“I was recently interviewing Ramalinga Raju, chairman of India's Satyam Computer Services. Satyam is one of India's top firms doing outsourced work from America, and Mr. Raju told me how Satyam had just started outsourcing some of its American work to Indian villages. The outsourcee has become the outsourcer.Friedman sees the global economy optimistically all right. But what is America's role in it (other than consumption, over consumption, and conspicuous consumption)? That Indian employee records processing firm that is planning huge expansion — whose employee records will they be processing anyway? Probably employees from the surging industrial economies of the world: China, Eastern Europe, Brazil, and India itself. US payrolls are not expanding.
Mr. Raju said: "We told ourselves: if business process outsourcing can be done from cities in India to support cities in the developed world, why can't it be done by villages in India to support cities in India. ... Things like processing employee records can be done from anywhere, so there is no reason it can't be done from a village." Satyam began with two villages a year ago and plans to scale up to 150.
There is enough bandwidth now, even reaching big Indian villages, to parcel out this work, and the villagers are very eager. "The attrition level is low, and the commitment levels high," Mr. Raju said. "It is a way of breathing economic life into villages." It gives educated villagers a chance to stay on the land, he said, and not have to migrate to the cities.
A short time later I was interviewing Katie Jacobs Stanton, a senior product manager at Google, and Krishna Bharat, founder of Google's India lab. They told me that Google had just launched Google Finance, but what was interesting was that Google Finance was entirely conceived by the Google team in India and then Google engineers from around the world fed into that team — rather than the project's being driven by Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.
If more countries can get just a few basic things right — enough telecom and bandwidth so their people can get connected; steadily improving education; decent, corruption-free economic governance; and the rule of law — and we can find more sources of clean energy, there is every reason for optimism that we could see even faster global growth in this century, with many more people lifted out of poverty.”
Then Friedman talks about Google, how Google is employing not only engineering teams in India, but also project management and business developement. No doubt their payroll is done in India, and the rest of the admin. If the legal team is not largely Indian, it will be soon, with enormous cost saving. There does not need to be very much of the company left in America at all. If I were in Google senior management I might be getting a little nervous. The higher up the corparate ladder you go, the bigger the cost savings of outsourcing. And at some point the center of gravity of the company shifts from California to Bangalore.
When an American firm hires Indian labor, that is an Indian payroll, not a US one. The paycheck is made out in rupees, cashed in India, drawn from an Indian bank. The Indian economy benefits, not the US economy. The global economy won't look nearly so rosy if we are shut out of it. We have un-competitive labor, over-priced real estate, ludicrous executive compensation, a failing currency, and an infrastructure designed to waste the maximum amount of energy. It will be hard for America to participate. I don't think it is pessimistic to point out that these facts.
Its not that I think Friedman is wrong about globalization that bugs me, but that he doesn't see an urgent need for America to get its shit together and fix its dire problems. He casually notes the need to find new sources of energy, without any sense of the risk or high stakes involved. The whole optimism vs pessimism thing is annoying anyway. Niether one is logical.