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MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com Workplace and Lifestyle Tips, Help for Immigrants, Guide for Newcomers Thu, 02 Jan 2014 17:28:08 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.7.1 en hourly 1 My Disastrous First Year in America - How I Got Through It http://www.meltingspot.com/fittingin/ http://www.meltingspot.com/fittingin/#comments Tue, 15 Jun 2010 17:14:18 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=47 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166

(And Finally Learned How to Fit In)

By Divya Pradhan

So many times, I was dangerously close to jumping on the next flight home to India.

For many miserable months after I came to the U.S. to be a professor, I wondered what I had done to become instantly the most unpopular teacher - nay, person - on campus.  That was 1995.

Cut to now. I can laugh about how I was once an outcast. Now, people come to me for advice. What changed?

I confess it took a long time for me to figure out what went wrong.  Granted, the odds were against me adjusting easily.  I’d arrived in the U.S. knowing nothing about American culture. I’d had almost no time to ease into my new life before I started teaching at the university.   Apart from myself, I knew no one else on campus from my part of the world; so I had no one I could turn to for advice.

I stumbled many times before I learned how to fit in. (I promise, you don’t know embarrassment until you’ve told a classroom of American college students “I am so gay” when you meant to say “I’m happy today”.) 

But then things got worse. I started to notice people actually leaving the room when they saw me coming.

That’s when I knew I was in serious trouble.  Somehow, I’d managed to alienate everyone I met. Nothing I tried to do to win over my new associates worked (not even making my famous pappadams!)

I had to see rock bottom to understand what I had been doing so wrong.

Back in India, I’d lived in a tiny, cramped space surrounded by loved ones.  In America, I had so much space and so little company; I was consumed by loneliness.

I coped with the emptiness by clinging to new acquaintances.  I’d follow them everywhere they went - the parking lot, the dorms, the labs - day after day.  Until eventually, these people became so weary of me they wanted nothing more to do with me.

Americans are not used to the same level of intimacy with strangers that is commonplace in India.  Friendships take longer, and must be earned.  Once I learned this important cultural nuance, I backed off, and it was not long before many friends and genuine sense of well-being followed.

My advice to new immigrants, is give yourself a cling test: Do you show up uninvited?  Do you stop by to see new acquaintances more often than they approach you?   Just remember, in America, the secret to making friends is remembering to take it slow.

Dr. Divya Pradhan is a guest author for MeltingSpot.  She is a professor, researcher and international affairs counselor at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Email Divya at: prd@hiwaay.net.  

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Manager Champions Change, By Playing Within the Rules http://www.meltingspot.com/change/ http://www.meltingspot.com/change/#comments Sat, 10 Apr 2010 19:45:36 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=55 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166
“Trying to teach western ways to the folks in India, it’s, well… pointless.”  Our friend Chitra, a manager of offshore IT for a Silicon Valley chip manufacturer, vented to us one morning over her vente latte. At first, Chitra’s comment gave us more of a chill than our $4 Frappucino®.  After all, we MeltingSpot editors believe wholeheartedly in [...]]]>
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Trying to teach western ways to the folks in India, it’s, well… pointless.” 

Our friend Chitra, a manager of offshore IT for a Silicon Valley chip manufacturer, vented to us one morning over her vente latte.

At first, Chitra’s comment gave us more of a chill than our $4 Frappucino®.  After all, we MeltingSpot editors believe wholeheartedly in teaching western ways.  Why else would we carry on about the subject?  

We were ready to demand a formal apology from Chitra (or at least stick her with the tab) when she explained: “It takes a long time for people to change the habits they have had their entire lives, that have been ingrained by their culture.  I realized it might take a while for India’s team to catch on to our customs here.   I could stand by and wait, or I could effect change immediately by embracing aspects of their culture and adapting myself.”

As Chitra spoke, her true meaning came over us like a caffeine rush.   She was saying something that ought not to have needed any reminder: multicultural acceptance in America is always a two-way street.

Chitra wasn’t just preaching the old adage about a two-way street, she was living it.  As her India team was beefing up about America (they’re MeltingSpot readers, all), Chitra was developing some tricks of her own - and turning India’s cultural differences to her advantage.

Some managers have trouble establishing their authority within their teams.  Chitra had the opposite problem.  Out of deference to Chitra’s more senior rank and title, a practice deeply rooted in Indian culture, Chitra’s India team resisted challenging her - ever.  She was told her instructions were always clear, even if they weren’t.  People with better ideas held them back out of respect for her authority.  

All this was taking a toll. Chitra didn’t just sit back and accept it.  She started having regular roundtable meetings with her team.  Everyone was required to propose an idea or alternative on a particular subject.  No one got to pass on offering criticism.  Instead of asking employees “did you understand” (to which the response was bound to be a rote “yes”) Chitra began asking “what did you understand?” If something was missed, she could close the loop right then and there.

Chitra continued, “Today, it’s different than when I immigrated to America from India.  Just as many jobs are going overseas to India today as are coming back here to America.   Why shouldn’t Americans start understanding how things are done in the East as well as asking easterners to adapt to the West?”  “Touché,” Chitra (that’s western-speak for we certainly see your point).

At the end of the day, Chitra wasn’t rejecting cross-culture learning.  She was turbo-charging it, making it work in both directions.  And that’s an idea we want to let percolate.

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Punctuality Pays When You Work With Americans http://www.meltingspot.com/punctuality/ http://www.meltingspot.com/punctuality/#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2010 22:58:24 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=58 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166

By Karine Schomer, Change Management Consulting & Training, LLC

Of all the cultural differences that tend to irritate Americans, one of the most fundamental has to do with attitudes and behaviors around time, appointments and punctuality.  Getting ahead at work starts with getting to work on time!

If you come from a culture that has a more relaxed view of time, you’re likely to be surprised at how time-obsessed Americans are. While not all Americans are punctual all the time, the society as a whole operates is on the basis of well-defined schedules. This is true in personal and community life as well as in U.S. business culture. If you disrupt even a small part of the schedule, there’s an impact way beyond the immediate meeting or deadline.

Here’s a real-life story that happened to me recently. I had scheduled a phone conference with a team from India, but had somehow forgotten to log it into my schedule. Arriving at my office 30 minutes after the time for the call, I found a voice message telling me the team was on the phone waiting for me. Mortified that I had missed the appointment, I called in, and found them happily chatting together. Their attitude was “Ah! You’re here! We can start now!”

If the team had been American, it’s likely they would have been annoyed, and unlikely they would have waited more than 10 minutes - at the most. They would have left me a message asking to reschedule the phone conference. Why? Because American-style appointments have a firm end as well as start time, and if you start late you won’t to be able to complete the business at hand without running beyond the scheduled ending time.

I’ve seen dramatic improvements in interactions between Indian and American team members when the differing expectations about time are openly discussed, and agreements are reached about what time protocols to follow in different situations.

In the meantime, if you’re new to working in the United States, doing business with the U.S., or working for an American company overseas, here are five tips for your everyday behavior around appointments and punctuality that are sure to help you get ahead with your American colleagues:

  1. Schedule meetings and appointments in advance - a few days, a week, even a month in advance. Your American colleagues will appreciate this kind of advance planning on your part.
  2. Always make appointments for in-person meetings. Don’t just show up and expect people to make time to talk with you.
  3. Schedule phone calls as well as in person meetings. Do this by email or voice mail.  Don’t leave multiple “I’m trying to reach you” voice messages or get into unnecessary “telephone tag”.
  4. If you think you’re going to be more than a few minutes late for any appointment (in person or phone), call and let the other party know you’re running late.
  5. Plan your own time so that you can be consistent in following through on the advance appointments you have made. Avoid changing plans at the last minute. 

Karine SchomerDr. Karine Schomer is a regular contributor for MeltingSpot.  She is president of Change Management Consulting & Training, LLC and leads their India Practice. Karine is a cross-cultural expert specializing in India-US business culture training and team building.  She has extensive experience in the U.S., India and Europe, and is trilingual in English, Hindi and French. In her articles, Karine supplies the necessary know-how for individuals hailing from other countries on how to adapt to American workplace culture and be effective with their American counterparts. She has been a University of California-Berkeley professor, dean at Golden Gate University, and Chief Operating Officer of the California Institute of Integral Studies. Since 1997 she has helped companies in IT and other industries in Silicon Valley and elsewhere address region-specific cultural awareness, adaptation, communication and teamwork issues, including in the offshore outsourcing context. She is the author of “Working with Americans: Cross-Cultural Awareness and Business Skills”, a unique self-paced online training program for professionals, managers and students from other countries. She can be contacted at schomer@cmct.net.

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The Fallout from Satyam http://www.meltingspot.com/satyam/ http://www.meltingspot.com/satyam/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2009 21:44:27 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=59 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166
How Will the Scandal that Shook India’s Services Industry Affect Other Honest Businesses? Columnist Jagdish Dalal tackles tough questions submitted by our readers.  Have a question for Jag’s bag? Submit it to info@meltingspot.com.    Q.  Jag, the Satyam accounting scandal exposed huge fraud at one of the largest Indian outsourcing firms. Will this cause a permanent loss of [...]]]>
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How Will the Scandal that Shook India’s Services Industry Affect Other Honest Businesses?

Columnist Jagdish Dalal tackles tough questions submitted by our readers.  Have a question for Jag’s bag? Submit it to info@meltingspot.com.   

Q.  Jag, the Satyam accounting scandal exposed huge fraud at one of the largest Indian outsourcing firms. Will this cause a permanent loss of faith in other Indian services companies?

A. Dear Reader,

In January, the chairman of Satyam, once one of India’s proudest services firms, admitted to “cooking” the company’s books by inflating its earnings and assets for years.   

The now disgraced chairman, Ramalinga Raju, resigned after revealing that he had listed nonexistent loans totaling more than 50 billion rupees, or $1.04 billion, as assets for the company the previous quarter, and had also massively inflated the company’s revenues. 

This revelation came as a shock to many observers.  Satyam is a titan of industry.  The company’s very name means “truth.”  Its clients include many of the biggest companies in the world. 

Many of us believed Satyam - and India - were immune to the corporate scandal and greed plaguing the rest of the world. 

I believe Satyam’s downfall will be remembered as the end of the era of innocence - the first industry quake to deeply rattle investors’ confidence in India.  Overnight Satyam became a blot on corporate landscape, raising cautionary flags about all business-doings with India.  The stain of ‘India’s Enron’ certainly won’t fade away overnight.

However, like Enron, Satyam will provide an impetus for much needed reforms throughout India’s private sector. Indian business leaders are calling urgently on their government to address the loopholes in regulation, accounting, audit and governance that allowed Satyam’s lapses in the first place.  These efforts are long overdue, and are bound to result in significant improvements that will benefit other businesses in the long run.

Clients may want to do more due diligence before choosing their outsourcing vendors, but this too could prove to be good for vendors, if it encourages vendors to provide greater transparency in their business practices (for example by empowering stronger boards of directors). 

There has been a loss of trust after Satyam, but I don’t believe Satyam will permanently damper outsourcing business in India, especially if businesses understand how to assuage their clients’ fears today.  First of all, try to keep it in perspective: the Satyam affair was by all accounts an isolated incident perpetrated by one man, not an indictment of the entire outsourcing industry.  There is no reason it should cast suspicion upon other Indian services firms whose ethics have not been called into question.  

This is a good time for Indian service providers to be more open about their finances and make public their compliance with accounting rules and practices. Companies that are not already listed on an American stock exchange should convert their financial statements to American Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and make them available to customers and investors.

History has shown that whenever there is an opportunity for personal gain, fraud tends to occur alongside honest competition.  The heady growth of the Indian offshore industry is no exception.  This may not be completely the end of scandal for India.  If there can be one Satyam, there can potentially be more.  Satyam’s fate may already be sealed; rumors already abound about its imminent sale.  But companies that compete honestly on the quality of their talent can keep their flags flying high.

jagdishJagdish Dalal is a regular columnist for MeltingSpot.  He is the Managing Director of Thought Leadership for IAOP (International Association of Outsourcing Professionals) as well as Founder and President of JDalal Associates, a consulting firm.  As a thought leader in the field of outsourcing, Jagdish has more than three decades of experience in outsourcing (as a CIO of large multinationals such as Xerox, Carrier, Unisys as well as a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers).  He came to United States from India more than four decades ago and is proud to be an American-East Indian (as Jane, his wife, says, he has a Western mind and an Eastern soul).   He is passionate about outsourcing, offshoring and how it can and has changed the world.  As an evangelist for outsourcing, he is proud to be an active leader through IAOP - a true global organization promoting outsourcing as a profession.

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Show Some Hustle! “Slow and Steady” Won’t Win You the Corporate Race http://www.meltingspot.com/show-some-hustle-%e2%80%9cslow-and-steady%e2%80%9d-won%e2%80%99t-win-you-the-corporate-race/ http://www.meltingspot.com/show-some-hustle-%e2%80%9cslow-and-steady%e2%80%9d-won%e2%80%99t-win-you-the-corporate-race/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2008 23:35:06 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=57 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166
The ancient Greeks handed down a fable about a tortoise and a hare. In the tale, a slow and steady tortoise challenges a quick-footed hare to a race.  Although most observers place their bets on the hare, the tortoise eventually wins the race when the all-too-hasty hare burns out before the finish line. The industrious Greeks may have [...]]]>
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The ancient Greeks handed down a fable about a tortoise and a hare. In the tale, a slow and steady tortoise challenges a quick-footed hare to a race.  Although most observers place their bets on the hare, the tortoise eventually wins the race when the all-too-hasty hare burns out before the finish line.

The industrious Greeks may have invented a marathon, but they’d be hopeless laggards in today’s corporate rat race.  Modern corporate life is a mad dash, its terrain ever shifting and unpredictable.  Those who can’t sprint like the hare - or refuse to do so - get quickly left in the dust. 

We spoke to managers in the most fast-paced, turbocharged field of all - information technology - about their chief concerns at work.  All the managers felt constantly overwhelmed by a mountainous, urgent workload.  All thought at least some of their employees had “lead in their feet.”  The managers moaned in unison about their workers’ general lack of a sense of urgency; in the high-stakes relay race they were running, none of the managers wanted a team of plodding tortoises slowing them down.

This should come as no surprise, given many organizations today are inundated in a state of constant crisis, often trying to do more with fewer resources.  Managers feel the pinch.  Fair or not, they are short on patience for employees whom they feel are not up to the job.

Offshore workers may be particularly vulnerable to the corporate chopping block in these hard economic times.  They have to work harder to prove their hustle on a daily basis, since managers are not around to see it.  They also carry an extra burden when it comes to quick turnaround, because of the time difference between the U.S. and India. (see: MeltingSpot: Offshorers - How to Keep U.S. Clients Happy)

Take Brian, an IT support manager for an Austin, TX networking services company.  Brian claims an employee overseas in India may have cost his company a multi-million dollar sales deal by being too slow to communicate with the home office about a website outage.  The employee brought down an internal website for routine maintenance, but failed to warn his teammates overseas who were planning to demo the site for a client in “their” morning.  All the employee needed to do from his home base in India was flip the switch, but he couldn’t be reached for days - partly due to the time difference with the U.S., and partly due to his failure to respond promptly to urgent calls and emails from the home front.  “The impact of the small delay on the team here in the U.S. was magnified by the time difference with India,” says Brian. (see: MeltingSpot: The Jag “Dish”: When Long Offshoring Hours are a Drag)

Brian offers a tip to help offshore workers keep their jobs: respond quickly to any and all needs of the home office.  Answer every email and voicemail as though a critical time-sensitive outcome depended upon it, because you never know when “even a trivial mistake can cause serious setbacks if too much time passes,” he warns. 

Readers may think: “these concerns don’t apply to me.”  Don’t bet on it.  Several managers we interviewed had let people go whom they perceived as lazy.  Most often, the employees didn’t see it coming.  Sluggishness was universally seen as a chronic problem - in an industry that prizes nimbleness above all. 

So don’t dawdle: ask your manager today whether you need to pick up the pace. A motivated attitude is the best way to preserve your spot on the winning team.

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Jag “Dish”: Is Offshoring Really a Bargain? Where Have All the Savings Gone? http://www.meltingspot.com/offshoresavings/ http://www.meltingspot.com/offshoresavings/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2008 08:01:39 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=56 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166
Each month, outsourcing expert Jagdish Dalal tackles tough questions submitted by our readers.  This month’s question is from a director of operations at a multimedia company in Richmond, VA.  Have a question for Jag’s bag? Submit it to info@meltingspot.com.    Q. “Jag, as the sponsor of an IT offshoring program at my company, I have staked my [...]]]>
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Each month, outsourcing expert Jagdish Dalal tackles tough questions submitted by our readers.  This month’s question is from a director of operations at a multimedia company in Richmond, VA.  Have a question for Jag’s bag? Submit it to info@meltingspot.com.   

Q. “Jag, as the sponsor of an IT offshoring program at my company, I have staked my reputation on our success with moving operations offshore to India.  After two years, the cost savings I anticipated from offshoring haven’t materialized yet - not even close.  What are we doing wrong?”

A. Dear Reader, I have a hunch your expectations about the cost savings you could achieve through offshoring might have been unrealistic from the start.  Don’t believe all the hype you hear from people in the IT services industry and the media.  They can make it seem like all it takes is mere “peanuts” (or, er… Moongphali nuts) to set up a shop in India.  I’m here to tell you the whole truth about offshoring - not just the part that keeps vendors’ phones ringing and their sales orders “cha-ching”-ing.

Perhaps you’ve heard there’s a roughly 5:1 salary disparity between the U.S. and India. You figured that by outsourcing there you could immediately shave off 80% of your upfront labor costs.  Perhaps now, a year or two into the engagement, you’re wondering where exactly are all those savings?

The idea of hiring three, four or five people in India for the price of one in the U.S. is pretty much a myth.  Wages in India are much lower per capita, yes, because India’s nationwide average takes into account an entire working population that is still mostly agrarian. College-educated information workers, like the “elite” workers found in IT-related fields, make up only a small minority of India’s workforce.  The “wage gap” between these workers in India and the U.S. is much smaller than you might think.    

Also, in many cases the wage gap is shrinking. Salaries for skilled workers are rising faster in India compared with in the U.S, as macroeconomic conditions in India are driving up labor costs.   India’s economic growth is fueling competition for skilled workers.  According to NASSCOM, salaries are rising by double digits annually (compared with single digits in the U.S.).  India’s inflation and its rupee have both been strong in recent years (although the rupee has dipped recently due to upheaval in the financial system). 

What do all these figures add up to?  Well, for employers, certainly a lot less “bang for your outsourcing buck” over time.   Not only are salaries trending up, but dollars have been buying less when converted into rupee pay scales.  If your savings appear to have up and vanished after the first year, it may be because your cost projections developed even a year or two ago are already out of date.

Finally, macroeconomic trends may only be partly to blame.  Step back and take a look at your own shop for “hidden” costs that can eat up savings, such as startup delays, flagging productivity, extra government taxes and fees and extra telecommunications costs.  These factors all together can really add up - and they can eat away a huge chunk of your savings.   It is not at all uncommon to see 50% of anticipated savings from offshoring vanish due to unexpected or hidden costs.

My advice?  Adjust your cost models to account for an economy that is more complex than meets the eye at both the macro and micro levels.  Ask yourself, if and when costs of doing business in India equalize with doing business in the U.S., how will I benefit from offshoring? Focus your efforts there (see: MeltingSpot: The Jag “Dish” August issue).   And pay careful attention to where your costs are increasing.  In all likelihood, this is just the beginning.

jagdishJagdish Dalal is a regular columnist for MeltingSpot.  He is the Managing Director of Thought Leadership for IAOP (International Association of Outsourcing Professionals) as well as Founder and President of JDalal Associates, a consulting firm.  As a thought leader in the field of outsourcing, Jagdish has more than three decades of experience in outsourcing (as a CIO of large multinationals such as Xerox, Carrier, Unisys as well as a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers).  He came to United States from India more than four decades ago and is proud to be an American-East Indian (as Jane, his wife, says, he has a Western mind and an Eastern soul).   He is passionate about outsourcing, offshoring and how it can and has changed the world.  As an evangelist for outsourcing, he is proud to be an active leader through IAOP - a true global organization promoting outsourcing as a profession.

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The Jag “Dish”: When Long Offshoring Hours Are a Drag http://www.meltingspot.com/longhours/ http://www.meltingspot.com/longhours/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2008 21:52:53 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=54 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166

Each month, outsourcing expert Jagdish Dalal tackles tough questions submitted by our readers.  This month’s question is from a manager of IT at an optical equipment maker in Silicon Valley, CA.  Have a question for Jag’s bag? Submit it to info@meltingspot.com.   

Q. “Jag, in last month’s column, you wrote about the benefits of a 24 x 7 operation that “follows the sun.”  Our virtual teams are based in Santa Clara, CA and Pune, India.  The time difference is 12 hours, so there’s virtually no overlap in our working hours.  As a manager, I often end up working around the clock to make this arrangement succeed.  Can I have the benefits of the time difference without the insane hours?”

A. Dear Reader, you ask a great question about a very common problem.  You’re not the first person to become somewhat disenchanted with offshore outsourcing (offshoring), after one too many midnight phone calls with teams overseas.  I know your situation well - it’s the arrangementof your dreams,” only in the sense that you end up working all night!  If this trend continues, it’s time for you to make some changes.  I have some recommendations to help you get time back on your side.

First consider the type of work you are sourcing offshore.  Is it well suited to offshoring?  Projects that easily lend themselves to a 24-hour workday can be divided up so team members who are not in the same place geographically can work on different parts of the project independently, without needing much formal interaction with each other.  Software maintenance and customer support are classic examples of these.  Just as a car can be assembled from parts manufactured at opposite corners of the globe, certain types of projects, with proper planning, can come together from parts made separately on different continents.

Of course, there will be times when the nature of the work does require teams to interact more closely.  When schedules do not overlap, the most effective way I have seen to make the work hours equitable is to establish a “rotating” or alternating early start time for the work day. For example, at your firm, the Pune, India team could be asked to arrive two hours early every Tuesday.  Then, on Wednesday, it would be Santa Clara’s turn.  And so forth.  I know of companies that have had considerable success with this approach.  Maybe you won’t make everyone completely happy all the time, but you can fine-tune the schedules over time to accommodate individuals’ needs. 

When I referred in last month’s column to the 24 x 7 operation (see: MeltingSpot: The Jag “Dish” August issue), I was talking about three different locations that can cover the entire day and yet still have a reasonable day shift (the example I gave was American Express, with their centers in Arizona, England and India). More and more, Indian service providers are opening operations centers in places such as South America to take advantage of an additional time zone and labor pool.   You may wish to speak to your service provider about their plans in this regard; perhaps they are already working on finding more resources in other time zones nearer to you.

Jagdish Dalal is a regular columnist for MeltingSpot.  He is the Managing Director of Thought Leadership for IAOP (International Association of Outsourcing Professionals) as well as Founder and President of JDalal Associates, a consulting firm.  As a thought leader in the field of outsourcing, Jagdish has more than three decades of experience in outsourcing (as a CIO of large multinationals such as Xerox, Carrier, Unisys as well as a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers).  He came to United States from India more than four decades ago and is proud to be an American-East Indian (as Jane, his wife, says, he has a Western mind and an Eastern soul).   He is passionate about outsourcing, offshoring and how it can and has changed the world.  As an evangelist for outsourcing, he is proud to be an active leader through IAOP - a true global organization promoting outsourcing as a profession.

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The Jag “Dish”: Outsourcing Expert Jagdish Dalal Tackles Tough Questions from Our Readers http://www.meltingspot.com/thedish/ http://www.meltingspot.com/thedish/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2008 22:22:05 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=53 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166
Each month, Jag will answer a question submitted by one of our readers. Have a question for Jag’s bag? Submit it to info@meltingspot.com.    Q: I am an IT service provider in India.  Competition for American offshoring contracts seems to be getting tougher.  What capabilities should I highlight to make my services more attractive? A: For years in [...]]]>
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Each month, Jag will answer a question submitted by one of our readers. Have a question for Jag’s bag? Submit it to info@meltingspot.com.   

Q: I am an IT service provider in India.  Competition for American offshoring contracts seems to be getting tougher.  What capabilities should I highlight to make my services more attractive?

A: For years in this business, it seemed like the party would never end.  India’s outsourcing industry, riding high on a wave of demand from overseas, exploded over the last two decades.  The industry recorded 25% growth annually - and that was in the slower years. 

Lately, however, the industry is coming back down to earth, at least a little bit.  Setting aside the hype in the Indian news media, the IT and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in India still has a long way to go before it is truly mature.  India accounts for less than 3% of the worldwide IT services market, according to Gartner; for most American firms, it’s hardly a “necessity” to outsource work there, at least not yet.  All things being equal, American companies still tend to outsource domestically far more often than they choose to send their work overseas.  To start tipping the scales toward offshoring, India’s service providers will have to sweeten the deal.  They will need to pony up more than merely the cost savings that have primarily fueled the industry so far. 

Providers, You Can’t Compete on Cost Alone                                              If you’re winning clients merely by offering lower rates (working for cheaper) you won’t be able to hold onto their business over the long term.  Annual inflation in India was almost 12% in July 2008. Wages are rising steadily in order to keep up with inflation.  These spiking costs are quickly neutralizing some of the early cost savings for American firms. 

As a provider, you can deliver big savings in the first year through labor arbitrage - but rising costs make those savings harder to lock in the next year.  Add to this that your clients will expect costs to decline even further the second year, and you have a problem with only one solution: you need to generate other sources of value, besides cost savings, to satisfy your clients long term.

What Else is There, Besides Cost Savings?

There’s time. With the time difference, India is 10-13 hours ahead of the U.S.. Why not help clients extend their hours of business? American Express established its customer service centers on three continents so that its operations “followed the sun”, ensuring live representatives could be reached day or night. Adding more hours to the prime “day” shift can be important to those American firms who either don’t operate at night, or operate at a higher cost.

There’s skills. America’s need for a scarce coding skill to complete the “Y2K” system update launched the outsourcing industry in India. In American universities, enrollment in science and technology programs is dwindling, as the workforce is aging. For those who can provide the resources, there will be more and more opportunities to fill the ever widening “skills gap” in America. Focus on the specialty skills that are up and coming right now: Demand is hot at the moment for people who can create, test and implement software, simulation programs, graphics and firmware.

There’s quality. As costs rise, so must the quality of work.  The offshore market grew so quickly, many offshore employees were able to “learn on the job” and get by.  This was tolerated because the work was so cheap.  No longer. 

When it comes to quality, play to India’s cultural strengths. Culturally, Indians are apt to follow a process religiously and therefore, can excel when a process is well designed and implemented.  That is why many India-based firms are thriving in the business of implementing standards, such as CMM, CMMi and 6 Sigma.   

Here’s the bottom line: to succeed as an offshore service provider, you need to make sure your clients receive more than one benefit from your engagement: lower costs, 24-hour workday, access to skills, or quality work in a specific discipline.  If you can do that, you can ride the wave of expansion.

jagdishJagdish Dalal is a regular columnist for MeltingSpot.  He is the Managing Director of Thought Leadership for IAOP (International Association of Outsourcing Professionals) as well as Founder and President of JDalal Associates, a consulting firm.  As a thought leader in the field of outsourcing, Jagdish has more than three decades of experience in outsourcing (as a CIO of large multinationals such as Xerox, Carrier, Unisys as well as a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers).  He came to United States from India more than four decades ago and is proud to be an American-East Indian (as Jane, his wife, says, he has a Western mind and an Eastern soul).   He is passionate about outsourcing, offshoring and how it can and has changed the world.  As an evangelist for outsourcing, he is proud to be an active leader through IAOP - a true global organization promoting outsourcing as a profession.

 

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He Dropped His Dinner In the Boss’s Lap - But that Wasn’t the Bad Part http://www.meltingspot.com/tbone/ http://www.meltingspot.com/tbone/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2008 02:44:03 +0000 admin http://www.meltingspot.com/2008/03/22/he-dropped-his-dinner-in-the-bosses-lap%e2%80%94but-that-wasn%e2%80%99t-the-bad-part/ Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166

Raj wasn’t exactly like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall. But he was once somewhat famous in certain circles for his own legendary fall — or rather, his dinner’s very public fall — into the bosses lap one evening.

Picture the scene: Raj was an eager new employee lucky enough to land a seat at the table with the executive vice president at a company party. The executive was slightly less lucky. He was the recipient of an unexpected gift: Raj’s steak in his lap.

While attempting to cut off a bite, Raj inadvertently sent the steak – and the contents of his plate – flying.   This caused quite a stir and soon, all 500 pairs of eyes at the party fixed upon Raj.

Raj’s debut performance thrust him into the limelight at work. He became an instant celebrity. The nickname “T-Bone” stuck to him from that point forward. Ten years later you still might catch him answering to it.

Why did a little mishap gain so much attention? It was Raj’s response to the mishap, far more than the incident itself, that shocked his American audience.

In American Culture, You Must Pick Up
Raj couldn’t undo the damage to his boss’s suit, but he could have spared himself some major embarrassment had he done things differently. Raj didn’t react nor apologize, much to the surprise of his victim.  According to Raj’s critics, this non-response was the worst response of all. 

Workers in America are expected to be self-sufficient at all times, from making our own photocopies, to cleaning our own dishes in the lunch room and, yes, cleaning up our own spills! Otherwise, we get typecast as elitist, and that’s a role that’s very hard to shed.

As for our our hero Raj, he learned from his early missteps and has put these experiences far behind him.  His thriving career has now taken him to great heights (he works in a really, really tall office building).

So spring into action, the next time you have an opportunity to tackle one of life’s humbling tasks. Because you never know, once you begin to fend for yourself, you may eventually find the change empowering — in work and in life. And that will lead to rave reviews.

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Getting it Covered: Health Insurance for Your Visiting Loved Ones http://www.meltingspot.com/visitorshealthinsurance/ http://www.meltingspot.com/visitorshealthinsurance/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2008 20:01:06 +0000 MeltingSpot http://www.meltingspot.com/?p=52 Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method NAVT::the_content_wpcb() should not be called statically in /home/dfcole/meltingspot.com/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 166

Is family coming to the States for an extended visit? What happens if they fall ill and you need to take them to the hospital?  Don’t know the answer?  You can turn to someone who does: K.V. Rao, the founder of India Network.

Dr. K.V. Rao has devoted the last two decades to helping Indian immigrants avoid crisis when a medical need suddenly strikes far away from home. 

His India Network is a not-for-profit foundation that offers a low-cost group medical insurance plan for visitors - including parents, students, temporary workers and their families.  The plan provides coverage for visitors’ medical needs in America. 

We see plenty of reasons to trust the health of our loved ones (and our wallets) to Dr. Rao’s program.

The plan includes coverage for pre-existing conditions, emergency medical evacuations and door-to-door travel to and from home worldwide.  As the largest single buyer from the major American insurer AIG, Rao’s organization has the clout to deliver superior quality where others cut corners, says Rao.

Rao’s mission with India Network Foundation started in 1989 with just a few Indian families in a small town in Ohio who were hoping to form an acquaintance.  It has since blossomed into a virtual community, medical insurance plan and charitable outreach program reaching tens of thousands of people.

Yet Rao claims the community still needs more awareness about the need for medical insurance for visitors.  “Some people I meet are ignorant of the differences in the healthcare system here, that it is not a social program in the U.S. and that without insurance they could end up personally responsible for very significant medical costs,” he says.  Rao is hoping to convince everyone for the need for visitors insurance, “even if there is a physician in the family.” 

Noting that his organization has bailed out families in crisis in the past, Rao advises: “Get insurance before you think you need it because you are ill.  By then, it is probably too late. Only well people can qualify for insurance.”

Rao continues to do more to keep communities healthy.  This month, the Foundation launches a new online physician consultation service made up of 400 physicians fluent in Indian languages.  For $25, anyone - including plan members and non-members alike - will be able to consult with one of the network physicians online (for information, visit www.kvrao.org/docs.html).

Learn about India Network at www.indnet.org and www.kvrao.org.

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