thought Zimbabawe and South Africa were the same country. And so on. I think the USA has been very inward-looking, hence the desire to impose this limited viewpoint on the world as a whole, and not take into account other viewpoints, and learn about other cultures. I feel India is far more civilized, adaptive, and will really emerge as a shining example, more than it is already doing.

The brightest souls from the USA are here at NCN, and they are all open to learning, sensitive, adaptive - here lies a possible future hope for the USA.  

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