I was not amused to see Lou Dobb, the anchorman of a CNN news program mixing up
the issue of the recent BPO fraud committed by MphasiS employees on its Citibank
clients, with those of "Illegal Aliens" and "Exporting
America". I was watching TV in my small pigeon-hole hotel room in Kyoto,
and thought no else would have taken notice of the show (assuming everybody was
watching the Pope’s funeral).
I was horribly wrong. When I met some of my Japanese hosts during breakfast,
the first thing they mentioned to me was how employees of an Indian BPO company
had swindled Citibank account holders of $350,000. After that I also met an
American gentleman, and he said he was not comfortable with the idea of putting
his money in a bank which claimed to be a US bank, but was actually run out of
some remote country. My Japanese, as well as US friends, wanted to know if this
was a regular problem, had I heard of more such cases, what steps were being
taken by Indian BPO companies to counter these threats, what were the legal
remedies available in India for frauds committed on people outside India, and so
I had no sure answers for some of those questions, but I told my friends that
Lou Dobb was only giving one side of the story. What the famous TV anchor was
not telling the Americans was that it was in his own country where some of the
biggest cyber crimes are committed. What he did not tell the Americans was in
that world over, about $1.5 bn was lost in such frauds last year, and $350,000
was less than even a fraction of that.
What Lou Dobb did not tell his viewers was that as per the latest survey of
Brown&Wilson (The Black Book of Outsourcing), 12 Indian BPO companies and
call centers have figured in the world’s best managed outsourcing companies.
The ranking are based on customer and employee satisfaction surveys, comparison
with other BPO companies, and ratings on client performance. And what Lou Dobb
conveniently forgot to admit before the viewers was that US companies were
gaining significant commercial and competitive edge by replacing highly overpaid
and less efficient workers, with cheaper and more efficient workforce. And,
unless US companies do this, their survival will be at stake.
Lou Dobb might be a ‘patriotic and nationalist’ journalist, but he was
actually doing more harm to the Americans. His followers will end up having
higher operational costs, lesser customer satisfaction, and therefore will be
lesser competitive. He is indirectly suggesting that employing US workers is
more important than hiring better workers. Besides all this he is also promoting
a rift between nations who want to work together.
Anyway, that is his problem and of those who want to follow him. The fact is
that the move towards outsourcing will not be affected by such events. If one
observes closely, the MNC clients are themselves trying to downplay the whole
affair. For them it is something unfortunate, but they admit these things do
happen. They have not indicated that they are re-considering their decisions to
However, considering that politics in the US and some European countries is
now based on emotive issues, there might be a possible backlash to this. India
Inc, on the whole, and our political leaders, must make a note of this, and
ensure that there is extra focus on security processes and redressal mechanisms.
A New York citizen should be equally safe-whether he is dealing with a US bank
with or without outsourcing.
Lastly, I hope everybody knows that by June 2006, most global companies would
want India to have certain standard practices like Basel I and II, and Sarbanes
Oxley, HIPPA, and SAS 70 put in place. Otherwise, no business with India.
The author is Editor of Dataquest IBRAHIM