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Indian Techies Answer About 'Onshore Insourcing' 839

Posted by Roblimo
from the it's's-the-same-the-whole-world-over dept.
This is an unusual Slashdot Interview, since instead of using email I asked all the questions in person last week either at LinuxAsia2004 or in casual meetings with local LUG members and other techies I met during the conference. Some of your questions were answered quite well by other Slashdot readers in the original post. (Slashdot has many readers both in and from India.) I also inserted a number of personal observations, which I usually don't do in these interviews, because it seemed to be the best way to answer some of the questions. And some questions were nearly unanswerable, as you'll see when you read the rest of this article.

Before outsourcing, "hardship" visas, by RobertB-DC

Long before outsourcing to India became an issue, large IT companies like American Airlines [aa.com] were virtual H1-B "hardship" visa factories, importing large numbers of technical experts from India and other countries during the dot-com boom.

But when the boom went bust, and the layoffs came, H1-B visa holders were left out in the cold, unable to even look for a new job due to the terms of their visas.

Do the IT professionals you've met feel that US companies and the US government used bait-and-switch tactics to take advantage of cheaper non-US workers? Or did those applying for H1-B visas know what they were in for?

And a follow-up question: does anyone think that US companies will hesitate to leave their outsourcing partners high and dry as soon as they (again) find a cheaper alternative?


A:

Network administrator Manpeet Nemra says, "No, it was their choice to go. They always knew what the situation was. If you leave out the first few, the rest had contacts there and knew.

Others echoed his reply, and a few thought the questioner wasn't "thinking very clearly." One Perl programmer asked, "Does he think we don't have email lists and Web sites? We are techies. We stay in touch all over the world. We know what's going on everywhere, same as you."

On re-outsourcing: Ashvini Vishvakasarma, a consultant with Techspan, feels that American and European companies currently outsourcing work to India won't hesitate for a second to move their work elsewhere if they find a cheaper alternative. "They will move in a flash," he says. "They're leaving for the Philippines already. It's very disturbing for Indian programmers."

Average experience? - by El

How much experience do most Indian programmers have? It seems to me that in ramping up from a few hundred to thousands of programmers over the past few years, most of these people must be fresh out of school... how much training do people need before they start producing reliable results?

A:

It's common here for new grads (slang term: "freshers") to spend up to six months in a low-paid or even unpaid internship before they get a "'real" job. This is true not only of programmers and other IT people, but in almost all white collar positions. One of the desk clerks at the hotel I'm in is a new-grad management trainee who earns what she calls "a stipend that buys my clothes," and won't start earning her full starting salary -- about $330 per month -- for another four months.

Another factor (see other answers further down) is that some Indian programmers, like some American programmers, may be recent college grads, but have been messing with computers since their early teens or even before. The Delhi LUG's youngest current member is 13, and is dipping his toes into programming waters. Some of the college student members take on programming or Web projects for friends and family. In other words, many Indian new-grad IT people -- just like many new-grad IT people elsewhere -- may already have quite a bit of real-world experience when they get their "first" job.

Code Monkeys v. Architect? - by yintercept

Related to the experience question: Many US business pundits claim that the US is only outsourcing the low end code monkey and support jobs, and is keeping the higher end, more prestigious "project management" and architect jobs in the US?

First, is this the case? or is India also excelling in architectural and design work?

If it is the case, is there a resentment for the imperialistic attitude in only giving India the low end projects?

Finally, in a land where there are real monkeys am I making a big cultural blunder by calling people "code monkeys"?


A:

I got hit with a chorus on this one. The consensus was that in a poor country like India a job is a job, and one takes what one can get. If U.S. and European firms want to have Indians do only "low end" projects, fine. Meanwhile, home-grown companies are doing their own architecture and research, working desperately to build an India-based software industry that can survive after the "low end" outsourced projects move to China or wherever.

Response to the "code monkeys" comment, loosely translated into American English from Hindi-accented New Delhi English: "Ha, ha, ha, ha. It is the same everywhere. Some of us are good at this work, but many aren't. There are code monkeys everywhere. Real programmers, too, and real programmers here call code monkeys 'code monkeys' here same as anywhere else. Pass me another beer, will you?"

Quality of life - by Scott Lockwood

American workers have certain legal protections that drive up the cost of our wages. Do Indians have similar protections in the workplace? Are you allowed to organize into unions? How long is your work week? What are your working conditions like? What kind of benefits do you have? Vacation? Medical? Dental? Profit sharing? Stock options? I find myself wondering, if the playing field were truly level, would your labor still be so inexpensive?

A:

At least five people said a comment attached to this question in the original interview post summed up the situation nicely. Here's that post (from "Anonymous Coward"), repeated:

I work for a large Multinational Tech Co.


Do Indians have similar protections in the workplace? -- Yes. The rules are the same.

Are you allowed to organize into unions? -- Unions are definitely allowed by law. But as in the U.S there are no Unions of Software Professional. BTW, India is probably the only place in the world where there is a democratically elected communist state govt. In fact, the labor laws are stricter here. Its nearly impossible to fire Blue Collared Workers or Declare Bankruptcy.

How long is your work week? -- I put in the usual 40 hrs a week over 5 days.

What are your working conditions like? -- The food in the cafeteria is better here than what I had when I was in U.S :-)

What kind of benefits do you have? Vacation? Medical? Dental? Profit sharing? Stock options? -- Folks in India probably get more vacation than in the U.S. As per Indian Law there has to be at least 14 days of earned leave and 7 days of sick leave. This is excluding the 3 national holidays (Republic Day, Independence Day, Gandhi Jayanti); 3 Hindu Holidays, 2 Muslim Holidays and 2 Christian Holidays, Plus 1 State holiday; Unless they fall on the weekend. As far as Medical goes, Govt of India Rules specify that a group Medical Insurance Policy be taken out by the Co. Usually this works out to a coverage of about $10000 for about $40 a month. Profit Sharing, Stock Options and Employee Stock Purchase Plans all exist. In fact one of the biggest stories used to be the Infosys Stock Plan. Also, the Govt Specifies that 12% of your Salary be paid by the Company towards Pension each month. This earns about 9.5% interest.

I find myself wondering, if the playing field were truly level, would your labor still be so inexpensive? -- Thats because cost of living is far cheaper here. Food - about $50 a month, Rent about $175 a month, Entertainment, Eating out etc.. about $100 a month. So in all about $350 a month is more than enough. Whatever remaining usually goes into buying a car or a house.

Population vs. population with jobs? - by bc90021

With one billion people in India, what is being done to increase the number of employable people? Granted, while we in the US may not like our jobs leaving, it must be helpful to Indians. What is being done to increase the employability of the average Indian?

A:

This is a touchy subject. Less than 15% of the Indian population is what Americans would call "middle class." Many Indian workers live on between $35 and $100 per month, and one of the first sights a foreign visitor notices when walking out of the terminal building at the Delhi airport at midnight is people sleeping on the ground, right on the airport grounds. Begging is common almost everywhere except in communities and office complexes that have gates and guards to maintain control on who can and can't enter. I'll post several stories, with photos, on NewsForge later this week that will go into more depth about economic conditions in India and how the software industry does -- and doesn't affect them, but for now let's confine ourselves to a couple of quotes from Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay, who grew up in comparative poverty and is now a programmer/consultant who makes his living doing outsourced work for U.S. companies:

I grew up in a very poor village. My father made $10 per month as a schoolteacher. One bicycle was our only family transport. I went to college as a scholarship student. I did well in my exams, so the government paid for my education. Now I own two houses, and the workers I hired to build both of them had no other work, so that helped bring money into my village. My father and mother live in a house I built, too. I rent out one of the houses I own now and live in the other one. The money I earn spreads through the economy. Fathers work at better jobs because of my spending and can keep their children in school instead of having them go out to work early.
Mukhopadhyay believes that in the long run, to help technology benefit more of the population and raise living standards for all, India needs more of a "bootstrap economy. We need acceptance of the fact that innovation can come out of India."

He is not alone in this belief. Although the LinuxAsia2004 conference was heavily weighted toward speakers selling systems (i.e. Sun, IBM, and their giant brethren -- the "usual suspects") there were many small, quiet sessions that revolved around using computers and the Internet to distribute information to people in neighborhoods and villages where books are now rare and expensive.

The government talks constantly about uplifting all of India, not just the current rich and "middle class," but when you look at that one billion population figure and see the amount of money available, things still look bleak -- although India's economy is now increasing at a much faster rate than the population, so things are less bleak now than they were a generation ago.

But there is a long way to go. India's problems aren't going to be solved in a few years or even a few decades. This is an old country; Delhi has been continuously inhabited since about 1000 B.C., and in many ways life for some residents hasn't changed a great deal since then. India has only had an elected government since its independence from Great Britain in 1947, and politics since then have more tumultuous than not. While I was visiting, for the first time ever plans were being made for Cricket matches between the Indian and Pakistani national teams, with constant back-and-forth waffling by government people in both countries about whether the terrorism risk was acceptable. Last I heard, the match was going to happen.

So look for improvements in India overall, not just for the top 10% or 20% of the population. Just don't hold your breath waiting for all one billion Indians to become literate, well-dressed, and own motorcycles or cars (or even to have electricity and good plumbing), because even if every software job in the U.S. ends up there, and none later evaporate to even poorer countries, India's "modernization" could easily take a century or more.

Education Costs - by dachshund

How much does an Indian college education cost the typical student? Is it government subsidized, or are students expected to pick up the entire cost? And how does that cost compare to the average yearly salary of a college-educated technology worker (ie, how long does it take you to pay of college debt?)

A:

There's a big "it depends" attached to this answer. As noted above, Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay got a government-supported scholarship because of his high entrance exam test scores. Students with lower test scores but prosperous parents can also get into college. And now, according to one educator I met at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), banks are starting to loan money to cover student fees at what she called "favourable interest rates."

According to CDAC students Vikas Gupta and Loveleen Choudray, it takes three to four years of work for most loan-supported students to pay off college debts. They told me 20% of university seats are reserved for free (scholarship) students, while the cost of a "paid seat" can range from 22,000 rupees (about $486 US) up to 72,000 rupees (about $1600 US), depending on the school.

This is eminently affordable for middle class Indian families (both Gupta and Choudray are going through college on their parents' tab) -- but don't forget that "middle class" is not a high percentage of the population. (See the next question and answer.)

Cost of living? - by demigod

What does a decent 2 bedroom apartment cost per month?

How about food for 1 month?

Utilities, etc?


A:

I was asking this question in New Delhi, India's capital city, and living costs in India vary as much as they do anywhere else depending on where you live. I met programmers who lived in apartments and houses that cost anywhere between $200 and $500 per month, and a few who lived in compounds their families had owned for generations. The consensus was that $11,000 or $12,000 (US) per year was plenty to support a middle class lifestyle. But "middle class" there is not the same as in the U.S. Some differences:

  • Indians drive tiny cars by U.S. (or even European) standards
  • The motor scooter or motorbike is common transport for young people -- and a 100cc bike is about as big as most get, with 150cc to 200cc considered powerful speed machines.
  • If you don't own a car, you can hire one -- including chauffeur -- for about $10 per day.
  • Forget public transportation. Buses are filthy and overcrowded. You're probably better off taking one of the seemingly millions of green, three-wheeled auto-rickshaws that are on every street in the city. (They are limited by law to three passengers, but I saw seven people get out of one...)
  • Servants cost about $35 month to hire in New Delhi. Every "middle class" Indian household seems to have at least one live-in servant -- but few have dishwashers or other "household convenience" appliances.
  • Food and clothing are amazingly cheap by Western standards. I mean seriously cheap, like less than 1/10 as much. On the other hand, programmers in India are professional workers who are expected to wear suits and ties for most business events (although most wear the same basic "jeans and t shirt" fashions as their U.S. counterparts when not required to dress up).
It's hard to put a one-to-one comparison on cost of living between countries with different cultures and economic imperatives. Medical care (and health insurance) are much lower in India than in the U.S., but then you can bring up the example of Canada and its national health insurance, for which Canadians pay higher taxes than U.S. residents.

Bottom line: You can have a decent life in New Delhi for around $12,000 US per year -- but to earn that much you'll probably need to have source of income from another country -- like programming outsourced from the U.S. or Europe -- because most white-collar jobs there pay $6000 US or less, and burger-flipping there is likely to net you more like $2000, which may not be enough to afford an apartment with electricity and running water. (And yes, plenty of people in New Delhi live without running water or electricity.)

Distorting the Economy - by BigBadBri

Not specifically about IT outsourcing, but more about call centre outsourcing - does the drain of educated people to call centres have any implications for the rest of the economy?

Call centre staff can earn more than teachers, police, nurses, etc - are those professions suffering as a result of the call centres picking out the English speakers?

Is this storing up problems for India's public sector in the future?


A:

I had a long conversation with a guy who works as a hiring manager for Prudential's customer service operation in New Delhi.

Let's note, from the start, that Prudential does not "outsource" to India. They own their own call center (or centre, depending on your spelling heritage) there. When you speak to someone in their New Delhi office, she -- and it is usually "she" -- is just as much a Prudential employee as someone working in one of their U.S. offices.

This call center woman is probably earning around $300 month (US), and without that job she'd be working in a shop for $100 per month. She works nights (so she can deal with calls from the U.S. during the U.S. business day), and one of her benefits is rides to and from work, so there is a whole transportation business sector that has developed to do nothing but take call center employees to and from work, not to mention cafeterias to feed her at work, Starbucks and other foreign chains (including McDonald s) where she spends her paychecks, cell phone companies that take her money because no techno-hip young Indian woman can be caught dead without a cell phone, at least from the examples I saw all around me.

Call center work is not necessarily permanent. It is a burnout job in India just as phone "customer service" work is in the U.S. It is also not that great on the pay scale. The breakfast waiter in the "American Diner" in my hotel said he made more waiting tables than he'd make in a call center; that he had friends who did call center work to help them get through college or whatever, but that no one expects to do it for life -- and besides, all those jobs will go to the Philippines sooner or later, anyway, so why bother?

So our Prudential guy is a good company man (who is not being quoted by name because he was not authorized to speak for the company, and the Pru gets tight about such things all over the world) and earns a nice salary, right up there with a programmer if not slightly higher. He's single, so he lives well, and friends say he has access to many potential girlfriends since he's in charge of hiring and training a workforce composed primarily of young women, which he acknowledges is a major fringe benefit.

Now the other side: There is no shortage of people in New Delhi to fill all the call center jobs -- and all the police, nursing, and teaching positions. and if all the people in New Delhi were suddenly employed, people from other parts of the country would flock there like mad, and if they don't know English they are willing to learn (including an American accent) if it will get them a decent job, and there are plenty of schools that will teach them either for an upfront fee or by taking some of their call center earnings after they get a job.

There is no shortage of people to do any kind of decent-paying work in India, period. The Army turns down at least 19 out of 20 applicants who want to be enlisted soldiers, and turns down 49 out of every 50 officer candidates, who must have college degrees even to apply in most cases.

This goes back to that whole "one billion people" thing. If a million of them work in "offshore" positions, that's only one out of thousand. Make it 10 million, and it's still only one percent of the population, and as the prosperity created by the 10 million working for offshore companies wends its way through the economy, more children will be able to go to school longer, which will make the workforce progressively more educated, which will increase the supply of potential employees for "first world" companies.

But don't forget: China, The Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries lurk in the wings, not to mention African countries that are still at the very beginning of the industrialization curve and have people more desperate by far than India has had for several decades now.

What about the long-term? - by The Night Watchman

This point has already been mentioned a bit by previous articles, but I'd like to hear an insider's take on it. The Indian tech economy is booming now, but like in the US, it's an unstable boom. Sooner or later, the US will look to other countries for their tech work, leaving India high and dry. What measures are being taken in India to maintain a strong internal tech economy, in the event that the US is no longer a serious customer?

A:

I got many answers to this question, and they all boiled down to, "We must build a domestic IT market."

But then, how can you do that in a country where a clerk costs less than a computer, and you have -- as one person put it -- "government officials out in the villages who are afraid to use a computer because they think the keyboards might give them an electric shock"?

Most people I talked to believe government is the only hope; that egovernment and other government projects are the only way to develop a sustainable local IT sector.

Next question (asked by Indians I spoke to): "Where is the government going to get the money?"

I was asked to pose this one to Slashdot readers. Consider it posed. Plenty of Indians would like to know the answer.

New Indian Startup Companies - by blueZhiftb

I'd like to know how long it will be before Indian tech professionals start forming startup companies to compete directly with their American corporate masters using what they have learned from them.

A:

It's already happening. Like mad. Half the people I met through the Delhi LUG are either self-employed or thinking about starting their own businesses. This could be a whole separate article, possibly even a whole series of articles.

Geek culture in India? - by Experiment 626

In the U.S., there is something of a geek subculture which Slashdot in particular caters to. Obviously, not all programmers are true geeks at heart, but among the people in America who are really fascinated by computers, you have a greatly disproportionate number who are into science fiction, RPGs/LARPs, Lord of the Rings, Legos, Anime, etc.

Does this apply in India as well? Would, say, a Unix systems programmer there typically have such things as interests? If not, are there analogous hobbies that distinguish the Indian geek from everyone else?


A:

After a few evenings hanging out with Delhi LUG guys (and yes, it's almost entirely guys), I realized that you could hold a joint meeting of the Delhi LUG and the Suncoast LUG here in Florida, and the only major differences would be the brands of beer ordered for the first round. The biggest argument would be over whose beer is better, followed by the ever-popular vi vs. emacs and KDE vs. Gnome controversies. Raj, from the Delhi LUG, and Logan, from the Suncoast LUG, would probably become huge buddies in about two seconds. I swear, if I closed my eyes while listening to Raj's bad jokes, sometimes I thought he was Logan -- and I mean this as a compliment to both of them.

All the Delhi LUG crowd reads Slashdot. For the most part, they read the same science fiction books and watch the same movies as their U.S. counterparts. The ones who play guitar know pretty much the same songs -- and generally (*ahem*) play with the same great skill -- as Rob Malda.

And the unmarried ones had the same complaints about never meeting appropriate girls, too.

Geek culture is worldwide. It's not exactly the same everywhere, but (so far) I've observed it first-hand in Mexico, Trinidad, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and now India, and I assure you, there are many more points of similarity than differences between its various "branches," at least in my (limited) experience.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Indian Techies Answer About 'Onshore Insourcing'

Comments Filter:
  • whoa (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fjordboy (169716) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:17PM (#8306721) Homepage
    I learn something new every day:
    BTW, India is probably the only place in the world where there is a democratically elected communist state govt.
    I always thought the two things were mutually exclusive...I had no idea it was possible. I'm gonna have to look this up online...that's really interesting.
    • Re:whoa (Score:5, Informative)

      by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:21PM (#8306785)
      Why not? If the majority of the people (democracy) want a equal-split share system such like communes (communism), why not grant it?

      What wouldnt make sense is a Capitalistic Communism or a Dictatorial Republic or Organised Peaceful Anarchy.
      • Re:whoa (Score:5, Informative)

        by calmdude (605711) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:32PM (#8306909)
        Umm, I was in agreement with you until the last one. An organized peaceful anarchy is possible. In an anarchist society, it is possible to be organized (worker and community groups) and peaceful.

        Find out more by reading a Q&A [blackened.net] with Noam Chomsky.
        • Re:whoa (Score:3, Interesting)

          I was trying to be subtle with the nuances of "Organized Peaceful Anarchy".

          Working anarchies such as the Ikung people (search anarchy on everything2.com) are no good over about 20 people. Also, if a group of people come together (organize) and plan for rules for everyone to follow, that would be government, albeit a small one. The Ikung have rules where banishment is allowed only under extreme circumstances, which would say there's some sort of loose government to define "extreme"...

          I admit "Peaceful" was
      • Re:whoa (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:38PM (#8306991)
        What wouldnt make sense is a Capitalistic Communism or a Dictatorial Republic or Organised Peaceful Anarchy.

        Someone's played too much Civilisation. A republic is defined as "A political order whose head of state is not a monarch (and in modern times is usually a president); A nation that has such a political order."

        In other words, whether a country is or is not a republic doesn't depend on the way it's governed, just on who the figurehead is. Iraq was a dictatorial republic under Saddam, Soviet Russia was a dictatorial republic, and there are plenty of dictatorial republics in Africa right now.
      • Re:whoa (Score:5, Informative)

        by rsidd (6328) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:42PM (#8307056)
        "Communism" in India really means "parties that call themselves communist parties". These parties have a major presence in two states: West Bengal, where they've been in power continously for around two decades, and Kerala, where they've more or less alternated with the Congress. They have little or no presence elsewhere. Nonetheless, pre-1991 their policies weren't all that different from other Indian parties (or put another way, other Indian parties were highly socialist, almost communist, in their economic outlook). And in recent years, the government in West Bengal has been revising its economic viewpoint to a more market-friendly version, much like the Chinese government, except the Bengali one is elected, so it may soon be communist neither economically nor politically, but only in name.
      • Re:whoa (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Curunir_wolf (588405) *
        It sounds more like India's "democratic communism" can also be as accurately described as "Capitalistic Communism". Certainly there are capitalist markets at work there, or Prudential would not be allowed to own their own call center, and there would be no such thing as a "tech startup", since by the strictest definition, only the government can start a company.

        Just as communists can be placed in charge of government by a democratic process, a communist-controlled government can promote clearly defined p
      • OPA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dillon_rinker (17944) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:07PM (#8307357) Homepage
        Organised Peaceful Anarcy makes perfect sense.

        Anarchy means no government. Peaceful anarchy is probably the only form possible, as violent anarchy leads rapidly to rule by the strongest man with the biggest stick. An organized peaceful anarchy would be one in which there was no government but much coordination. I'd see the organization as having a more economic than political role, though. Without some organization, you might wind up with everyone growing grapes and no one growing hops, and that would be a tragedy.

        I'll grant that organized peaceful anarchy is unstable (tending toward violent disorganized anarchy) and it probably wouldn't last for a real long time, but then, in the scale of human history, neither does democracy.
    • Re:whoa (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:25PM (#8306827)
      Democracy is a governmental system.
      Communism is an economic system.
      They are totally orthogonal. Anybody who believes differently has been fooled by McCarthy's propoganda.
      • Re:whoa (Score:3, Insightful)

        by McShazbot (570442)

        Actually, communism is a political/governmental system and socialism is an economic system. Along those lines, democracy is a political/governmental system and capitalism is an economic system.

      • Re:whoa (Score:5, Informative)

        by Pentagram (40862) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:17PM (#8307518) Homepage
        The political compass [politicalcompass.org] is an interesting site that classifies political viewpoints based on economic and social axes. It offers a test that attempts to define your views.
      • Orthogonal in Theory (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Catskul (323619) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:29PM (#8307684) Homepage
        They are orthogonal in theory only. In practice the requirements to bring people into the system makes the economic systems dependent on the governmental system.

        It is extremely difficult for a free market economy under strict control since by definition its not a free market if it is tightly controled.

        Communism on the other hand requires strict control as people will default to free market economic behavior when not constrained. It therefore requires more governmental control through its need for economical control. In my opinion, that is why it failed. The idea is great, but its like the environment, attempts to control throw it out of balance.
        • by Captain Rotundo (165816) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:05PM (#8308985) Homepage
          "It is extremely difficult for a free market economy under strict control since by definition its not a free market if it is tightly controled."

          Uh... no.

          the term "free market" is a complete falicy, and htat is why you are wrong. All markets are artficial constructs, with artificial rules and controls. I am not saying a "free market" can't exist, just that it doesn't, and since I am going to assume you are an American (as Americans are apt to do, myself being one) I will add even NOT in the US.

          The term "free market" is used probably because of the conotations "free" has.
    • Re:whoa (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geoffspear (692508) *
      That's because Americans are brainwashed from birth to believe that "Communism" means "evil form of dictator-controlled government based around the idea of killing all Americans", rather than a political philosophy dedicated to the rights of the workers.

      The fact that most governments that have called themselves "Communist" have been ruled by elitist nutjobs whose only motivation was to increase their own power doesn't help, of course.

    • Re:whoa (Score:5, Informative)

      by kalidasa (577403) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:30PM (#8306897) Journal
      Communism is an economic structure. Democracy is a political one. There are also totalitarian capitalist countries.
    • Re:whoa (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Godeke (32895) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:39PM (#8307016)
      Democratic elections can coexist with communist ideals, but usually the blend is called social/democratic not communist/democrating due to two things. The first is the "hot button" that the word communist represents politically, and secondly because true communism fails over a certain threshold population size. (Utopias usually were communal, and they worked until the freeloaders overloaded the system...)

      You have to realize that there is a spectrum of political stances and different dimentions they go in. Mob Rule -> Representitive Democracy -> Republic -> Parlamentry Monarchy -> Dictatorship represent a rough sketch of the peoples participation in government. Communism -> Socialism -> Self Determination represent an axis of "how much support" the people should receive from government. These are rough, incomplete and off the top of my head, but you can combine any representational system with any support system, in theory. Likewise, the Capitalist -> State Run market axis is theoretically independent.

      Modern usage has tended to blur the true meanings of these words. We seem to assume "Democratic" = "Representitive Democracy + Mild Socialism + Capitalism". It doesn't have to be that way.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:59PM (#8307259)
      Chileans democratically elected a Marxist president (or Marxist-Leninist, as the chilean right-wing likes to say). But the U.S. didn't like it. So, in September 11th (1973) Allende was killed/killed himself [wikipedia.org]. And then an ultra right-winged capitalist dictatorship [wikipedia.org] ruled us for 17 years. We still feel the open sores.

      We had both. Ironic, isn't it?

      Anyway, Allende's government was not a good one, and surely a reelection was not expected. That's the way it should ended, democratically.
    • where to whoa (Score:3, Informative)

      by boarder (41071)
      This govt is in the states of Kerala and, IIRC, West Bengal. I did some travelling in Kerala and ended up stuck in the middle of a huge communist rally. It was really eery, being from the US and growing up in the cold war era, to be surrounded by red flags and banners like that.

      One interesting fact is that Kerala is among the most literate (98% literacy rate, officially) in the world. My friends told me that communism is especially alluring to those of the intellectual persuasion in India. Also, Kerala
  • by lake2112 (748837) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:17PM (#8306722)
    Now our interviews are being outsourced ....
    • Re:Even Interviews (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RobPiano (471698) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:42PM (#8307045)
      I don't care outsourced about the outsourced part, but I do care about the quality.

      Reading this slashdot interview was one of the few I read word for word down to the very end. Slashdot rarely provides content at this level. I personally would be thrilled to see actual slashdot articles and editorials written as well as this one. Perhaps I'll try writing one myself in the not to decent future, but I would really love to see some actual original slashdot content being common.
  • My question is.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:18PM (#8306730)
    Why dont we see more Eastern (China, Japan, India....) Open Source software projects when they're soo good at computers?

    Do they not like the idea of free knowledge exchange?

    (Asked seriously, not as flamebait...)
    • by bobthemuse (574400)
      Why dont we see more Eastern (China, Japan, India....) Open Source software projects when they're soo good at computers? Do they not like the idea of free knowledge exchange?

      If the US was as competitive as India is, do you think open source would be where it is today?
      • "If the US was as competitive as India is, do you think open source would be where it is today?"

        Yes, because they're always Idealists. Stallman comes to mind, as he made the first powerful editor available over a TTY, and gave away a multi-platform C(++) compiler.

        I can make guesses of what might happen, but that's all they are. I'm asking a question for present day.
    • Why dont we see more Eastern (China, Japan, India....) Open Source software projects when they're soo good at computers?

      Maybe they spend a lot of time working on localisation, the results of which the "english-speaking world" never hears about?

    • by psycho_tinman (313601) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:33PM (#8306941) Journal

      Because for the most part, hardware was expensive until a few years back, and so was the cost of accessing the internet. I can only speak for South Asia, though.. because I have quite a few friends and acquaintances there. My flatmate is from China, and from what I hear, it's much the same there as well.

      In most cases, computers were prohibitively expensive (until recently, when Taiwanese manufacturers and the whole clone market got off the ground) and few could afford to have much time at computers, let alone own one. If a machine is not yours, and if you can only tinker with it on and off (and you're worried about breaking it and being denied access), and if you don't even have a good internet connection, your contribution to open source software is going to be slightly lacking.

      But things are changing now, so I'd expect to see more projects soon. There is a learning curve associated with joining existing projects too.

    • by deadmongrel (621467) <karthik@poobal.net> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:34PM (#8306955) Homepage
      Indians do the like the idea of free knowledge exchange. One of the oldest universities in the world was NALANDHA University [bharatguru.com] in India. Inportance was given to education and is still the same. Most of the older universities did not charge you to get your education. sadly its not the situation now. The population has grown and how ever good you might be at computers you need money to survive. In a land where there are 1 billon(and counting) people finding jobs is difficult. The social structure is also different. Many of us do support our parents after graduation. so money would be in short supply. One other subtle reason would be a lot of people find jobs in microsoft related work. so not much knowledge about opensource and its benefits.
    • by vivekm (745114) <vivek.inbox@nosPam.sig9.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:37PM (#8306978) Homepage

      As an Indian undergrad student who believes that salvation of comp sci. lies only in free/open software, my answer to that question will be that, in India the majority of the population is poor, at least as compared to international standards. We are as good programmers as those in any part of the world but the major difference lies in the kind of resources that we have and the lack of financial support to undertake open source projects. Most of us would rather grab the job that comes first in our sight and work on it, rather than wait for the ones most of us dream of.

      As for the `idea of free knowledge exchange', ofcourse it is widely supported by most Indian programmers, atleast those who haven't entered the `Gates' of hell. Sarovar [sarovar.org] is one of India's contributions to the FLOSS world. A sourceforge.net clone that provides hosting for Free/Open Source Software projects.

    • by sskang (567081) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:37PM (#8306982)
      The main reason is poor discretionary net access. Its is incredibly hard to be, say, a KDE developer when you have very unreliable, expensive and slow dialup net access. Most FLOSS developers start with fast connections from the universities, and then supplement their home net connections (fast or slow, whatever) with their net access at work.

      When you don't have fast net access even at university (let alone the ability to host huge, high-bandwidth CVS servers like KDE did for a long time), it becomes really hard to even access free software and updates, let alone become an always-on developer.

      Don't underestimate the Internet as the collaborative device that allows free software to happen. As net access becomes better here, you'll see more Indian FLOSS developers.

    • by Kunta Kinte (323399) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:38PM (#8307000) Journal
      Several points...

      (i) Do you know where the code you use everyday comes from? That is, how do you know how much and at what rates Far-Easterners contribute to open-source? Should every project carry the nationality of the core developers?

      (ii) Poorer countries have very limited access to the internet. Something very needed for the research and communication needed for building and managing an open-source project. I had this problem with my native home.

      (iii) You need to have your basic needs comfortably taken care of before you can take time to develop software for free. That's true for any person anywhere I think, and very important if you're building a non-trivial project. I have this problem now.

      (iv) Language differences may also hinder these projects.

    • by Telastyn (206146)
      I've seen a bit of NetBSD code submitted by Japanese programmer(s).

      Though more likely is the fact that their 'itch' is likely internationalization/localization issues which we [dumb Westerners] don't care about.
      • Dumb Westerners? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GCP (122438) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:08PM (#8309021)
        Feel free to speak for yourself, then close your mouth.

        The overwhelming majority of internationalization is done by smart Westerners, most of it by Americans (though Europeans have made huge contributions).

        I've worked in Japan and Korea. They couldn't care less about internationalization when designing their own code. Of course they want Western code to be internationalized so they can use it, too, but that's just more pressure on Westerners to internationalize. If the Japanese decide to modify the code themselves, they'll simply add support for Japanese rather than trying to internationalize it.

        And even Europeans don't usually have much interest in real internationalization. They've thought of "international" and "European" as synonyms for so long that as soon as it works in the major markets in their neighborhood, they declare it "internationalized" and quit. (Trying to talk to them about really internationalizing is then likely to result in perplexed looks and comments like, "unlike you Americans, we think internationally, so we've already internationalized yadda, yadda....")

        It's the multinational US companies that have driven most real internationalization because as soon as they decide to leave their domestic nest, US companies are just as interested in Asia as in Europe. Developers at IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Apple, for example, have the importance of things like Unicode drummed into them. Not so for developers that I've seen at NEC, Fujitsu, Samsung, Siemens, Bull, or Ericsson.

        Interestingly, though, the governments of India and Pakistan have both recently joined the Unicode Consortium as full members.

    • by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:40PM (#8307030)
      First of all this question reeks of racism. "They're" so good at computers? Much like asians are good at math, black people are good at sports and all Irish people like fighting?

      Anyway, if asked seriously, in China the idea of "free knowledge exchange" is not exactly a popular one as it is regularly looked down-upon by the government (and is even used as a reason to prosecute people).

      In India, I imagine it isn't as popular as you would think it to be because the average person does not own a computer. If you looked at the number of computers per person in America versus India, I bet it would portray a picture where India is very behind, on a broad level, in terms of technical advancement. What's the point of free knowledge exchange if you don't even have a computer (let alone an internet connection)?

      Japan. Who knows? They have a history of consumer electronics and seem to be continually working to fill that niche. More recently, they seem to be filling in the mobile technology area.
    • by maxbang (598632) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:41PM (#8307035) Journal

      ... when they're soo good at computers?

      Are you kidding that this isn't flamebait? Did you not read the part about code-monkeys? I guess this is Slashdot, so I shouldn't expect so much. The percentage of people over there who are "soo good at computers" is equal to the percentage over here who are "soo good at computers." If you're going to stereotype, at least use a funny one, like Apu.

    • by andy1307 (656570) *
      Most Indians, even those in engineering schools, don't have unmilited access to computers. Most people who start in open source do so because they have access to a computer and take up open source as a hobby. Indian students don't have that luxury yet. However, computer penetration is increasing and you should expect to see more contributions to open source from Indians and Chinese. Remember: Individual users in India and China don't really pay for software and most people aren't hooked onto Microsoft produ
    • by ajayvb (657479) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:46PM (#8307108) Homepage

      India has over 20 languages in widespread use, and just localizing Linux to these is a mammoth task.

      A couple of projects which are worth mentioning:

      Indlinux [sourceforge.net]

      and the Simputer [picopeta.com]

      The basic limitation that I've seen is that most of us Indians are a bit more inward-looking, which means that a lot of open-source work in India looks to solve local problems.
  • by thelonious (233200) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:25PM (#8306826) Homepage Journal
    1) Go to the Brazilian rain forest and locate a native tribe
    2) Teach them java but keep them living in huts
    3) Pay them in roots and berries
    4) Let the contracts roll!!
  • "Outsourcing" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:27PM (#8306855)
    Let's note, from the start, that Prudential does not "outsource" to India. They own their own call center (or centre, depending on your spelling heritage) there. When you speak to someone in their New Delhi office, she -- and it is usually "she" -- is just as much a Prudential employee as someone working in one of their U.S. offices.

    When Americans speak of "outsourcing" in this context they mean "out" as in "out of the country". What is being described here is arguably worse than outsourcing per se from our perspective since it represents a more significant investment.
    • Re:"Outsourcing" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geoffspear (692508) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:52PM (#8308041) Homepage
      Yeah, and anyone who works for Sony in the US should feel very guilty about taking the jobs of the Japanese workers who really deserve them, too. It's an abomination.
    • Re:"Outsourcing" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by leviramsey (248057) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:02PM (#8308160) Journal
      When Americans speak of "outsourcing" in this context they mean "out" as in "out of the country".

      Any American who thinks that's the definition of outsourcing is an idiot who deserves to live in a cardboard box full of their own filth.

      Outsourcing does not in any way shape or form imply anything about offshoring. Outsourcing is simply contracting to others work that you used to do in-house. Now, the place you go to outsource may be to Delhi, but it might as well be Denver, so far as the term "outsourcing" is concerned.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:28PM (#8306867)
    there were many small, quiet sessions that revolved around using computers and the Internet to distribute information to people in neighborhoods and villages where books are now rare and expensive.

    Last time I looked, for the cost of a cheap PC, you can buy dozens, if not hundreds, of books. They don't need internet connections or power, aren't affected by dust, dirt or careless handling. They also at least a couple decades.

    The sad thing is, the same crap has been happening in the US for at least a decade. Yessir, Smallville has a computer in every classroom, but Johnny and Suzy need to "share" To Kill a Mockingbird because there's "no money" for more copies. The teachers have to buy supplies out of their own pockets because the school has "no money". And that computer? Sits off most of the time, or even worse, sits on, drawing inane animated pictures on the screen, running up the school's electric bill.

    I strongly suggest reading Cliff Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil...

    • by stratjakt (596332) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:37PM (#8306985) Journal
      Teachers who buy supplies out of their own pockets, are generally new college grads, teaching at the lower elementary level, (K-3) who fancy themselves the next great educator.

      They want to do all those 'fun and new' activities that they read about in chickadee magazine. Because school is apparently about everything BUT learning math, english, or history.

      My third grader is required to take a calculator to class because they dont want to spend time teaching kids arithmetic. Because some kids find it hard, and the argument is it discourages them and they dont like school and dont want to learn. Oh, and heaven forbid any child fail at anything. Of course, the real reason is, that its too much like work to actually TEACH the kids who have trouble grasping it.

      Anyways, sorry bitch, but making papier machee monkeys to celebrate martin luther king day is not in the budget. A ditto machine and a fucking number 2 pencil was all we needed in my day.
      • by TBone (5692) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:00PM (#8308129) Homepage

        Maybe where you liev that's the case. That's not the case in such backwater states as, say, Florida.

        When my daughters start school, they won't need to take calculators. They're going to need to take things like Tissues, colored cardboard, notepaper, and pencils, to share not just with her class, but the entire rest of the school, because in order to be able to affort that math teacher this year, they cut $30,000 from the supplies budget. Personally I agree that educators today are getting lazy - but you can't pass the whole buck on to that; there are some serious problems with education right now in the US that have nothing to do with Lazy and everything to do with "We can spend $100,000 on new equipment to keep us safe frmo terrorists, or we can keep those 3 teachers employed".

        And thanks for bringing up dittoes. Now I'll probably get hit up for a request for 5 gallons of that ugly purple ink.

      • Options (Score:5, Insightful)

        by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:52PM (#8310381) Homepage Journal

        There are plenty:

        • Private school. Not actually as expensive as you might think. My son was doing very poorly in public school for a variety of reasons, so he now attends a private school that costs about $3K per year (it's interesting to compare that to the nearly $5K per year the public schools spend per student). We do have to drive him to and from school every day, the facilities are run down, the computers are old and the playground doesn't have the coolest new Big Toy. However, the classes are small (8-10 students) the teachers are excellent and dedicated (my son's teacher gave us her home and cell phone numbers, with instructions to call any time, day or night), the curriculum is aggressive (he is in fourth grade and mastering material not usually covered until junior high) and the kids are well cared for (they even get hot freshly-prepared breakfast and lunch, not the pre-packaged crap passed out at the local public schools). Worth EVERY penny.
        • Home school. In most areas the public schools will work with you to make sure your children have access to all of the same extracurricular opportunities as the rest of the kids, and will help out with teaching materials as well. It's not that hard to construct socialization opportunities as well.
        • A different public school. Check out the nearby schools and see if one of them would work out better. You will probably have to arrange for transportation to and from school every day.
        • Raise Holy Hell. Tell the teacher that his/her approach is wrong and inadequate and that you want your child taught differently. If the teacher doesn't shape up, go to the principal and request a transfer to a different teacher. If the principal doesn't agree, go to the district and the school board. If you still don't get what you want, look at the other options above and considering running for the school board or other political post to fix things.

        If you want your child to have a good education, it is within your power. You do not have to accept whatever your child's current teacher wants to do. Doing it is not necessarily easy and if none of the above options solve the problem you might want to consider moving somewhere that your child can get a decent education. In my case it was relatively easy -- our local school is pretty good as long as your child fits the required mold. Two of my children seem to be getting along fine there and it didn't cost me much to address the fact that my oldest didn't fit in.

        Oh, and one more benefit to private schools: It's unbelievable how nice it is to be treated like an important customer rather than an irritating obstacle. There's a subtle but important difference in attitude between a teacher who realizes that you pay his/her salary directly and one who gets paid by the state/county. My other two children's teachers are competent, and nice people who like to see interested parents, but the tone is "This is how I approach my classroom and your child's education and how I'd like you to work with me" rather than "This is how I propose to work with your child, what do you think?"

    • by lordpixel (22352)
      Many recent computer books run $50-60. You can get a cheap PC for $300. So that's 5 books to one computer.

      Of course, the PC may cost more in India, and the books may cost less each.

      And of course, people may have much more need for books other than computer books, and these might have lower prices due to more copies being printed (and the amount the market is willing to pay).

      But your example of "hundreds" of books to one computer is way off base if you're assuming up to date technical books is what people
  • by wankledot (712148) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:31PM (#8306904)
    Which beer Is better? I like beer, and I know quite a bit about Belgian and German beers, but not very many Indian ones. I do eat a lot of indian food, and see a few "domestic" Indian beers around the restaurants, but I don't know which is any good, or if there are some I should look for at local stores that might not be so common.

    Which one would any of you folks back in Indian recommend?

    Maybe we can get a flame^H^H^H^H^H beer war going here.

  • Hmmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:31PM (#8306905)
    Notice that this interview was answered weeks or months faster than any other one I've seen here. Maybe these companies outsourcing are onto something...
  • Caste? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dr_dank (472072) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:32PM (#8306919) Homepage Journal
    I would love to know where the Caste system comes into play in modern India. Would lower caste members (the $35/month servants) have any shot at these tech jobs?
    • Re:Caste? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gokulpod (558749) <gpoduval@hotma i l . c om> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:52PM (#8307185) Homepage
      Generally speaking, the lower classes in India are poorer and less educated than higher classes. This has lead to a situation where the middle and upper classes are the oringinal high-class people (brahmins, kshatriyas etc), while the poorer people are from the lower classes (the shudras).

      Therefore it is very rare to see a lower class person take up a white collar job since their education levels are much lower. The government on India does reserve certain seats in colleges etc for these classes (analogous to affirmative action in US), but the quality of such graduates is questionable.

      I have a few friends from "lower classes", and among the younger educated folks, there isnt as much discrimination as before. But overall, the situation for the lower classes is not heart warming.
  • by dotsbir (753656) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:32PM (#8306922) Homepage Journal
    Wow, was that medical care comment a blunder. If you've got money (and in the same vein as the food comments, having money really only means having 5-10% of the equivalent in US dollars) then the medical care is superb and includes ICU care and hospital day stays that are UNHEARD OF in the USA nowadays. The valve hardware itself would cost $10k more in the US to cover litigation / malpractice costs.

    A friend of mine's aunt ended up having open heart surgery for a valve replacement in Baroda India. She had it at a private surgicenter with excellent Indian U.S. trained physicians with follow-up and post-op ICU care for less than $8000. The equivalent cost in the USA would have been $50k minimum with ICU days costing another $9k-$15k per DAY, with additional costs for the anesthesiologists and for the surgeons.

    Have you noticed how many Indian doctors there are in the USA? A lot of them were fully trained and board certified in India before even coming to the united states. A lot of Indians who go to the US for medical training (medical school, residency, fellowships) often come back to India to open their own hospitals and clinics.

    Their is very little insurance hassle in India because there is very little insurance. Major med procedures are often paid for with cash. I don't know about the mortgage situation currently but more than ten years ago, mortgages were unheard of. You'd buy houses when you had the cash to afford one and most often had them built to your own specifications.
    • by michael_cain (66650) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:34PM (#8308579) Journal
      A friend of mine's aunt ended up having open heart surgery for a valve replacement in Baroda India. She had it at a private surgicenter with excellent Indian U.S. trained physicians with follow-up and post-op ICU care for less than $8000. The equivalent cost in the USA would have been $50k minimum with ICU days costing another $9k-$15k per DAY, with additional costs for the anesthesiologists and for the surgeons.

      Considering the local costs of living that are described elsewhere in these comments, is this so out of line? Those comments indicate that an upper-middle-class lifestyle costs about $12,000 per year over there. $8,000 is two-thirds of that. Suppose an upper-middle-class lifestyle in the US requires an income of $90,000 (some would suggest that the cost is higher than that). Two-thirds of that is $60,000, which is on the same order as what you cite as the expense in the US. The interesting difference appears to be the difference in the availability of insurance. Roughly 60% of the US population is covered by some form of health insurance, either private or provided by the government. What percentage of the Indian population is covered? Since someone with an income of $90,000 in the US can afford health insurance (barring cases with expense, chronic conditions, who can't buy private insurance at any price), I assume that someone making $12,000 in India can also afford health insurance.

  • by kisrael (134664) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:33PM (#8306939) Homepage
    $11,000 = a decent middle class life in India.

    That's really what it all comes down to. I got that from the recent Wired article [wired.com] and this pretty interesting set of responses confirms it.

    That's 1/4 of what I was making fresh out of school in 1996.

    I guess I don't understand how in a "global economy", that kind of difference in the cost of living survives, and how it ties in with things like inflation and other economic factors.

    Is it basically that there are SO many poor people in India, that that somehow keeps the costs of the basics down? And that the USA couldn't have a similar situation without that level of poverty?

    Amazing. I wonder what the future of global living standards is going to look like.
    • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:39PM (#8307018)
      "I guess I don't understand how in a "global economy", that kind of difference in the cost of living survives, and how it ties in with things like inflation and other economic factors."

      Easy, its not a "global economy". If it where I could go to India and get a job paying 11k a year and live off that. However they dont allow US tech workers to work over there unless you get sponsored by an Indian copany. Thats a local, protectionist economy. Not that this is a bad thing, I just wish the US corps would stop trying to tell me that their outsourceing because of globilization rather then because they want a new summer home.

    • Take a class in economics. This is very simple stuff to understand. Why does the cost of living differ between NYC and, say, St. Louis? Same thing, less extreme.
    • by RalphSlate (128202) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:44PM (#8308728) Homepage
      Yes, that's excactly it.

      Here are the "advantages" that India has over the US.

      1) A lot of poor people and no social programs supporting them. Think of how much of your paycheck goes to Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and other social programs. And think of how much of your employer's payroll taxes go to that stuff too. And then think about all the other taxes you pay to support people who aren't employed at livable wages. If your pay was cut by that amount, and your employers taxes were cut by that amount, you'd be in exactly the same place but making 30% less. We are no longer in a position to choose to have social programs. Competition from abroad is dictating that we eliminate all of them.

      2) The servants. I think I could work harder if I could pay someone $35/month to do all my personal work. But having servants, especially low-paid servants, is frowned upon here in the US, and people won't generally work for so little since the government supports them at a much higher level. But if we eliminate our social programs, then maybe people will be willing to be our servants once again.

      3) Medical. It sounds like the care you get in India is cheaper, but you get less too. People in this country need to ask some ethical questions, for example, "how much should be spent to save a life". When someone spends $300k to keep their 90 year old grandmother alive for an extra month, perhaps that is excessive. So we may have to make some hard choices (for example, should we spend a couple hundred thousand saving your baby that is born 2 months premature) in order to get our costs in line with India. In essence, we should not save the lives of anyone not capable of being a productive member of society. Any country that does will have higher costs.

      But here's the insidious problem with this all. Capitalism is designed to LOWER costs. That means paying the least amount of benefits possible. Since people in other countries have it far worse than we do, the only way we can compete is to lower our benefits to their level. We can't rely on that "productivity" factor because it is no longer US Corporations vs. Foreign Corporations -- it's US Corporations against the workers that cost the most. Any innovation is immediately shared with the low-cost workers, and the benefit is negated.

      So in other words, the only way to compete with India is to become exactly like India, or to get India to be exactly like us. But the latter won't work, because our corporations will just move the work to some other country. That means the former will be the more likely outcome.

      Is everyone comfortable with that?
  • by rsidd (6328) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:33PM (#8306940)
    The upcoming India-Pakistan series is by no means "the first time ever". The two countries played each other regularly until the 1980s; India last visited Pakistan in 1989, and since then Pakistan visited India once, in 1998-99. They have also met at other tournaments including the world cups.
  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:37PM (#8306984) Homepage Journal
    I grew up in a very poor village. My father made $10 per month as a schoolteacher. One bicycle was our only family transport. I went to college as a scholarship student. I did well in my exams, so the government paid for my education. Now I own two houses, and the workers I hired to build both of them had no other work, so that helped bring money into my village. My father and mother live in a house I built, too. I rent out one of the houses I own now and live in the other one. The money I earn spreads through the economy. Fathers work at better jobs because of my spending and can keep their children in school instead of having them go out to work early


    And that is exactly how supply side ('trickle down') economics worked. It worked in the 80's and it's starting to work now, too.

    It is good to see that some good is coming out of off shore outsourcing, at least.

    Of course, this will get modded down because libertarian or conservative views get an automatic -1 (Not Liberal) here most of the time ;)
    • by Sebastopol (189276) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:56PM (#8307219) Homepage
      This is how trickle down is supposed to work. One could argue the trickle down will stop working in India for the same reason it failed in the 80s: greed --

      CEOs got tax breaks and used the money for huge bonuses, then hired illegal immigrants to build their multi-million dollar heated pools for their chalets in Colorado -- and then rather than investing in the community, closed factories and moved overseas to boost profits and increase bonuses.

      That's why today we have a stock market boom and increasing unemployment. From my liberal viewpoint, tax increases boosted the economy by balancing the budget, stabilizing the prime rate, and reversing the greed that broke the trickle-down theory.

      Now I'll get a: "-1 (Anti-Reagan)" ;-)

    • It would work, but remember the statistic that says something like "10% of the population controls 90% of the wealth" (real stats may vary, but it's something like that). That 90% of the wealth is tied up in personal accounts making more money for it's master. A litre of that might be diffused into the atmosphere and trickle down to the local economies. The only work trickle down economics did in the 80s was shift the load to the 90s and beyond. Middle/Upper middle class spent while corporate leaders reaped
    • by spun (1352)
      Oh, god, that tired old cliche. Libertarian views get modded down here? What version of slashdot do you read? Conservatives get modded down when they are morons, but Libertarians never get modded down. 4 out of 5 slashdotters is probably libertarian leaning.

      And 'Voodoo Economics,' a.k.a. trickle down, never works. It didn't work here. It isn't working now, not here, not there. Look at our recovery. All the money is going to the rich. We aren't even making new jobs fast enough to keep up with popula
    • I'm not sure that that story illustrates Trickle Down economics, or any sort of macroeconomic theory.

      Trickle Down is also known as "supply side", money is spent by the government to give to industry or investors so that the economy will grow, either through tax-cuts, spending or subsidy. The instance that is alluded to here is fiscal policy under Reagan in the 80s, where money was spent on weapons, tax cuts for investors. The goal is to increase the supply of production

      The flip side is "demand side econom
  • by cavemanf16 (303184) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:42PM (#8307058) Homepage Journal
    I noticed the interview kept mentioning that the 'middle class' in India constituted only 10-15% of the entire population of India. Well at 1 billion people +, that equates to 100,000,000 - 150,000,000 middle class Indians. When the US only has a population of 350,000,000 (a guesstimate) TOTAL, that Indian middle-class appears quite large in comparison. With the college tuition rates, government subsidies, and other factors in effect in India, it appears to me that they are primed to quickly over-take the U.S. as the premier investment opportunity for the world within the next 10 years or less. Those of us in America had better not become too comfortable with our posh standards of living as they currently are. I fear they will not last much longer.
    • The figures you quote are true, but there is one major factor missing. To qualify as middle class in India, you don't need to earn a lot. About Rs. 10,000 (approx $250) a month, and you will be considered lower-middle class. At over Rs. 50,000 a month (approx $1100) a month, and you may well be categorised as upper middle class. So the US middle class has much more buying power than the Indian middle class.
  • Semantics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:43PM (#8307060)
    "Let's note, from the start, that Prudential does not "outsource" to India. They own their own call center (or centre, depending on your spelling heritage) there. When you speak to someone in their New Delhi office, she -- and it is usually "she" -- is just as much a Prudential employee as someone working in one of their U.S. offices."

    With all due respect, who cares? Who cares what word you use to describe the loss of jobs to a foreign country? "Employed" or "Outsourced". Either way the final result is the loss of an American job to a foreign counterpart.
  • Chills up my spine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:44PM (#8307075) Homepage Journal
    There is no shortage of people to do any kind of decent-paying work in India, period. The Army turns down at least 19 out of 20 applicants who want to be enlisted soldiers, and turns down 49 out of every 50 officer candidates, who must have college degrees even to apply in most cases....This goes back to that whole "one billion people" thing.

    Scary. Very very scary. Brains are indeed becomming a very cheap commodity. Whatsa nerd going to do in the future? Or even now? Our skills have no value in the marketplace anymore.
  • My true anecdote... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rilister (316428) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:47PM (#8307121)
    I visited Madras in 1997. While I was there I walked up to a temple overlooking the city - you had to climb up a 1000 steps or whatever to get there, so by the time you reach the top, you're a fair way out of the city. Sorry, but I don't remember the specific names.

    Anyway, over the other side of this hill, facing away from the city is what you might call 'the ghetto' - low quality ad-hoc housing built from metal sheeting. Kind of the place you don't feel totally comfortable wandering around.

    A kid approaches us (probably 12-14yrs old) and asks us who we are, where we're from. He speaks good english and is chatty. He points out his house below us - it's basic living. We make small talk.

    After I while I ask him - '...so - what do you want to do when you grow up?'

    'I'm going to be a C++ programmer'

    I'm shocked and impressed. 'Wow. You have a computer?' I look at his house again. It may have electricity.

    'No, I have a book. But I'm learning.'

    -with that kind of enterprise and foresight, I can never begrudge an out-sourced Indian programmer his living.
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:50PM (#8307164) Homepage Journal
    Quite an honor to get the lead question, and even cooler to know that people in India now have the opportunity to question my clarity of thought!

    Others echoed his reply, and a few thought the questioner wasn't "thinking very clearly." One Perl programmer asked, "Does he think we don't have email lists and Web sites? We are techies. We stay in touch all over the world. We know what's going on everywhere, same as you."

    Consider me properly chastened. However... the reason I asked the question is because it's a topic that came up while talking to a fellow programmer of Indian heritage. She pointed out the H1-B visa's hidden pitfalls as a problem in the Indo-Pak community.

    I guess the answer to my question is that *most* H1-B recipients knew what they were getting into, though a few either didn't do their research or chose to ignore the warnings. Which sounds like a pretty universal situation -- as the interviews showed, we're more alike than different.

    But just one little swipe. When the Perl programmer questioned my fuzzy thinking, he said "We know what's going on everywhere, same as you." Well, despite all the time I spend on Slashdot, I *don't* know what's going on everywhere, and I can't imagine that Mr. Perl does, either... Oh, well, there's one know-it-all in every crowd.
  • by PollGuy (707987) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:52PM (#8307183)
    One of you slashdotters called WNYC's Brian Lehrer show this morning as he was talking about outsourcing. You said that you have been a programmer for 22 years and are now expensive to hire. You said that this issue has been a hot topic on Slashdot for years and you were glad that it was finally getting some mainstream press (especially now with the Mankiw debacle).

    Just wanted to say thanks. I totally concur on your last point -- I've been waiting years for this to hit a critical mass on a non-geek forum. Funny it waited until an election year.
  • Huge Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DRue (152413) <drue@t h e r u b . org> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:57PM (#8307230) Homepage
    Most people I talked to believe government is the only hope; that egovernment and other government projects are the only way to develop a sustainable local IT sector.

    With that attitude, things will never change. They need to be entrepenuers (sp?) and build their own market from the ground up. It won't work top down style sitting around waiting for the gov't to start ordering technology. Computers are cheap (even there) - start using them.
  • great (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:01PM (#8307278)
    All the Delhi LUG crowd reads Slashdot.

    More competition for American jobs and the elusive the first post.

  • by JustAnotherReader (470464) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:05PM (#8307333)
    I met programmers who lived in apartments and houses that cost anywhere between $200 and $500 per month.

    So what we really have is this scenario:

    1. US software companies tend to exist in Silicon valley, Orange County, San Diego County, and Boston. These are also the most expensive places in the country to live.
    2. US software companies don't seem to want to allow telecommuting when their employees live within driving distance of work. They certainly don't want to allow it when the employee lives in, for example, Kentucky.
    3. That means that the employees need to make wages high enough to afford housing in these markets. How do you pay a mortgage of $2500 to $4000 a month if you're not making $90k to $120k a year?
    4. The US employees average car loan cost him $350 a month, plus auto insurance, plus gas (which hovers around $2 a gallon here in California).
    5. So the US employee has NO CHOICE but to live in the expensive part of the country because the companies are too short sighted to see the benefit of letting their employees telecommute from places where the cost of living is cheaper. And yet isn't this EXACTLY what outsourcing is? It's just hiring employees who telecommute from a place where the cost of living is cheaper.
    6. Therefore: US employees must have higher wages to maintain a middle class standard of living that would cost 30% to 50% less in other areas of OUR OWN country.
    7. Employers then make the dumb-ass decision that "US programmers are too expensive" and they move the jobs offshore to India instead of using any of the easily available and less morally bankrupt cost cutting tools available to them.
      • The software companies caused their own problem. Our own government make the problem worse by keeping instrest rates so low that housing prices (not value, but prices) have skyrocketed. It's not the programmer's fault that the jobs in this country exist where they do, but we're the ones who are getting screwed.

        If US companies had enough foresight to see beyond the tips of their own noses they would realize that they could save money simply by outsourcing jobs to the midwest. Keep American jobs, keep the tax base here in America, and take the higher moral road.

        Have any of these companies thought about where their customers will come from when the middle class and upper middle class in America are no longer working AND no longer contributing to the tax base? There's more to outsourcing than me losing my job. This is the straw that will break America's already overloaded economic back.

  • slashdot feature (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moojin (124799) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:08PM (#8307382)
    this was a really interesting post and response. could we do something like this for other countries like China, Philippines, Korea, Russia, Ireland, England, etc. it would be very interesting to learn about other IT professionals / slashdot geeks all over the world and their perspective of certain tech issues like off shore outsourcing, open source movement, etc.

  • by The Slashdolt (518657) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:09PM (#8307392) Homepage
    One question I would have liked to see asked is about intellectual property laws. Copyrights and things of that nature. As the interview states, many of our Indian brethren read slashdot so maybe one of them can reply to this. My question is about what kind of IP laws exist in India in comparison to US laws. Are US copyright laws valid there? What is to stop a company from outsourcing to India, and then having the company in India take that new IP and later compete with the company that originally outsourced to it?

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:15PM (#8307481)
    ..is that in general, people (geeks and non-geeks) don't seem to see that massive IT work on a beehive scale probably isn't going to last very long in india either.
    99% of software related work I do today I do with software that I get for free of the net. It's called OSS.

    What's still missing in the OSS dept?

    Feasable ERP and usable Multimedia (video NLE/Compositing, animation, 3D). And games maybe.
    What else? Niche stuff at most.

    That being said, wouldn't it be cool for western geeks to collect something like the 100 000 $ for Blender to have a large team in india do some grunt work on XFree, GNU Enterprise or something else? Or maybe the base for the blender 3.0 redoo, with NLE, NLA, crystal space engine integration and all that?

    Some 50 programmers or so could actually make a living over there and we'd all be on the winning side. I personally would LOVE to call myself a sharehoplder of the 'Indian Team OSS Group' or so. What do other slashdotters think about this? Am I making sense?
  • by mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:23PM (#8307603)

    Q: This point has already been mentioned a bit by previous articles, but I'd like to hear an insider's take on it. The Indian tech economy is booming now, but like in the US, it's an unstable boom. Sooner or later, the US will look to other countries for their tech work, leaving India high and dry. What measures are being taken in India to maintain a strong internal tech economy, in the event that the US is no longer a serious customer?

    A: Most people I talked to believe government is the only hope; that egovernment and other government projects are the only way to develop a sustainable local IT sector. Next question (asked by Indians I spoke to): "Where is the government going to get the money?" I was asked to pose this one to Slashdot readers. Consider it posed. Plenty of Indians would like to know the answer.

    Let's hope for the sake of Indians that you're wrong.

    But for the sake of argument, let's assume you're right, i.e. let's assume that most [if not all] Indians look to their government to solve their problems for them.

    Then I can say with 100% metaphysical certainty that these people will never pose a threat to us in any way, matter, shape, or form.

    Next. [Threat, that is.]

  • by slackr (228760) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:26PM (#8307648)
    Next question (asked by Indians I spoke to): "Where is the government going to get the money?"

    To answer this question (since it was posed) the Indian government will have a hard time coming up with enough money to do anything for 1 billion people when the very lucky ones are only pulling down $10,000/year. See, according to my paystub, the answer *would* be taxes, but here in the US we have a much lower unemployment rate and I personally pay enough in taxes to support two full-time programmers in India, or to put that in even starker perspective, I give enough money to the US government to hire and retain almost 50 Indian household servants.

    And I couldn't come close to affording one here in the states. In fact, I don't make much at all. In other words, here in the US we are not expecting the government to build us a new economy, and yet middle-class folks like me are funding the government with much bigger sums of money to provide baseline social services to a much smaller population.

    It seems to me that while a homegrown IT market is a great and important plan, the Indian government will not find it easy to create an entire economy based on that alone. But why does everyone have to work in the tech industry? Take a tip from FD Roosevelt's "New Deal" plan to get the US out of its depression back in the 1930's. It goes like this:
    (people who need homes) + (people who need jobs) = (lots of jobs building houses). All kinds of infrastructure can be created this way, building roads, office complexes, etc., and once everyone's on their feet they will continue to benefit from all of these public works projects taht were created during the hard times.

    Right but there's still that huge population, so who's going to pay for all that? Easy, one more lesson in US public funding: DEFICIT SPENDING. It's simple, if you don't have the cash, spend it anyway. When will you pay it back? We haven't figured that out yet, but it sure beats begging. Like my Dad always says, I'd rather owe it to you than cheat you out of it ;)
  • by glinden (56181) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:51PM (#8308012) Homepage Journal
    I thought this was particularly interesting.
    • Q: I'd like to know how long it will be before Indian tech professionals start forming startup companies to compete directly with their American corporate masters using what they have learned from them.

      A: It's already happening. Like mad.
    By outsourcing, US firms are creating their own future competition. While this happens in the US as well, intellectual property protections are weaker in these developing countries, increasing the risk.

    At a minimum, US companies should be careful about outsourcing any work that they consider to be part of a competitive advantage for their firm.
  • by tabdelgawad (590061) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:22PM (#8308377) Homepage
    'Job outsourcing' has become the buzzword of every one who is, or claims to be, concerned with the US employment picture. Last week, N. Gregory Mankiw, the chairman of the US council of economic advisers, committed a cardinal sin by declaring that "Outsourcing is a growing phenomenon, but it's something that we should realize is probably a plus for the economy in the long run". Both republican and democratic politicians asked for his head (just do a search on 'mankiw' in google news).

    But Mankiw is right (notwithstanding the old adage that in the long run, we are all dead!). There's not one dime's worth of difference in principle between 'outsourcing', which many hate, and 'free trade' which seems to have become the acceptable norm in American politics. Outsourcing is simply the extension of free trade from the goods markets to the service markets. It represents a shrinking of what economists call the 'nontradable sector', goods and services that are by nature are difficult/impossible to trade. Any defense of free trade policies (and there are many convincing ones) applies equally well to job outsourcing.

    I don't mean to be callous about job losses. It was regrettable when the buggywhip makers lost their jobs to technological advances. It was regrettable when auto workers lost their jobs in the 80s to the Japanese carmakers. And it is regrettable when US programmers lose jobs to their Indian counterparts. But life goes on, the US employment picture will improve, and the complaints about 'outsourcing' will disappear until the next spike in US unemployment a few (hopefully many!) years from now. It's the way free trade works.

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