India Sees Cultural Backlash Against Outsourcing - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
Commentary
2/13/2007
04:21 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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India Sees Cultural Backlash Against Outsourcing

The outsourcing of tech and business work to India by U.S. multinationals has added billions to India's national income, but some in the country are now suggesting that this apparent windfall carries too high a price.

The outsourcing of tech and business work to India by U.S. multinationals has added billions to India's national income, but some in the country are now suggesting that this apparent windfall carries too high a price.Of late, some editorialists and social commentators in India are warning that the outsourcing boom is starting to erode traditional Indian values. An author writing Tuesday in the journal Merinews noted that "the outsourcing companies and projects emphasize foreign cultural values -- the place from which the original project has been outsourced." In most cases, that's the United States.

As a result, some other Indian writers note, hundreds of thousands of young people employed at outsourcers are embracing U.S. traditions and lifestyles and eschewing more traditional Indian social norms. One timely example: The growing popularity of Valentine's Day in the country. This from a spokesman for India's nationalist Shiv Sena party: "We don't need to learn about love and affection from Westerners." Not helping matters is the widely used policy among India's outsourcers that requires call center workers who have direct contact with U.S. customers to adopt names like Joe and Peggy. With these kinds of rules in place, it's hardly surprising that some of the more reactionary voices in India see in outsourcing the second coming of the Raj -- this time with an American twist.

The growth of outsourcing in India has been so meteoric that few have stopped to ponder its cultural implications, but now the dust is settling. There's certainly no real danger of a Taliban-style reaction shutting down the whole industry, but even modest reforms -- say, laws that would require Indian outsourcers to operate on an Indian holiday schedule and not an American one -- could be felt by businesses in the U.S.

It's an issue that bears watching.

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