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Tue, Nov 25, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Indian workers embrace outsourcing


A view of the ICICI Onesource call-center office in Bangalore. Attracted by India's pool of talented English-speaking graduates, the largest after the US, more than 50 major international companies have outsourced jobs to India.


K. Sambasivan has 30 years under his belt as an IT professional. Last year, he decided to give up work for a foreign company and join the ranks of Indians riding the outsourcing wave.

The 54-year-old is one of a growing number of professionals -- from bankers to bureaucrats to programmers -- who are switching careers to help make India the "back office" for the world's corporations.

A month ago Sambasivan and his wife set up the firm Essecom to lure banks to India for processing work on their automatic teller machines and other services such as Internet and mobile-telephone banking.

"The journey has been exciting," Sambasivan said. "In a multinational firm the obsession is about headcounts and quarterly figures. There are some things you wanted them to realize but were in no position to do so."

Sambasivan said that from early in his career he "resisted the bait of going to the US and earning dollars," the path for thousands of computer-skilled Indians.

"The outsourcing industry was the perfect answer and the boom came for me at the right time," he said.

Essecom -- directed by his wife Shoba Lakshmi, who has 15 years experience in IT -- processes credit and debit cards for the Muscat Overseas Bank, which has taken a 30 percent stake in the firm.

The husband and wife team, who hold the other 70 percent stake, employ another 15 people and plan to hire 75 more within a couple of years.

Global firms are drawn to the talented, English-speaking but affordable labor on offer in Indian cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and New Delhi.

US-based technology research house Gartner said India's revenues will grow by more than US$200 million this year to US$1.2 billion.

India will represent two-thirds of the international "offshore market" -- jobs done outside a client's region, Gartner said.

Vivek Kulkarni used to head the information technology department in Bangalore, India's high-tech hub. But he decided to take voluntary retirement and join his friends in acquiring the outsourcing arm of the US-based software maker Talisma.

The new entity called B2K Corp delivers technical support to help solve software problems faced by global companies in the financial, healthcare and telecommunication sectors.

"There were choices. I decided to get out of government once and for all," said Kulkarni, who is chief executive officer of the firm.

"What we are seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg," he said of the outsourcing industry.

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