Fear of Being Outsourced? Fight Back
Me, outsourced? Impossible. How could they replace a business-humor columnist? But my brother-in-law, the radiologist, told me his hospital was threatening to cut his position because they had found a medical group out of India that would read MRIs at half the cost.
He warned me, "Hesh, don't be so smug. No one is indispensable in today's world economy."
He was right. I had become blasé. I needed to diversify and find readers outside the USA, especially in the booming call-centers of India.
Do Indians find our business customs humorous? I decided to do some research. I called the IBM help desk. I asked the technician where he was located. He said "Birmingham, Alabama," and he said it with pride.
I asked for his boss. I told her that I wanted to be helped by someone in Bombay. "What? I usually get the opposite requests," she blurted out.
I told her that I found their staff people in India to be more helpful and courteous. And I found their English easier to comprehend compared to the southern accents from Birmingham.
Within seconds, I was talking to Bombay. After spending a few minutes on a fictitious problem, I asked my help-support person what he found humorous about working with Americans.
He said, "Sir, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on you Americans and your business practices."
I kept on digging. "You must be frustrated spending eight hours a day listening to us Americans. How do you blow off steam?
He suggested I call a business radio talk show in Bombay where the locals call in with their problems of working with westerners. It was called "Can I Speak to your Supervisor, Please."
Using my computer I was able to find a real cheap Internet-phone line to Bombay, and I called. The radio show's producer doubted my veracity when I told him I was calling from the USA. He thought it was a crank call. But when he listened to my accent - half Pittsburgh and the other half Brooklyn - he knew no Indian could impersonate that dialect.
He reminded me to use only my first name, when being interviewed. The talk show host began, "Our next caller is a Mister Hesh from the USA. We are very lucky to have an overseas caller. Welcome to our show."
"What is it about doing business with Americans that you find most intriguing or disconcerting?" I asked.
"A great question," the talk show host realized he had an issue that could generate some controversy. "Mr. Hesh, why not hold on as we let our callers respond."
The first caller began, "Mr. Hesh, you Americans have such a childish belief system. You expect every problem to be solvable. Our culture has taught us the inevitability of misfortune. I want to say to callers, 'Sorry, Mrs. Grady, your hard drive is forever broken and can never be repaired. Please unplug it and grieve for the next 10 minutes.' But, I am not allowed."
The second caller said. "We are obligated to try to sell you a software upgrade with each call. We think that this is very inhospitable. In our culture when someone calls for help, one must never try to gain an advantage from another's adversity. But we are taught that this is what makes you Americans so wealthy."
The producer asked me to call again. He had dozens of local callers waiting to talk to me. Before I knew it I was a radio personality in India with my own morning business call-in show.
Now, I visit India almost twice a month. I am a regular commentator on their TV morning shows and a sought-after lecturer at business conferences.
The travel back and forth is brutal even in first class. Plus, because of the time difference I have to be wide awake from 2 a.m to 5 a.m to take the calls from my audience. Why I am actually considering moving to India permanently.
Somehow the governor found out about my impending move (I bet it was from my mother) and he called asking that I not take my business overseas. It would be a terrible loss to our region's image.
He had funds to help businesses keep jobs here. I would qualify for an economic-development grant if I did not relocate. I guess it is like paying farmers not to plant corn. (Do they still do that?)
I called my brother-in-law with my good news, and said, "I told you going to medical school was a poor career choice. You should have majored in English, like I did."
Hesh Reinfeld writes a syndicated business humor column. You can read additional examples of his columns on his website: http://www.heshreinfeld.com Or contact him at email@example.com