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Outsourcing has moved on from call centres. Foreign companies are outsourcing architectural work to Indian firms, which cost the companies just half the expenses

Say `outsourcing' and you think of call centres and the perfected US slang. Well, that will soon be pass�, for outsourcing is now no longer about call centres only. After tuitions for Western students by Indian teachers, via the net, outsourcing has crept into professional services that involve detail and precision. Such is the level to which technology has woven the world that architect, design and construction firms, in developing countries, find themselves highly marketable. The trend is such that firms in India have begun luring middle range architectural companies in the West to look towards them for comprehensive and professional services. So, no longer is it necessary for firms in countries like the United States of America to require large operations that involve numerous employees, but can instead work as a single proprietor.

The bulk of the work, which involves detail and labour, can be completed in nations like India and sold as a `finished product.' Emphasising on this global trend, Rajesh George and J. Jacob of Visource, a company that offers architectural services, explain, "Sitting in Kochi, we are now able to cater to all the needs of an architectural firm anywhere abroad."

Operating as a back-office, these companies are provided with the designs from clients in, say, the USA, which is then drafted and sent back in digital format. This could include conversion of original drawings into CAD format, a 3D presentation of models and construction documents. The final document in technical language is sent to the client who prints it out for the contractor. In short, all the tedious work takes place here. This includes aspects like engineering. Says Abilash George of Paradigm, which offers professional services for countries like the U.S. Australia and in Europe, "We provide the estimation for work that involves the inside of the building, like the calculation and measurement of steel etc. This is done once architects complete the outer framework." Basically all the work, the entire procedure involved in the construction is done.

In every sense, this appears a very logical option. With intense competition and high overheads, firms in the U.S. find it tough to survive. Mr. George says that any medium-sized company in these advanced countries would require around 20 architects on their roll. "This means salary, space, infrastructure, software, even coffee, which add to the total expenses of a project. Here, we run the show for them at less than half the cost." Thus, as simple logistics puts it, an architect who gets paid $30 an hour, is only paid $14 for the same work in India, making things more feasible and lucrative.

To many, this seems the only way to survive severe competition that is constantly growing in a cost cutting nation like the U.S. Approaching labour intensive nations like India seem the best option. "And the opportunity is massive as far as we are concerned, as only five per cent of the architectural firms in the U.S. have taken to outsourcing their work," reveals Mr. Jacob.

Being a company in operation for just four months, it already has four clients, which prove the vastness of the scope for this kind of business. Here's a new platform of excellence for the service industry in India. Some of the grand new buildings in New York and Washington DC may well have Indian hands behind them.

TANYA ABRAHAM

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