Monday, August 22, 2005

China and India - What you need to know now

I was (in some ways, I still am) in the midst of a small blogging hiatus forced by a lot of issues when this caught my eye. Saturday being sort of auspicious, I and a couple of friends decided to drive down to the Siva Vishnu Temple in Maryland. And later in the day, we decided to take a small detour on the way back and explore the sights of the Baltimore Inner Harbor along Pratt Street. Stepping out of ESPNZone, we decided to peek into the adjacent Barnes and Noble and get a cappuchino at the Starbucks inside.

Standing in the queue I came upon a copy of the BusinessWeek and instantly picked it up to read while waiting for my cuppa. The special double issue dated August 22nd, but going by the quality of the copy that I got, seems to have already been well thumbed through and in addition to the copy that i chanced upon at the Starbuck counter, the store had just one more copy. But this issue seems to have gone under the radar as far the desi blogosphere is concerned.

As the cover indicates, the issue is all about the rise of India and China with the tagline - What you need to know now. The issue covers a wide range of subjects that are actually quite well known to anyone in tune with the recent business trends. The coverage seems to be from three different levels – a neutral academic’s outlook, a close look from ground zero (in India and China) and at last from the US’s point of view as the “affected party”.

From the desi standpoint, among the major pieces written from China and India, is a success story from Wipro – a feature on how Wipro’s medical claims BPO has adopted the Toyota Production System (complete with flashing lights to warn managers / supervisors of a potential bottleneck) to great success. The description of this system (which has been so successful in manufacturing) adapted to back office operations might sound straight from an Orwellian scenario of indentured labor, but the system is effective and has proven to increase employee morale and esteem significantly. I had heard of such a system in an insurance company’s operation here in the US, but this was an eye opener. Accompanying this story is a slide-show, a look into a particular Wipro BPO’s employee’s daily life.

Rounding out the issue are a pair of articles, one looking at the whole outsourcing issue from the viewpoint of a laid off Maytag factory worker and another outlining what the US needs to do to cope up with the changing landscape.

Overall this double issue is loaded with feel-good stories with a few cautionary tales (like the one about basic education in India). Compelling to say the least, but the horror stories like those of spiking stress levels among the workers in these new age enterprises, seem to have been brushed under the carpet.

I am still not done with all the articles, so I shall end here. You can check out the rest, here.


Alpana said...

Good to see you are blogging again. had read the BW stories on India and China. Sometimes the hype around the IT industry amazes me. I think it is a very teensy-weensy step in the right direction. There is still the crushing poverty that you see all around you if you live in India. One Bangalore cannot change that. Just as it cannot change the fact that agriculture still employs the largest number of Indians and that hundreds of farmers are still killing themselves because of debt.

Anonymous said...

Where were u all along....22 days gap is konjam too much...:)
Anyway, nice to see ur blog...innum padikala...will do so...:)

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Whew! Long time no blogs!! Anyway, liked your post. People do get weird ideas, it seems, especially when the terms 'outsourcing', etc. are uttered. Will watch out in the future for similar posts.

thennavan said...

Anti, the only thing that has not yet been outsourced from America to India is "honesty in relationships", but I guess that is a tough task for some of our people to handle in this part of the world, having been used to a lot of "kallam, kabadu" :-)

anantha said...

Thennavan: Unmai, mutrilum unmai.. And btw, I left you a voicemail and did not call you back.. send u a mail about it :)

Sudipta: True. The talk of outsourcing riles ppl up so much and you start hearing views from every affected person from their POV which sometimes is misguided. But I liked the freshness of one of the two articles from the US POV, the one about the factory worker. Finally she seems to project the story as it is....

Swapna: Padikkama comment a? :p

Alps: One Bangalore cannot change that - Accepted, but the gains from that "one Bangalore" are slowly permeating through the whole country. Case at point, ITC's e-Chaupal, that is covered in one of the peices. Imagine a gain of a minimum of 10 percent (minus all the allied travelling costs) that the farmer gains by dealing online rather than travelling to the nearest town and getting fleeced. That good, isn't it?

Kaps said...

I did post about it 10 days has covered political, economic and cultural aspects. Did u see the Newsweek Article on the Making of Modern Asia?

VC said...

Welcome back, Anti! Permanentaa 2nd floorla okkaandhundu fiddle vaasichchindu irukka poriyonnu nenaichaen!
About the article's tagline - What you need to know now - I am not sure there was anything earth shatteringly new that people here could have gleaned from it. But I guess it served its purpose, that is to make people read the article.

anantha said...

vc: True.. Nothing new in the issue, but for me the eye opener was the Toyota-Wipro interaction. I interviewed with a insurance company a couple of months ago here and they were asking for "lean manufacturing" knowledge and was surprised when I got talking to a friend who told me all about what has been described in this issue. So I did feel kinda proud that Indian companies are thinking outside the box.

Kaps: Chey, romba happy a irundhen that I noticed something like this before you ;) Asingama Sepia Mutiny kku kooda oru tip kuduthurukken, thinking that this went unnoticed! Semmma embarassing, I guess! lol.. I saw the Newsweek issue, but a friend is reading it right now and I was gonna borrow it after he got done.

Ram said...


Glad to see you back mate! I have to add to Kaps' comment.. I noticed it before you too ;-)) Maybe you are still 'rusty' from being away! ;-)

Hawkeye said...


The one about "employee morale and self esteem" got me startled. In anycase do you think what comes out in journals and magazines reflect the truth?

Can a BPO job be actually relished and liked?

anantha said...

Bharath: I was talking about the essential goals of the Toyota Production System where each employee is given importance and ownership over his duties. It remains to be seen whether this can be translated completely without any loss in the a BPO environment.

Ram: Thanx... Ya, I have been rusty in the past and always will be :)

GratisGab said...

Still standing in queue?

You're either seated in Starbucks or waiting in line...own stock there? :)

viji said...

hmmmm.. some such topics jst put us into a lot of thinking... &i read Kaps' article too.
whn im mokka-pottufying in my blog...i come here for more food4thot :) Anti,., u concluded the blog sayin "thus spake Anti..."
spoke nu maathu ba!

Kristen said...

I am writing to you from Simon & Schuster, to offer you review copies of two wonderful works on Indian Literature that we will be publishing this Fall.

Q&A by Vikas Swarup is the story of how an illiterate waiter from Mumbai wins the one billion rupee jackpot in the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and is promptly arrested for cheating. The novel unfolds as he reviews the videotapes with his lawyer, telling her how, growing up an orphan boy, he came by the crucial wisdom and trivia that enabled him to sail through the quiz show without a single pass. It reads a little like a fable, is rigourously logical, and gives us a dark and witty picture of humanity in all its guises

A bestseller in India, Untouchables is Narendra Jadhav's memoir which tells the deeply moving story of his father, who was born an untouchable, and his incredible journey to freedom. This is not only a personal memoir but an important social chronicle of the revolution of India's Dalit class, "the untouchables."

Please contact me and I would be happy to send you a a copy of each book for your review.

Kristen Giorgio
Marketing Manager, Scribner & Touchstone/Fireside
Phone 212-698-7161

anantha said...

Kirsten: Thanks. Am shooting you an email.

Viji: Nanum mokka dhaane podaren? ;) Unmaiya sollu :D

Gabby: I wish!