Monday, August 23, 2004

Outsourcing – Is it such a big threat to America

For a long time America has been at the other end of the stick especially for countries like Brazil and India in trade. Some of the WTO/GATT regulations are anti developing nations that thrive on agriculture. Each country has a right to propose rules and regulations that would ensure some protection to its primary industry and see to it that its welfare is at the forefront of its policies. Countries like Brazil and India have been putting up a fight in a meaningful way against some of the WTO regulations that are pro developed countries. In spite of being smaller nations (far less developed too) these countries have not gone to the extent of banning Americans or American products in their respective countries. Why then does America today raise a hue and cry being at the other end of the stick when a couple of thousand jobs have left their shores and landed up in India?

The reasons are completely different than what is being made out to be true. In fact the number of jobs in the ITES (Information Technology Enables Services) sector in India are less than a million. We can safely assume that 60% of these would be for American companies. America was the front runner in promoting free trade and globalization amongst nations and today when it comes to losing a few thousand jobs it has become inward looking. America fails to recognize the fact that these jobs are being lost to meritorious and more efficient workers in India. And the only way to fight it would be to look at newer ways of improving productivity and making their operations effective. If at all there are job losses that really impact the Americans these are not really jobs in the ITES sector but jobs that are in the other sectors like manufacturing and domestic services sector. These jobs are being lost to China and Mexico and not to India. The faster policy makers understand this problem the better it is for the world as a whole and the CEO’s of these corporations in specific. Imagine Bill Gates being asked to keep away from India where Microsoft can get same or better skill sets for research and development at one third the cost.

India is not just purely cost effective but also provides a wide variety of talent that is readily available for deployment. America should look at its education system and see how many capable and industry deployable graduates it produces. The last part i.e. “industry deployable” is essential, you may be a great academic, but if you cannot work in a team, perform as a leader of men, then you may not be welcome outside the world of academics. The question to be asked is how focused are the universities to create this kind of environment where they reap a rich harvest of “industry deployable” graduates. The other factor that demonstrates that it is not just the cost that drives outsourcing is the fact that better folks are available to do the same job in India. Just look at the figures available on salary hikes in Indian IT sector. The salaries have gone up at least 20% year on year since the last 5 years i.e. the costs on salaries have doubled on a per employee basis. Indian companies are still getting business from their American customers in spite of passing on this cost back to the customer. Why would your customers come back to you if you just bill them higher with out giving additional value in the service that you provide. Customers have come back and a vast majority of them are giving repeat business to their existing vendors.

The perceived threat of outsourcing though is just temporary, because as has been demonstrated the vast middle class and upper middle class that has been created in India for example is in turn a big market for western products. This is going to stir up the economies in the west (read America). So a few thousand jobs lost now may be just a temporary phenomenon and a sign of better things to come in the near future. Also America should look at the hordes of illegal immigrants coming in to the country and working for them. A part of the problem could lie there.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Marriages are made in heaven!!!

I will be 30 years old in the next few years and am still single. A fact that I have absolutely no problems with, my parents and other family members have reconciled to. There are, though, a good number of people who find it really difficult to digest the fact that I am about to be 30 and still single.

I have been thinking on this for the last one year as to why marriage and getting married at a certain age is so important in our(Indian) society and culture. The larger question I was seeking an answer to was who sets this norm. There are no specific answers I got for these and many other questions that I had, from different sources that I tried my luck with. To me the right time to get married is when you are mentally ready for it, ready to accept someone in your life with whom you can share every single pain and joy alike. This to me involves a completely different level of maturity and it comes with experience and of course age. The time each individual takes to attain this maturity is different and hence the norm or age at which most people get married cannot be a static number. It has to be a range of certain number of years, if at all someone was hell bent on putting across an ideal time to get married. I am even against fixing any such ideal time, because it is against the very principle of freedom and an individuals rights. The society cannot use any of these theories in our culture to pressurize individuals in to taking important decisions of their lives. The more we pressurize individuals to take such decisions against their minds higher is the risk of those decisions being wrong and prone to failure. Just let people live in peace single or married, let them decide for themselves.

We often hear that marriages are made in heaven. If marriages are made in heaven I am sure there are a whole lot of other relations and friendships that are made in heaven. If god was so kind to find the right partner for you and me, he(she) would have also taken the next step and saved you the time and effort of actually searching for one. I have seen friends and relatives search for their brides/grooms when they got married and I never got a semblance of these marriages being made in heaven. If at all they were made some where, it was mother earth. The people who made them were people like you and me, just human and not gods.

If marriages are made in heaven then we are all gods and goddesses and we are living in heaven.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Is the services sector killing the manufacturing industry?

For someone like me who spent considerable time in the manufacturing sector its just a matter of habit to refer to examples from the sector while explaining things to people in and around me. I used to be so thrilled about my job as a Manufacturing Engineer that some of my close friends have gone to the extent of calling me a "Mazdoor". I guess they were right because once on the shop floor I was actually one of the many workmen who would soil their clothes to learn about the new gear assembly or to take up the challenge of fixing a machine shaft in its rightful place.
Most of my resource management skills that I possess today have been acquired on these very shop floors. The experience of being asked to handle 200 workmen on the 31st day of your career, being threatened by a union leader with a knife, being part of the team of young engineers who had to actually run the shop floor when workers went on strike have all been instrumental in making me a strong and focused human being and an effective manager. I probably took less than 3 years to acquire most of these skills and the learning was both experiential as well as through some theoretical lessons. I can't think of any other industry that could provide such a diverse learning in such a short frame of time. Hence the manufacturing industry with its pros and cons is still an industry of choice for me when it comes to starting ones career. I have advised many young engineers and graduates to first grind their wheels on the shop floor and then move on in life and choose to do what ever they wish to take up.

The unfortunate thing is jobs in the "soft" services sector are available in abundance and are also far more rewarding in monetary terms as compared to the jobs in manufacturing. This has led a host of talented and hardworking youngsters away from the manufacturing industry. In a typical evolutionary cycle these bright young engineers go on to become CEO's and senior managers in the industry and shape up the future through innovations to improve productivity. Since most of these leaders now a days never make it to the queue to take up these jobs. There is a dearth of such people at the bottom of the industry and in the next few years the manufacturing sector is going to see a big void in the middle and lower level officer positions.

Would it lead to better pay structures, better facilities for the young engineer in manufacturing? Probably yes. But by then hopefully the services sector too would have calmed down from its current 30-40% growth levels to a more modest 10-15% growth and the salaries would not be too different.

Wouldn't it be a great time to be young and 22 years of age and make the choice then.
I know where I would go, how about you??

Friends are forever!!!

Small incidents are enough to change one's life and each one of us has this one little incident to narrate that completely changed our lives. I often think about any of those incidents that could have changed my life and I mostly drew a blank till about a few years ago.

What happens when one looks back at say a span of 10-12 years of one's life is strange, just strange. You look up on and ponder up on all those missed opportunities you could have had, those new and great friends that you never made, those stupid people with whom you ended up spending a whole lot of time against your wishes and so on. Then there are those few nice and special moments that just come in front of your eyes as if they happened just about yesterday. Most of those incidents to me are about my near and dear friends. I firmly believe that whatever I achieved in life in spite of lots of false starts is due to some of my friends and of course support from my near and dear family members. One could discount the support of family members because one could say it is their responsibility to support their son/brother/nephew etc. What keeps me awake sometimes is the feeling would I have been able to achieve all this with out the support of my friends. Many of them went out of their way to help me, many of them did their best to make sure I am comfortable, many of them shared every joy of their life with me as if I am one of their own family members.

I have been advising a whole lot of people on what to do in life, what would be the right kind of job for them and so on. With all the professional advice I have provided to tens of people I always top it up with one advice and that is if you want to become some one great, make sure you have great friends to help you do that.

Thank you all my friends!

India's yet another dismal performance @ the Olympics

It was not unexpected for most of us though. Indian athletes, barring a handful of them have once again shown why we are the worst performers in sports on an inernational stage.

There are a lot of reasons being offered on the poor performance of our athletes in Athens. I have heard every possible reason starting with lack of funds to poor infrastructure and non scientific means of selection. I just wonder if this is well and truly responsible for such a dismal performance. May be we are just too soft a nation to compete in the kind of sports that are part of the modern Olympics.

We are pobably good or even better than that in things like catching a running train/bus, spitting and spoiling public places and complaining about anything and everything but doing nothing about it.

Just beats me, I was different few years back, guess i too have become part of the "culture". Helpless and quite, tired and tame, busy and bad.