The world’s front-office?

The last post on offshoring has generated some interesting dialogue. My friend, Shantanu Bhagwat, has shared a great link on the International Herald Tribune which deserves to be read in full.

For me, a few things stand out:

Firstly, the separation of the kinds of services – deliverable in person or from a distance – that Blinder makes is so evident to most of us that we do not question how this differentiation evolved.

Way back, when I was reading for my MBA, Philip Kotler differentiated between ‘product’ and ‘service’ by highlighting that the latter was something that had to be delivered in person. Needless to say, back then we also had email IDs running into several letters describing gateways and domains, and alphanumerics for user-names. So one can hardly blame Kotler for not foreseeing how the advent of the web would change in the near future, at zap-speed.

However having differentiated it the way Blinder does, the strategic issue for the West is that unless individuals aspire to more, and systems and processes and a society support those aspirations, becoming a nation of hairdressers wouldn’t be very hard.

Secondly, I found it rather staggering that mission-critical components for Boeing are being developed in India. This sticks out for more than just the reason that it mentions my past employer.

However the key problem with things being in the news is that it is easy to overlook how many years it took to get there. In case of HCL, I know it took them 32 years to get there at a slow and steady pace, although they had considerable experience in doing what is ironically called “low-level” work for German automobile clients over the years.

The sophistication that Ian Thomas of Boeing says they found in India does not come overnight. And who better to understand this than long-standing doyennes of sophisticated technology like Boeing and Airbus themselves?

Is this not the American way? Hard graft to make your dreams come true?

Lastly the concept of a ‘global supply chain’ is my favourite. It requires above all the ability to think of a problem first in ‘disciplinary’ terms above all else. This is of course a reference to the ‘disciplined’ mind proposed by Howard Gardner (I am reading the book and rarely am I so impressed that I write in margins, so I promise, more on this soon).

I am keen to see Shantanu’s views on this. He writes this fabulous blog on globalisation, which coupled with his being a VC with business development responsibilities in Asia, makes for a must-read for me.

7 thoughts on “The world’s front-office?

  1. Perhaps, though this may be the “backrow of the world’s front office”, as the April 2 issue of Business Week (U.S. edition) describes things. It’s a nice 1-pager about the outsourcing of architecture (actual buildings, not software!) to India, through a California-based company called Cadforce that employs 150 designers and computer technicians in India, with 41 in San Diego. They design Vegas resorts, hospitals, restaurants, you name it. But they do the grunt work of architecture, “such as turning schematic drawings into blueprints or making sure doors and pipes are aligned.” Still, one must begin somewhere, and I much more respectful of India’s potential to perform the services of the U.S. than I am of China’s; too many cultural differences with China, thanks to their NOT being a part of Britain’s colonial past.

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  2. Perhaps, though this may be the “backrow of the world’s front office”, as the April 2 issue of Business Week (U.S. edition) describes things. It’s a nice 1-pager about the outsourcing of architecture (actual buildings, not software!) to India, through a California-based company called Cadforce that employs 150 designers and computer technicians in India, with 41 in San Diego. They design Vegas resorts, hospitals, restaurants, you name it. But they do the grunt work of architecture, “such as turning schematic drawings into blueprints or making sure doors and pipes are aligned.” Still, one must begin somewhere, and I much more respectful of India’s potential to perform the services of the U.S. than I am of China’s; too many cultural differences with China, thanks to their NOT being a part of Britain’s colonial past.

    Like

  3. Perhaps, though this may be the “backrow of the world’s front office”, as the April 2 issue of Business Week (U.S. edition) describes things. It’s a nice 1-pager about the outsourcing of architecture (actual buildings, not software!) to India, through a California-based company called Cadforce that employs 150 designers and computer technicians in India, with 41 in San Diego. They design Vegas resorts, hospitals, restaurants, you name it. But they do the grunt work of architecture, “such as turning schematic drawings into blueprints or making sure doors and pipes are aligned.” Still, one must begin somewhere, and I much more respectful of India’s potential to perform the services of the U.S. than I am of China’s; too many cultural differences with China, thanks to their NOT being a part of Britain’s colonial past.

    Like

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Worth. I cannot disagree with your opening line and hence the question mark in the title of the post. And I also agree that one must begin somewhere, although the Economist argues that this is more than just a beginner’s game. Since you read the Economist, I am sure you have seen this already: https://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8960441

    As for cultural differences with India versus those with China, I think it is more complicated than the colonial past of India.

    I would differentiate between individual temperament and collective culture. This is how I see it. At work, the dominant collective culture is a combination of well-aligned individual temperaments, guided by that of the firm’s leaders and shaped by the vision of the firm. The former is a very important component of the collective work culture, even if by sheer numbers.

    So I have to disagree that 200-years of British colonisation could have altered the fundamental individual character of Indians. What it did do is give India a leg up in terms of the English language and a familiarity with the Anglo-Saxon culture.

    The reason why most of us see China as relatively more inscrutable is because of its closed past, with a very different political ideology from what globalisation requires.

    However one thing is common to both India and China. Through the centuries, travellers from many cultures visited both nations and have written wonderful accounts of the two nations’ people. From Max Mueller, to Al-beruni, to Fa-Hien, the analysis is spot-on and superbly applicable today too. Ancient civilisations need to be understood, in my view, both at a transactional level and at a philosophical level. The former may be affected by political ideologies and colonisation, but the latter is the crucial component shaped through centuries.

    I know this does not read like a very business-like, hard-nosed comment. But leading management thinkers have mentioned this in one form or another through the years, and I think they had a point.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  5. Thanks for your thoughts, Worth. I cannot disagree with your opening line and hence the question mark in the title of the post. And I also agree that one must begin somewhere, although the Economist argues that this is more than just a beginner’s game. Since you read the Economist, I am sure you have seen this already: https://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8960441

    As for cultural differences with India versus those with China, I think it is more complicated than the colonial past of India.

    I would differentiate between individual temperament and collective culture. This is how I see it. At work, the dominant collective culture is a combination of well-aligned individual temperaments, guided by that of the firm’s leaders and shaped by the vision of the firm. The former is a very important component of the collective work culture, even if by sheer numbers.

    So I have to disagree that 200-years of British colonisation could have altered the fundamental individual character of Indians. What it did do is give India a leg up in terms of the English language and a familiarity with the Anglo-Saxon culture.

    The reason why most of us see China as relatively more inscrutable is because of its closed past, with a very different political ideology from what globalisation requires.

    However one thing is common to both India and China. Through the centuries, travellers from many cultures visited both nations and have written wonderful accounts of the two nations’ people. From Max Mueller, to Al-beruni, to Fa-Hien, the analysis is spot-on and superbly applicable today too. Ancient civilisations need to be understood, in my view, both at a transactional level and at a philosophical level. The former may be affected by political ideologies and colonisation, but the latter is the crucial component shaped through centuries.

    I know this does not read like a very business-like, hard-nosed comment. But leading management thinkers have mentioned this in one form or another through the years, and I think they had a point.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  6. Thanks for your thoughts, Worth. I cannot disagree with your opening line and hence the question mark in the title of the post. And I also agree that one must begin somewhere, although the Economist argues that this is more than just a beginner’s game. Since you read the Economist, I am sure you have seen this already: https://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8960441

    As for cultural differences with India versus those with China, I think it is more complicated than the colonial past of India.

    I would differentiate between individual temperament and collective culture. This is how I see it. At work, the dominant collective culture is a combination of well-aligned individual temperaments, guided by that of the firm’s leaders and shaped by the vision of the firm. The former is a very important component of the collective work culture, even if by sheer numbers.

    So I have to disagree that 200-years of British colonisation could have altered the fundamental individual character of Indians. What it did do is give India a leg up in terms of the English language and a familiarity with the Anglo-Saxon culture.

    The reason why most of us see China as relatively more inscrutable is because of its closed past, with a very different political ideology from what globalisation requires.

    However one thing is common to both India and China. Through the centuries, travellers from many cultures visited both nations and have written wonderful accounts of the two nations’ people. From Max Mueller, to Al-beruni, to Fa-Hien, the analysis is spot-on and superbly applicable today too. Ancient civilisations need to be understood, in my view, both at a transactional level and at a philosophical level. The former may be affected by political ideologies and colonisation, but the latter is the crucial component shaped through centuries.

    I know this does not read like a very business-like, hard-nosed comment. But leading management thinkers have mentioned this in one form or another through the years, and I think they had a point.

    Thanks again.

    Like

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