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Premji calms CM’s outsourcing jitters

Outsourcing is not squeezing job opportunities in the US. The growth of employment over the past seven months has been around 0.9 per cent as compared to the long-term average of 1.2 per cent.

Instead of stifling growth in US, outsourcing resulted in savings of about $14 billion for US corporates and contributed around $34 billion to the US gross domestic product.

The numbers are from a presentation Azim Premji recently forwarded to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s e-mail account. A poser from the chief minister during his 30-minute meeting with the Wipro chief on April 3 prompted the richest Indian to flesh out a factsheet and mail it to Bhattacharjee.

“Do you think that the backlash in US against outsourcing will affect our IT companies'” the worried chief minister had asked. Though Premji shared his views on outsourcing with Bhattacharjee while pitching for more land in Bengal, the chief minister insisted he was keen to know more.

Wipro is set to kick off its call centre and software development operations in Calcutta from next month.

From giving an overview of the Indian infotech and infotech-enabled services industry to developing the economic logic for outsourcing, the document prepared by Bhattacharjee’s high-profile tech-tutor takes a holistic look at the issue. It also highlights strategies to be adopted to assuage concerns from a section of the US political establishment.

“Outsourcing is another example of US innovativeness to stay competitive by reducing costs and cycle times,” says the report. Quoting numbers from a host of sources, ranging from Nasscom publications to US Department of Labor statistics and the Information Technology Association of America reports to independent surveys of the Boston Consulting Group, the document establishes the need for outsourcing.

“Artificially decreasing the number of qualified individuals working in the US will hurt the economy, hurt research and development, and ultimately, slow the productivity of industry,” states the report referring to the barriers — like restrictions on visa, information privacy laws — to trade.

Premji’s document points out that outsourcing is not only generating savings, it is also augmenting income. It highlights that demand for skilled manpower will go up in the coming days.

Describing India as a market with huge potential, Premji explains how the Indian middle class is getting hooked to US products and lifestyle.

“A typical call centre agent in India will wear a Lee T-shirt, Levi’s jeans, Nike shoes, will use Gillette Mach-3 to shave, wear Calvin Klein cologne, drink Diet Coke during meals and eat at McDonald’s or Pizza Hut, work on a Compaq PC with Microsoft and communicate via Lucent phones sitting in an air-conditioned office maintained by Carrier.”

Though Writers’ Buildings sources indicate that Bhattacharjee has gone through the report studiously, one is not quite sure about the left chief minister’s reaction to the consumerist campaign to silence anti-outsourcing voices.

Rolling out the strategy to silence anti-outsourcing voices in the US, Premji says companies should maintain a low-key stance and employ more locals in on-shore development centres, while the government should publicise its commitment to the free-trade principle.

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