India Can Get Better as an Outsourcing Destination

by Tabrez Khan    Jun 01, 2009

India is quite an unsafe outsourcing destination according to a survey by the Black Book of Outsourcing, the de facto bible of the outsourcing industry. As per the survey, nine Indian cities feature in the 25 riskiest outsourcing destinations throughout the world. The National Capital Region (NCR) and Gurgaon are the riskiest places in India to operate an outsourcing firm out of, as per the survey which takes into account terror incidents in the past, pollution and geopolitical issues as crucial criteria for judging the risk prevalent in any city.

The verdict seems logical if recent incidents of terror in some Indian cities are taken into account. Also the high pollution levels of some of our cities justify the risky tag. But terrorism has become a harsh global reality that cannot be localized to any particular country, region or continent. It could strike an idyllic European holiday retreat as much as a bustling Indian metropolis, if not more. Going forward, cities will not be differentiated on the presence or absence of a terror threat perception, for such threats unfortunately are ubiquitous today. The key differentiator will be how prepared it is to take on a terror onslaught and subsequently recover from it to provide an environment of business as usual.

Securing our cities and providing a safer external environment is mostly in the realm of governance; the least that enterprises can do at their end is to have a fool-proof disaster recovery plan in place. Indian enterprises unfortunately have not shown themselves to be serious on that count, as the results of various studies and surveys have put forth. While there is awareness about the need for disaster recovery management, and these plans are even in place across many businesses, the way they are implemented remains a concern.

Regular drills with full switchovers of enterprise data centers to alternate sites, for example, are de rigueur for DR strategies to truly work in case of a disaster. But such drills are hardly carried out, and even if they are carried out, either not to full capacity or many employees at junior levels remain unaware of their existence. Ironically, in case of a disaster, it is the execution skills and knowledge at the ground level of these very employees which will ensure smooth working of a recovery strategy.

Another factor that makes Indian cities unsafe outsourcing destinations is the risk to employees of BPO units, who typically work late shifts and are susceptible to criminal elements operating in the dark hours. Women have especially been vulnerable as has been proven by incidents in the past. The survey appears not to have taken that into account or at least makes no mention of that. Obviously, the safety of employees is not the outsourcer s concern, but if such incidents occur frequently they could jeopardize productivity.

A bad infrastructure is also a dampener especially in monsoons when especially wet days can hold business ransom to the vagaries of nature. So all this is a little more food for thought for doomsayers. And for the perpetual optimists, let s reiterate that India remains the most popular outsourcing destination despite all that going against it! Talent after all prevails over all odds. But for those like me who hold a viewpoint between these two extremes, let me say that with some of those issues tackled, we could be better. Much, much better!