Wednesday, January 26, 2005

outsourcing europeans

By Jason Overdorf
(This article appeared in Business 2.0 magazine in January 2005).

With hundreds of employees yakking into headsets, Tecnovate's New Delhi office looks like a typical Indian call center, except for one thing: Nearly 100 of these workers aren't Indian. Call it "multilingual outsourcing" or "Eurosourcing" -- Tecnovate is leading a new trend in call-center hiring. Taking advantage of the 20-somethings who flock to India for postcollege sojourns, the firm is hiring workers from Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the like. The Europeans get an exotic year on the subcontinent, while Tecnovate gets a polyglot staff to serve its 15 travel, financial, and telecommunications clients. The imports work for Indian wages -- $5,000 to $8,000 a year, about 25 percent of what they'd earn at home -- but live like royalty. With an employment package that includes housing, a housekeeper, and time off to travel, Tecnovate has attracted more than 200 European workers since testing the program in 2002. Some have fallen in love with India and renewed their contracts. "Getting to know the culture and the way of living is something you don't see as a tourist," says Tea Westerlund, a Tecnovate staffer from Finland.

CEO Prashant Sahni says the privately held firm's profits have more than doubled every year since the nine-language model launched. Now other companies are taking notice of the young European workforce. A new employment firm called LaunchOffshore recently placed six Brits in Indian jobs and is looking to recruit a large number of multilingual Europeans in the coming year. That's an opportunity in any language.