Over the last decade, we've gotten used to calling our bank and speaking with people named Mary, Sam or Sue with anywhere from faint to strong Indian/British accents.
We knew what the charade was—outsourced workers in India pretending to be American call-center workers. Initial indignation morphed into reluctant acceptance, and outsourcing to India has become such a part of our culture that it inspired a popular NBC sitcom.
But now ... India is outsourcing back to the U.S.
Yes, Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re back in Kansas again.
In a move that signifies one of the quirkier things happening to the global economy, outsourcing companies in India (where more than a third of the country lives on $1.25 a day) are starting to open centers and hire employees in the U.S. (where minimum wage is $7.25 an hour).
If you find this confusing, you're not the only one. Indian executives who are now managing American employees don't understand why they view dressing down as a privilege.
How did this "reverse-outsourcing" ever start making sense? It turns out there are several factors.
- Salaries are rising 10% a year in India, so labor isn't as cheap as it used to be.
- "Near-sourcing" saves these firms the travel expenses of flying workers from India to the U.S. to meet their clients.
- They gain efficiency by preventing mistakes that occur due to unfamiliarity with American culture.
- The companies can access new markets, such as healthcare companies, government agencies, utility companies and defense contractors that don’t want sensitive data leaving the U.S.
- Having bases around the world means they can do work around the clock.
What This Means for You
As we all know, our own economy has been in the doldrums for the last few years. Unemployment is at 9.1% and last Friday, the Labor Department reported that jobs are barely growing. Outsourcing has been largely criticized for taking jobs away from American workers.
This new trend is a positive sign in that it shows that American workers still have skills that Indian workers can't match—and that Indian companies are willing to pay extra for it. The firms are supplying good jobs now, and plan to expand their U.S. outposts, creating even more opportunities in the future.
(To learn more about what role women play in the U.S. job market, read here.)
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs—in the U.S.
In a recent New York Times story , lawyers have been happy to sign up with legal outsourcing firms, who pay $50,000 to $80,000—less than the six figures lawyers typically make, but more than the $20 an hour that legal temp agencies offer. Similarly, an Indian call center in New York's financial district has been busy hiring applicants at the other end of the educational spectrum—those without college degrees or high school diplomas.
So, if you find yourself interviewing at an Indian outsourcing firm such as Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Genpact WNS, Infosys, Integreon, Pangea3 or UnitedLex, don't be wary. These companies are back on our shores because they need the know-how of American workers.
And if you score a job at one of them, not only will you be part of this new trend, but you won't have to give up those dress-down days.