Wednesday, October 19, 2005

SANIA OR IT: What Does Brand India Stands For ?

Very recently I finished a book titled " The World is Flat " by Thomas Friedman. It is one of the most eye opening work on globalization and its impact on our day –to-day life that I have ever came across. This book explain how India and other Asian countries are emerging as a preferred destination to outsource most of the work in America and how it will effect the common man in both countries.

Now we all know what globalization is. We are hearing of it since we started reading Economic Times and watching "The World this week " on Doordarshan. But if my neighbor's teen age son asks me what globalization means to him ? I had no answer. I can't possibly explain him. But I am sure Mr. Friedman can.

Somewhere in his book Friedman says that during his teenage years, mothers in America use to say to their children " Son!! Eat this food properly because in India there are many children of your age who are not lucky enough to have this"

Now his wife tells their children "Son! Study Mathematics properly. Because there are many children in India who can study harder than you and will take away your job for half the salary ". From the object of pity Indian seems to suddenly morph in to object of fear. As an Indian it inflated my ego like anything. I am from a country, which is flavor of the era; I am living, breathing the spirit of Brand India. India is Hot.

Swollen with the pride I begin to ponder where else Brand India is making its presence felt other than IT /ITES. Manufacturing? No, China is stealing the show there. Textile? Same china Factor. Cricket? Yes but not what it used to be. Tennis Yes! Sania is talk of the game .She is may not be number one but she is undisputed Queen of Hearts. At the young age of 18 she is already creating history. She is an ICON of youthful spirit and Epitomize "Can Do "attitude of our country. I jump to conclusion that both Sania & IT/ITES represent the Brand India.

But here irony of the situation hits me on my face. S it fare? Does both phenomena (BPO and Sania Mirza) really represent the same thing? Or is it the two entirely different fa├žade of our Nation?

As a coincidence I am writing this piece at 8 'o' clock in night while waiting for a client of mine who owns a Call Center. I see guys and girls brimming with confidence moving around in lobby. They are of same age as that of Sania. Yesterday I was going through their job postings at They are looking for every body that is graduate and can speak decent English. Their job is to handle Inbound call for a large US based Firm. They have 2000 employees on their payroll in India doing same stuff. Prior to this process shifting to India the same stuff was perhaps being done in some US City by Equal or more number of people. Most of them were college dropout, with lesser IQ than their Indian counter part. Still they use to draw at least 100% more salary and benefits. One can attribute the wage difference to currency conversion rate but there is something more disturbing here than Dollar to Rs ratio.

BPO is just another tool used by MNC to increase their margins and cut operational cost. Most of the firms who outsource their work to India do it because they can't afford to remain competitive in USA if they have so many people working for them under US labor law with minimum wages compulsion, health care compulsion etc. so they send the work to India. Now here we love to believe that we have beaten American in their own game and Mr. Friedman reinforce that viewpoint that it's a victory of sorts for our country. He may be right. I don't deny the importance of BPO to Indian economy. My sincere thanks goes to every US firm who trust Indian firm to handle their work. But at the same time we shouldn't't believe too much in our own cost advantage based lead. Because there will always be countries with lower wages and cheaper currency. We should remember that we have a very fragile lead we haven't really played and beaten American on level playing field and by playing under same rules.

That's precisely what Sania has done she has chosen a game dominated by Firangs with no Indian role model to look up to and made her own road. Playing under the same set of rule and standards. She too is feared by her opponents but not because she choose to accept the equivalent prize money in Indian rupees. Her advantage is long lasting. It is not circumstantial. She stands for the face of India, which doesn't ask for Favors. She is personification of our country looking in to eyes of world and saying, " Make no Mistake! I am as good as you are ". Her T Shirt bluntly declares, "Well Behaved Girls don't make history ". And she is actually making history.

Indians in US, start companies like juniper, hotmail,,, sycamore networks, SUN, intellicorp etc. and invest in startup like Google, Skype and other product based business. But when in India they start an IT Service firms. Why?? What do we lack? Why we don't have a world class IT product coming out of India. Israel is a small country but still they have more than 50 firms listed in NASDAQ all of them in IT Product space . In India we have only 2 or 3 firms listed at NASDAQ .why ??

Problem is with our attitude. Recently in a conference in US some reporter asked CFO of a Fortune 500 firm that what is his views about Indian Programmers & Managers. His one line reply was " Humble & Hungry " and it was printed in an Indian newspaper with pride.

I sincerely believe that my country has a millions of Sania Mirza, Narayan Kartikeyan, Sabeer Bhatia, Tarun khosla, and, Pramod Haque,Ram Sriram , Vishwanathan Anand Moninder Singh (from IIT K ) .Only thing is we need to give up our submissive mindset ,be aggressive and take risks, go out and play heads on.

We are really in the process of making history. Choice is ours. Whom do we want to choose our brand ambassador Sania Mirza or Humble and Hungry IT /ITES Executive. .

World is indeed Flat. We can't go up or down but still we have to answer where do we want to go today? For me I want to go with sania. I hope you will join me.

Prashant Singh

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