Domestic Sourcing: Overcoming the 'India of the United States' Stigma

Don Tennant

Question: What happens when you depict the people doing IT work at offshore locations as brain-dead, incompetent misfits who lack any substantive talent? Answer: It might come back to bite you when you want to do that same work at a domestic location instead.

 

Next week, the IT trade association TechAmerica will present a couple of free Webinars aimed at promoting low-cost domestic locations as alternatives to offshore outsourcing. A Feb. 17 presentation will focus on identifying and retaining a workforce for low-cost domestic sourcing, and a Feb. 18 offering will concentrate on how to make the model work. TechAmerica is introducing both Webinars this way:

For over two decades, sourcing for services across both IT and Business Process sectors has gone global. The shift "offshore" has caused vigorous debate among industry, government, and the media on the impact of globalization on U.S. innovation, and the socio-economic effect on the U.S. workforce. In response, IT services providers have been examining ways to deliver more cost effective IT solutions domestically by looking at new U.S. locations as potential sourcing destinations.

Both Webinars, moreover, will feature presenters from the state of Maine. A Feb. 17 participant will be John Dorrer, director of the Maine Department of Labor's Center for Workforce Research and Information, and the Feb. 18 Webinar will feature Peter DelGreco, vice president of operations at Maine & Co., a private, non-profit corporation that assists companies that locate in Maine.

 

And that's not all. DelGreco will also take part in a TechAmerica-sponsored live event in New York on the morning of Feb. 17: "Opportunities in Domestic IT Sourcing: Think Globally, Act Locally."

 

Clearly, the state of Maine is working hard to promote itself as a prime domestic alternative to offshore outsourcing. The problem is that the offshore-bashers have generated such a negative impression of the work that's accomplished offshore, and the people who do it, that there's a backlash against the idea of doing that work here.

 


Last July, the Portland Phoenix in Portland, Maine, carried a report about a then-upcoming TechAmerica event that was promoting Maine as a low-cost alternative to going offshore. Under the headline, "Maine -- the India of the United States?" the Phoenix scoffed at the idea:

Here's a press release announcing Maine's latest economic development effort: portraying our state as a cheap place to put call centers, without having to go offshore. Thank heavens for our state officials' hard work painting us as people who will sit in cubes and read scripts about stuff we don't understand for cheap money. What will they think of next? Just going door-to-door and begging for money to give to Mainers?

What a shame that there's such a widespread perception that the work done offshore is nothing more than incomprehensible call center operations, and that as a consequence, the people who are working hard to promote domestic locations as offshore alternatives have to battle the very constituents who would benefit. How unfortunate that companies like Rural Sourcing Inc. in Atlanta, which is striving to promote rural locations throughout the country as alternatives to offshore locations, have so much misinformation and disinformation to contend with.

 

Rural Sourcing CEO Monty Hamilton will speak on domestic sourcing next week at the 2010 Outsourcing World Summit in Orlando. He'll probably mention his company's centers in Arkansas and North Carolina, and the work they're doing for corporations like GlaxoSmithKline and Reynolds. He'll have a friendly audience of outsourcing professionals who understand that high-quality, high-profile IT work is accomplished in offshore outsourcing centers like India, and that there are good business reasons to move at least some of that work back to the U.S. if it can be done in a way that's economically viable.

 

Hamilton will no doubt appreciate making use of his time that way rather than having to spend it explaining why being "the India of the United States" isn't such a bad thing. Having his work handicapped by mindless India-bashing must get awfully frustrating. If only the people who engage in it could comprehend that.



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Feb 11, 2010 1:48 AM Mike Mike  says:

Bringing the jobs back here will only be slightly better than sending them offshore - the work will at least to American consumers who spend their $ here, instead of sending it to India where it stay in India and never gets spent here.

Unless of course, all those jobs are brought back but they are filled with more cheap labor from abroad.

Cheap labor might be good for American companies' bottom lines, but it's terrible for America's economy.

As Henry Ford said "I have to pay my people enough to enable them to buy my product".

Cheap labor is killing America.

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Feb 11, 2010 4:38 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Unemployed in Detroit

If you knock off the yelling and name-calling, you might find that you're more employable. I'm just sayin'...

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Feb 11, 2010 8:49 AM Unemployed in Detroit Unemployed in Detroit  says:

Hey Don. Let's do "onshore insourcing", that is, we give jobs back to the people who were laid off due to the "bashed" people of India. THAT WAY WE CAN AVOID AN EVEN DEEPER DEPRESSION WHEN 5 MILLION PEOPLE RUN OUT OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS THIS JULY AND THERE IS A CIVIL REVOLT!!! Even a snob like yourself can understand this new business model. It's called "patriotism".

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Feb 11, 2010 9:05 AM yoyome yoyome  says: in response to Unemployed in Detroit

Unemployed in Detroit

Don't response to this NASSCOM white trash traitor. Move on !! I like the idea of revolt. Nobody listen or give a damn. Let take this matter on the street man.. Let do it..

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Feb 15, 2010 2:16 AM Mattt Galbraith Mattt Galbraith  says:

Bottom line, Don: I have over 20 years of technical support background.  I have talked to very many East Indians in a technical support capacity and most are weak in knowledge of what they are supporting, esp. Microsoft.  That said, the Sprint company brought their support back to the states from the Philippines (who may have often been hard to understand, as are the East Indians, but were courteous, unlike the East Indians).  The 'support' people in the states have been rude and unknowledgeable.  So, I guess it boils down to 'you get what you pay for.' 

It is also too bad that many who are commenting here do not take the time to put together a comment which at least appears that they might have a solution; I certainly do not blame the East Indians for the work dilemma, but rather the greedy, without principles or ethics businesses which hire them (HP was one of the very first to import East Indians who we had to train to replace our jobs.

The solution?  Stop buying the products of companies who outsource so much.  I remember a comment from the (fired) president of HP, 'This is a global economy.' as an excuse for bringing in the offshore people.  My thought was OK, hire in proportion to the purchasers of your product.  So if 80% of your product is purchased domestically, hire 80% of domestic workers.  The actual problem is that company holders got so used to the unusual profits of the 80's and thought they would just continue. 

Greed, it is what is indentified as why we are in our present economic position.  And for those bashers who blame foreigners for our problems, one of the greediest abusers have been unions.

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Feb 16, 2010 12:40 PM Blue Blue  says:

Good article Don, but I don't think your assessment of the public's view of these jobs is accurate.   I am sure there will be many grateful, hardworking, well educated, local individuals ready to take these positions.  I don't think such a move, to bringing jobs back to the US, will face very much domestic opposition.  

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