Just last week, I wrote about China's rapidly growing outsourcing market, which is narrowing the gap between it and world outsourcing leader India, although many experts believe it could take decades for this to happen.
Yet the opportunities are already strong enough to attract adventurous folks like Chris Collins, a 25-year-old Wisconsin native who went to China intending to teach English and ended up as the international business development manager for a Chinese IT outsourcing company. Management experience in China is especially rare, reports Computerworld, due to the country's Communist roots and its previous lack of a services industry.
Though China's universities are cranking out graduates with engineering skills, they lack broader business smarts. Says Jacob Hsu, CEO of The Symbio Group, a development firm based in Beijing:
People who can manage 300-person teams just don't exist in China today.
A similar trend is seen in India. The Economic Times reported last summer that expatriate business executives in India can command salaries twice as high as those of their native counterparts.
U.S. schools are ramping up to meet the growing demand for Chinese speakers. According to a Modern Language Association survey, U.S. college enrollments in Chinese language programs grew by more than 50 percent from 2002 to 2006, with roughly 51,582 now being offered. There will doubtless be more soon.
More Chinese are endeavoring to learn English as well. Language remains a major stumbling block for Chinese companies hoping to win outsourcing business with Western countries like the U.S., reports The Los Angeles Times. Nonetheless, the same qualities that made China a manufacturing power -- a strong infrastructure and deep labor pool -- will eventually make it a top performer in outsourcing, says Mark Briggs, chairman of Premier BPO, a Tennessee company that is launching a Chinese operation in partnership with a local company, Chinasoft International. Premier also has operations in India and Pakistan.
It will get there if the Chinese government has anything to do with it. According to the Times, the government is fighting wage inflation and talent shortages in cities like Shanghai and Beijing by offering a two-year waiver of taxes and other incentives to companies that locate operations in designated outsourcing zones. Says Gaurav Gupta, country head in India for Everest Group:
They're going after it with determination.
Meanwhile, the demand for management and English skills will continue to grow as many Chinese companies angle to get listed on the Nasdaq and Hong Kong stock exchanges, says Collins, the English-instructor-turned-business-exec featured in the Computerworld article.