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Shine to blunt outsource backlash

New Delhi, Feb. 9: India Inc needs to take the government’s India Shining advertising campaign abroad to hardsell the country and avoid the political fallout of the anti-Indian Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) backlash in the US, says an analyst.

Like the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led coalition, the Bush administration also faces an election this year and the loss of jobs in the US to call centres in India has turned into an emotive issue.

“What India needs is a high-decibel image campaign that portrays itself as a partner and friend in the BPO business highlighting the fact that it is not a threat for the US workforce,” said Paul A. Argenti, professor of management and corporate communication, Atmos Tuck School of Business.

Argenti, who was in town to address a seminar titled Building Institutional Brand Image: A Communication Perspective, has written several books on corporate communications and is a consultant to top blue-chip multinational companies.

The communications strategy guru said India is in the same position as Japan, the Asian powerhouse, whose cheap car exports are threatening jobs of Detroit-based carmakers. “Japan should have acted far more sensitively as a nation in which case it would have got over the hump more easily. If India wants to get over these problems quickly, it should take a leaf out of that incident and position its messaging properly.”

A pro-India campaign in the US is also expected to have benefits for the Republican administration which has been in favour of outsourcing, arguing that this will make the US economy far more efficient.

Argenti, who is putting together a book along with wife and co-worker Mary M. Munter on corporate communications in the Indian context, says it is not sufficient in a globalised world to run a campaign like India Shining — which talks about its achievements only in the country. “An India Shining kind of campaign which talks about Brand India and its image is needed overseas as well.”

Argenti, who is a keen India watcher, says the finance ministry is already running a campaign but the focus of that is more to attract investment and is not so much an image campaign.

However, Argenti feels that the Indian BPO industry should not worry. “BPOs are not going to go away because of the legislation that seeks to bar shifting jobs to countries like India. Even if it is implemented, it will only result in a 2 per cent decrease in a business which is growing at 10 per cent. So, there will still be an 8 per cent growth,” he said.

“It is very popular to talk about the negative effects of BPO in the US because of political considerations in an election year. It is an issue of core competency for US firms as, unlike India, they do not find college graduates to do call-centre jobs,” said Argenti.

He said: “Call-centre jobs are not seen as a good job for college graduates in the US, but here they offer a lot of employment and that too at a lot less cost to the company. So, US firms will not abandon them in a hurry.”

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