Book Review – Offshoring Secrets

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    Offshoring Secrets – Building & Running a Successful India Operation


      Author: Utkarsh Rai 
      Paperback: 160 pages
      Publisher: Happy About (August 22, 2007)



    In recent years I have read a number of books about offshoring, outsourcing, offshoring to specific geographical locations, etc. Offshoring Secrets falls in to the latter category, with the emphasis on setting up operations in India. This is the first book that I have read where the author specifically states that one of the primary targets for the books are Indian’s (and others outside of India) who are tasked with setting up Indian operations for multinationals or other firms coming in to India. There are probably other books out there, but I have just not read them yet.



    Keeping the intended targets in mind I set out to see if anyone involved with outsourcing could learn from this book and how much a person would learn concretely about setting up operations in India.



    To start off in the Preface of the book, the author lists the types of questions which can be answered by reading this book, questions such as:  “My manager has asked me to setup an India center to save costs, but I am not achieving any remarkable savings within the stipulated timeframe. What am I doing wrong?” I like the structure of all of the questions and most of the questions that are listed are very specific rather than general. But as I went through the nine questions that this book is supposed to answer, I found myself putting them in to two categories; 1 – Those that would apply to any project any where and 2 – those that would apply to any offshore location. Out of the nine questions I put 3 in the any project category and 6 in the any location (or country) category.



    I found more specifics that can be applied to any offshore location, with a few specifics for India only, such as the following:



       *  The section on choosing the location of the facility; – the smaller your operations will be, the better it is to be located in the city center or to have a central location so that the average commute time is less, thus giving an advantage in hiring. Where as larger operations can be located outside the city since larger operations can afford to finance transportation for their staff to help people get to/from work. This is true in many other offshore locations as well.  



       *  The formation of the support team is also relevant irregardless of which offshore country, as is choosing the right work to start with, both of these areas are critical to the success of any offshore venture, with which I wholeheartedly agree. 



        *  No one will disagree that India certainly has some nuances currently with recruitment; receiving 1000 to 10000+ resumes from a single advertisement certainly does not happen every where, but the ideas of how to and where to source can be applied in almost any offshore location. Different types of interview processes described, are standard interview processes used most everywhere (in the west as well, so this is relevant just to those new to the hiring process and how to conduct it).



        *  Chapter 5 is dedicated to culture. Some of the issues discussed can be seen in other offshore locations, such as the issues of sharing salary information and benefits. The fact that people join companies for social reasons as well as for salary, etc., is also not associated only with India. The fact that it is a culture which values “seniority” to the extent that it does is probably more unique to India than other offshore locations, but can be seen to some extent in other offshore locations as well.  The description of India as a “Difficult to say No” culture, is also one of those traits more unique to India than other locations, but also can be seen to some extent in other offshore locations as well. 



        *  Issues of how the parent company deals with the offshore company or the team in India, this can be true irregardless of the offshore location. The discussion is useful since it gives suggestions on how to mitigate these issues.



        *  The chapter on People Management, chapter 6, I did not find unique, most of the discussion dealt with issues that one would have to deal with anywhere, so this chapter is most relevant for the new manager.



    Chapter 7 brought up something which I thought was a bit ironic for a book about offshoring and therefore about distributed work. A situation was described around what to do to make the execution of work successful. Per the author’s suggestion, the development team and the test departments should be co-located together in an open environment in order to facilitate interaction; otherwise there could be problems between the two groups. Well most likely for any manager anywhere, who is reading this book and is charged with setting up facilities, this would be an ideal situation.  But most managers are also realists and the nature of offshoring and outsourcing work tends to mean you work with distributed teams. In many instances the testing team may be located in one country and the development team in another and the testing department just may motivate themselves by sending an email to everyone in all teams talking about a big bug they just found right before the “go live” date. This may be seen as de-motivating or like the test department is rubbing it in their faces, to the development team, but this situation may occur and it just may be out of your hands if you are the manager of the development team. You can only worry about your team and how to keep them motivated and you have to be able to deal with these situations that arise in distributed teams. If you can’t deal with these situations then it is reminiscent of the reasons for not offshoring such as; “we can’t offshore software development, we need everyone in the same location”, and this is obviously not true. So any new manager reading this book will have to be able to deal with the fact that they may not have a choice as to having the test and development teams co-located, and they may just have to learn to deal with it in this global world.



    For both Indians and others reading this book, it is good to keep in mind that many of the specifics which are talked about; details to look for in rental agreements or what type of legal documents you will need to establish the Indian entity, can be expected to change in India as laws change. As in most of the developing countries, laws change rapidly; exact documents needed change frequently, etc., that is just to be expected.



    If you are Indian or from another country and you would like to eventually be able to set up operations for a foreign firm in India, and you are new to the outsourcing industry and all of the administrative and people management issues, this book is a must read.  If you are an experienced Indian manager or an experienced manager from another country and you are charged with setting operations for your company in India; chapters 3, 4, and 5 will most likely still be interesting for you.  If you are a new manager and you are going to be managing for the first time, a team for a foreign firm in India or in another offshore location, you will find parts of chapter 4 and 5 relevant and chapters 6 and 7 (which will help in dealing with the parent company and in setting up the projects for success) relevant.

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