As I watched BBC News in my hotel room before checking out on Saturday, October 25th (after a long 2-week stay in India), I saw a beautiful commercial for a website called "Incredible India". The advertisement featured a lovely Indian woman dressed in traditional clothing and scarfs in a deep red color, with her long, shiny, dark hair blowing in the wind and images of India embedded into the background. The scenery included: a dessert, a busy city view, colorfully-dressed women, a garden of hue-filled foliage, a historic castle with a backdrop of terra cotta mountains, and the white-marble designed Taj Mahal. It simply was lovely, and in a very brief moment, amazingly summed up my first trip and experiences in India.
India is a country of stark contrasts. For those who have never been, India is rooted in tremendous history that still lives on today - forts that stand from year 1100 and earlier and a culture dependent heavily on traditions and a moral code of the past. In stark contrast, India is riding a wave of tremendous economic expansion and development, as exemplified by the new mall structures and high rise office complexes being constructed throughout all of India, sometimes even in remote villages. Its people exude an air of excitement about this "new world" at the same time as having a true commitment to their deeply spiritual and family-centric belief system.
The culture shock I faced initially was beyond anything I could have imagined. The standard of living for tens of millions of Indians is what we, in the US, would deem as sub human, with homes built of recycled cloth and tarps and sticks and tin. Many sleep on sidewalks, cushioned only by a towel and no blanket for the cool evening temperatures of low 70's versus 90+ during the day. The outside air reeks with dust and smog - diesel fumes penetrate all of the four cities I visited in north (Delhi), central (Jaipur) and south India (Hyderabad and Bangalore). My eyes burned constantly for the first full week, and I never once let the sink or shower water enter my mouth - even brushing my teeth with sealed bottle water. Simple "necessities", such as toilet facilities, do not exist in many urban and even rural societies. And the vehicles on the antiquated road system include by foot, bicycle, rickshaw, three-wheeled taxi, mini truck, large construction vehicles, very old buses, economy-sized cars, mopeds, taxis and cows - all literally converging from 15 lanes to 3. Speaking of traffic, it's nothing like you have ever experienced...even in the height of New York City rush hour!
HOWEVER, in stark contrast, the Indian people and culture are among the most beautiful I have ever had the pleasure to experience in a significant way. Despite the relatively difficult way of life for most Indians, the rich included, they accept their existence and go from day to day just the way it is. The caste system still is predominant in this culture - although its significance is deteriorating thanks to the advancement of job opportunities country wide. People find many, many reasons to be positive. As a general rule - and I have experienced not one exception - they are courteous, respectful, and take much pride in their work and efforts. Most of the men wear ironed long-sleeved shirts and trousers - even amongst the most poor - and the women largely wear all styles of traditional Indian dresses in bright colors and with beautiful jewelry and simple hair styles. The professional workers (as in my new company, Genpact) are the most hard working I have ever met, beyond enthusiastic, highly committed, focused heavily on education, very reserved, and extremely curious. The majority are of the Hindu religion (their "Indian Christmas" was celebrated last week, by the way, called Diwali), although there also are Christians, Muslims (more so in parts of south India where I visited), Sieks, and many others. I think that Hindi, their language, has 16 or so different dialects! (I stayed in a hotel in Hyderabad for 3 days wherein every morning at 5am, I was awoken by morning prayers on the loud speaker of a mosque 1/4 mile away!!! With a 5x/day regimen, now I feel majorly guilty about my lack of "prayer schedule"!)
I took so many photos and video clips that could serve as "armchair travel". India and China are among the most fast-growing economies of the world, with the Middle East not far behind it - so I am just grateful and fortunate to have experienced the depth of this country as I had. (Oh, and I also was invited to the homes of two relative strangers - one who is a distant work colleague and another who is the hotel fitness manager whose wife invited me for a home-cooked meal (I declined both) - and I borrowed $200 from another person I didn't even know (but who works for my company) because I had run out of Indian currency and wanted to spend the day sightseeing and shopping...he insisted. Also, my driver, who earns $90/month, bought me a bouquet of roses on my day of departure.) We would consider it unusual hospitality - they consider it a way of life.
I think that most of us tend to get silo'd in our own little universes - focusing heavily on work and advancement and less so on the values and individuals who truly make our lives worthwhile. I am not sure exactly how "life changing" this trip was, but it certainly has been fascinating on many different dimensions, especially in helping me see the value of India as a service location.
We should count our blessings. I guess that's the most meaningful lesson of this trip, my first experience in India.
With the stars aligned and good fortune on my side, I have decided to accept a fantastic career opportunity offered to me three weeks ago by outsourcing service provider Genpact. Genpact was my very first customer of FAO Research, way back in 2005. They even bought a subscription before I had any real products or services to offer!
I have been impressed by the cautious, yet determined approach to market success that Genpact has pursued since splitting from GE. Instead of traditional means to build its brand, the company has invested in building its book of business and penetrating existing accounts to yield satisfied customers. With an impressive (yet mostly proprietary) client list and a truly likeable management team, Genpact now appears on the short lists of the most significant outsourcing engagements worldwide, especially with regard to FAO.
I am grateful for this new role which they customized to enable me to repurpose my outsourcing skillset of the past 12 years. I am working most closely with Tiger Tyagarajan and Shantanu Ghosh to help with business development, account management and external thought leadership. I also have tremendous opportunity to continue meeting with outsourcing buyers, advisors, supplier partners and other constituencies.
It's a small world, this outsourcing space in which we live, so I look forward to continued interactions, but in a slightly different way. I will post comments on this site that reflect my personal views, not those of my company, and especially look forward to sharing my perceptions from spending the past two weeks in India.
There is much to look forward to in the outsourcing space, especially in this global economic downturn, so I am excited to continue being a part of it. Reach out to me at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org; I now have TWO blackberry's, so...running and hiding is no longer an option for me. :-)
I am embarking on my next-steps journey after a month-and-a-half hiatus "on the beach", figuratively AND literally, with a great deal of enthusiasm for opportunities in the outsourcing space. (You might like to check out this picture I snapped a few days ago in the White Mountains of New Hampshire; imagine the color scheme during foliage season about a month from now. Fall is a beautiful time here in New England.)
For those of you with a job, you are fortunate. In our challenging global economic climate, you are lucky to have stability of income, intellectual challenge and a deepening of expertise. With a career in outsourcing, you are at the forefront of an industry that even lay folks now understand.
If you currently seek employment (and I have spoken with many of you in that boat), then you are in a great position too. Job sites and headhunters are scrambling for candidates with outsourcing experience - for leadership positions, middle management and operations. Sales jobs abound in a climate wherein competition is intense and growing, and the marketing function finally is getting the respect it deserves, with many opportunities in supplier organizations. Buyer companies are seeking sourcing managers. Law and consulting firms are entertaining queries from ambitious, smart experts. Publications and associations are looking for freelancers to help keep their readers abreast of outsourcing activity.
Demand for outsourcing is at new heights, despite an extremely cautious approach by potential and existing buyers, so job opportunities are high too. Networking is still the most tried-and-true approach to getting ahead in this industry...not only for the job market but also getting solid referrals for new and add-on business. I see no signs at all of a tightening outsourcing job market...not yet, at least.
For those of you who are unaware, I decided last week to no longer operate FAO Research. The closure came down to my foreseeing difficulty monetizing a research-based business in 2009 due to the increased availability of free information available via Google Advanced Searches, free stuff being distributed by advisors, suppliers, magazines, bloggers, etc. I had suspected for quite some time that the economics of a research model simply no longer makes sense for me, so last Monday, I decided “why wait”.
I say this with a bit of sadness, as, on one hand, we finally achieved a position wherein FAO Research had gained the reputation and trust to work with the biggest outsourcing suppliers in the world as well as major advisors, members of the press, industry associations, and the like. On the other hand, however, as much as I have loved my “job” since 1996 as an outsourcing research analyst, I am anxious to pursue opportunities outside of this current business model.
I am grateful for the more than 160+ email messages I received late last week from outsourcing suppliers, buyers, advisors and all sorts of industry experts. I am especially appreciative for a blog post today by renowned analyst and blogger Phil Fersht who has been my colleague, competitor, at times, and dear friend here in Boston. Apparently, I made an impression in this domain. I am humbled.
It’s a small space this outsourcing world in which we live. I shall continue to post “outsourcing perspectives” regularly. I thank you for your continued support and encouragement on my professional outsourcing journey.
Finally, FINALLY someone in the business community is taking note of what I have been preaching all along - that financially-strapped businesses in a tightened global economy will turn to outsourcing increasingly to achieve overall business objectives versus pure cost savings. Yes, the sales cycle may be a bit prolonged right now, and some projects may be on hold, but our business climate is just perfect right now for an FAO deluge.
Steve Hamm wrote in today's BusinessWeek article - "Outsourcing the Offshore Operations" - particularly about captive centers transitioning to an outsourcing approach. He penned this piece in light of WNS' recent, most significant win, one with a mega pricetag that commanded lots of media attention. We see many examples of captives - and shared service centers - making the shift to FAO...proving that they could not ignore the "O" word any longer.
I trust that this article in BW will shed light to readers who may not otherwise be keyed into our world so that they too can realize the tremendous advantages and near-term benefits that outsourcing can provide.
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