July 25, 2005
While the contracting of IT and business-process work to India is hardly news these days, here's an example of Indian outsourcing that is, well, a little different.It seems a group of North American Indians are looking to cash in on the trend. As the Associated Press reports, a band of Lakota Sioux in South Dakota have launched an outsourcing company that provides quality-control services for data-entry work that already has been outsourced to China. Among other things, Lakota Express workers proofread warranty cards under a subcontracting relationship with USE Limited, a Chinese-American joint venture.
Lakota Express' initiative reminds somewhat of Kathy White's Rural Sourcing startup. Both are examples of the fact that there are plenty of low-income and low-cost communities in the U.S. that can offer an alternative to sending work to China or India. It also proves that the American economy abhors a vacuum--where there is an opportunity, someone is going to fill it. Outsourcing to India may be a lot cheaper than having IT work done in San Francisco, but it may not be much cheaper than doing it in Iowa, or Arkansas, or South Dakota--especially when you factor in project management and travel costs. Of course, the North American Indians of Lakota Express and other native-owned businesses are hardly a threat to Indian workers in Chennai or Bangalore or Mumbai--the sheer numbers just aren't there. However, their presence shows that there are many pockets of untapped opportunity in this country that will emerge as work becomes more portable and businesses get used to the fact that geography makes little difference in the information age.
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