"Dogs and Indians not allowed"
Circa 1945, signboard outside the elitist British Club in Calcutta
"India is the 2nd biggest investor in London"
Circa 2006, small news snippet in the business page of a leading newspaper.
How times change. In less than seven years the India Inc story is going on the success route very few anticipated. And if you thought India because of its cheap labor was the perfect back office of the world then obviously you had your facts wrong. The far east has shown it has a far bigger cost advantage in terms of back office processing and therefore the new round of mushrooming call centers in Philippines and China. India is now offering to the world what it is best at. Knowledge.
The Great Indian Brahmin
"Asathoma Sadhgamaya, Thamasoma Jyothirgamaya"
The above is a Sanskrit verse from an ancient Hindu text meaning from the unreal lead me to the real, from shadows lead me to the light. The great Indian brain is doing exactly that. Leading the world's largest money market into light. Yes, that absolutely right. Not talking about some mundane back office processing work. The work happening here is pure pundit-giri consisting of analysis and more, about which is a hot stock, where to invest, about mergers and charting the growth of the world's biggest financial market. In simple words brains at Gurgaon, out skirts of Mumbai and Chennai are actually running the Wall Street Market.
If that sounds like an understatement and too unreal to be real would somebody please answer what are companies like iRevna, Evalueserve, Fidelity, Copal Partners and others doing in India. Surely they can get cheaper labor in Philippines and perhaps many more countries.
India Knowledge Processing Globally - A Real Case
I recently had the opportunity of meeting Joel Perlman co-founder of Copal Partners. Barely in his early thirties this person has founded a global business with offices in New York, London and India. Noteworthy is the entire operation is centered in India with over 500 people working from Gurgaon. The topping on the cake is that they also have a Chinese element added in. The Chinese are imported to India to process information for clients in US, Europe who would be interested in investing in China and Far East.
In others words the entire analysis is happening in India. 500 graduates from Indian colleges get jobs and the power to make a difference to the global economy not in any mundane way but in the value added context. Next year Copal Partners claims to be going the IPO route in NASDAQ which on a modest level would mean atleast 2000 more jobs creating value. Still apprehensive about Indian brain then try and figure this out. Copal gets interns from Harvard, Wharton, University of Chicago to work in India. Is that a reverse brain drain?
The Global Story
The Copal Partners case isn't an isolated one. Knowledge processing is happening at a phenomenal pace. India isn't about mundane tasks any longer. It's about value addition and much more. According to GlobalSourcingNow, the Global Knowledge Process Outsourcing industry (KPO) is expected to reach USD 17 billion by 2010, of which USD 12 billion would be outsourced to India . In addition, the Indian KPO sector is also expected to employ more than 250,000 KPO professionals by 2010, compared with the current figure of 25,000 employees. A report by Evalueserve predicts that India will capture more than 70 percent of the KPO sector by 2010. Apart from India, countries such as Russia, China, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Israel are also expected to join the KPO industry.
The Last Word
Innovation, value addition and knowledge, India seems to be getting it almost perfect. There has to something about India that others do not have. Skeptics called it demand for labor. It isn't true any longer. The cyber coolie logic is passé. Is it about of our education system or our inherent values? Or maybe we just have it in us. Perhaps it would be interesting to know what makes the India mind tick.