I started my business in the UK, some 20 years back. By 1996 we had around 15 people (in Devon). This is when I started hearing the first murmurs about clients sending work to India. The word “oursourcing” had not come into usage. It was very early days. I took the decision (possibly the most important decision in my life) to get on a plane and see what is going on there, as it would certainly affect us. I met a small group of around 15 people (River Valley Technologies) with whom I had an instant rapport. We had intense discussions and upon my return I reported my finding to the staff. I was excited by the prospect of a partnership and the chance to grow our business. I distinctly remember that I could only see the positive side, nothing negative crossed my mind.
In a staff meeting I was very frank. I said that wages (and living costs in general) were around 1/10th in India. And whether we like it or not India is going to be a “player”. I asked them what they would do in my position. I suggested two choices:
- Reduce UK staff to a minimum and take on staff in India, thus reducing overheads radically.
- Keep UK staff, take on 10 times as many India staff, train them, increase our turnover several-fold, and each UK staff member would “manage” a team in India.
My strong preference, I told them, was the latter, and it was. Unfortunately they didn’t see it that way. Negative seeds had been sown by a few people, and I heard comments like “we don’t want to train ourselves out of a job”. There was clearly resistance. The upshot was that we were not able to expand as I had hoped. In time all the UK staff lost their jobs, and our growth in India was slower than it could have been. It seems other companies had the same attitude, and of course 90% of my then competitors went out of business in due course.
I think we should look at any change as an opportunity. Let’s use it to our advantage, and let’s innovate our way forward.