Norway’s Fish for Brains Trade with India (Part IV: Offshoring’s Simple Truth)

(Previous – Part III: Life of an Indian IT Worker)

Based on my observations, Offshoring works when the teams in India or wherever else are extensions of the team in America or Europe and everyone is on equal footing. Unlike in other models, the offshore “guys” get it and “belong” to the organization in whole. The people from offshore are able to apply and transfer to positions onshore and vice versa. This dynamic can be observed at Google, Microsoft and other noteworthy tech and financial firms. The guys offshore are not doing “monkey work” but rather assisting in the product development, side by side with their onshore counterparts. It is not about cost reduction but more about skills augmentation and reaching into new markets.

The reason it works is quite simple: IQ. Intelligence is rare, especially the kind required for either innovative software engineering or reverse engineering decades’ spaghetti old code!

Based on my experience and observations, an IQ of 145+ (near genius) is usually required to perform the most difficult tasks, described above. This is the person who figures things out fast and enjoys unwinding a big mess with a great deal of precision. They often have personalities to go with the talent, making them interesting company.

However, they only occur in around 1 in 400 people or .25% of the global population, meaning that there are only 17.5 million such people out of the 7 billion worldwide (It gets exponentially harder to find smart people as the scores go up). Not all of them are in India, and not all of them want to work in IT or engineering.

Based on their health, economic situation and social skills, they can become or already are fighter pilots, doctors and surgeons, businessmen, entertainers, writers, high ranking military or government officials, professional athletes, scientists, lawyers and, quite often, investment bankers. In India, if they choose engineering, they often attend one of the IIT’s (India Institute of Technology), which is on-par with US Ivy League and Big-10 schools. They do not end up “jobbing” at a large scale outsourcing company.

Not all of the 145+’ers do good deeds. The ones deprived of opportunities to pursue a righteous path, usually invent their own way, rising to the top of a criminal enterprise. With low barriers to entry, only requiring a computer and Wi-Fi connection, others hack, paying themselves quite well. “Loose” genius and near genius people is a threat yet to be studied.

maslow's hierarchy of needs five stage pyramide
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Hence, smart people are generally self-aware and go where their interests and financial needs are met. People with this kind of intelligence do not last long in large-scale offshoring operations, career hopping until they get what they want – a position in a western country paying really well. Others get scholarships to study at top schools, once again, leading to a well-paid position somewhere in America or Europe. In a large organization like Apple, NASA, Medtronic, or Google, where a bunch of them work together, they are changing the world!

Image result for if you pay peanuts you get monkeys
Source: Be Fit Monaco

Not paid enough to care: Many Indians came into the IT sector, lacking both basic qualifications and interest, because of family pressure and the enticement to earn more and go abroad. Having a low barrier to entry, coding schools, and technical colleges popped up everywhere, virtually on every corner, turning out millions of IT specialists. India is the ultimate marketplace where everyone viciously jousts for a position. With offshoring become a fashion in the west, the large Indian offshoring/outsourcing companies swallow up the masses of average graduates. The better ones find their way to smaller companies. The average ones have to be careful when changing jobs, not to get blacklisted.

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In general, their lives are hectic, as discussed in the previous section, just trying to survive. They are so consumed with work, but often times lack the cognitive skills to properly complete the tasks, producing defects. When their managers onshore or their clients onshore call to reprimand or correct them, they just don’t care. But then why should they? Whether or not your firm succeeds, it makes no difference in their daily lives. Rarely do the offshore workers get a life-changing bonus or penalty.

Often, when they go onshore, they are bonded to their employer. Meaning, if they quit, they must pay an exorbitant sum (rumored around $5,000) back to their company. Since their time onshore is temporary, even if extended to five years as I have seen, they are too busy and overworked to integrate into the local society. Even at their corporate apartment, often holed up with many others, they continue to work.

The Indian companies, counting every penny, rarely invest in cultural training, leading to a lot of tension between their workers and locals. Moreover, many of them have managers devoid in being able to identify and promote outstanding talent, helping them reach their full potential. Instead, they try to suppress them, fearing their own inadequacy will be revealed.

As an American of Indian origin, I often find myself caught in the middle, mediating between the locals too shy to confront the problem and the guys from offshore who see me as an “Uncle Tom.” Nevertheless, I chose my side long ago, only looking forward. (I will never say Indian-American. Putting any prefix in front of American dilutes and divides our country – but that’s another story).

(Next – Part V: Summation and Call to Action)

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