Hello, India? I Need Help in Math
Adrianne Yamaki, a 32-year-old management consultant in New York, travels constantly and logs 80-hour workweeks. So to eke out more time for herself, she routinely farms out the administrative chores of her life — making travel arrangements, hair appointments and restaurant reservations and buying theater tickets — to a personal assistant service, in India.
Kenneth Tham, a high school sophomore in Arcadia, Calif., strives to improve his grades and scores on standardized tests. Most afternoons, he is tutored remotely by an instructor speaking to him on a voice-over-Internet headset while he sits at his personal computer going over lessons on the screen. The tutor is in India.
The Bangalore butler is the latest development in offshore outsourcing.
The first wave of slicing up services work and sending it abroad has been all about business operations. Computer programming, call centers, product design and back-office jobs like accounting and billing have to some degree migrated abroad, mainly to India. The Internet, of course, makes it possible, while lower wages in developing nations make outsourcing attractive to corporate America.
The second wave, according to some entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and offshoring veterans, will be the globalization of consumer services. People like Yamaki and Tham, they predict, are the early customers in a market that will one day include millions of households in the United States and other nations.
They foresee an array of potential services beyond tutoring and personal assistance like health and nutrition coaching, personal tax and legal advice, help with hobbies and cooking, learning new languages and skills and more. Such services, they say, will be offered for affordable monthly fees or piecework rates.
“Consumer services delivered globally should be a huge market,” observed K.P. Balaraj, a managing director of the Indian arm of Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.
But globalization of consumer services faces daunting challenges, both economic and cultural. Offshore outsourcing for big business thrived partly because the jobs were often multimillion-dollar contracts and the work was repetitive. In economic terms, there were economies of scale so that the most efficient Indian offshore specialists could become multibillion-dollar companies like Infosys Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro Technologies.