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Deducted at source

Zafar Anjum | Nov. 7, 2008
If Obama is against outsourcing, why were Bangalore techies rooting for him?

(Nasscom stands for the National Association of Software and Services Companies, and is a consortium that serves as an interface to the Indian software industry and Indian BPO industry.)

Obamas ambivalence is not new. On a related matter, Obama supports the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and wants its vociferous implementation. Yet, he wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his support was there for the Indo-US nuclear deal.

How do you explain this duality? Does it show that Obama can come down from his high-horse of idealism to kiss the donkey of real-politic?

If he does, then the Indian outsourcing community need not bother much about his anti-outsourcing pronouncements.

Wait and watch

But when Obama repeated his stand on outsourcing in his acceptance speech after sealing his win, it sent jitters in the Indian outsourcing community.

I didnt find it surprising that immediately after the news of Obamas win flashed across the worlds TV screens, the Nasscom chief rushed to CNBC-TV18 to assuage the fears of the Indian techies: We should not worry about any ban on outsourcing; it is just not going to happen. If at all, he might give incentives to job creation in America which we support and I dont think that is going to add any adverse impact on Indian outsourcing.

More clarifications followed. At the moment, based on the evidence at hand, most IT leaders in India are discounting Obamas statements as political hyperbole. Some IT leaders have said that Obama being a sane person would not take decisions that would make US companies less competitive. Nasscom president Som Mittal has reportedly said US companies would find the right balance.

Nasscom interpreted Obamas message in a different way. Obama probably meant manufacturing and not software when he referred to outsourcing, it said.

Others are less optimistic but take a positive stand. For example, human resources director of Infosys, Mohandas Pai, said his company will wait and watch.

Thats very practical. All Indian outsourcing companies can do at the moment is wait and watch.

But my feeling is that Obama being a man of his words (thats the image he portrays), he might actually move against all kinds of outsourcing, especially against government sector-related projects.

If that happens, it will certainly affect Indian firms that largely depend on projects from the US. But there are also chances that on assuming office, Obama might want to focus first on the more urgent issues: handling the two wars, developing policies on green energy and bringing the worlds financial system back on its feet. By the time these things are taken care of, the next election will be hovering round the corner.

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia portal.


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