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India and Latin America: Tata Consultancy Services and Uruguay

September 22, 2006
kamla bhatt

Thomas Friedman has an op-ed in The New York Times (Sept 22, 2006) on India and Latin America. The op-ed is specially about the small nation of Uruguay "wedged between Brazil and Argentina." This country with a population of three million people "has come from nowhere to partner with India's biggest technology company, Tata Consultancy Services, to create in just four years one of the largest outsourcing operations in Latin America."(bold mine.)



Uruguay emerged as as outsourcing hub because of one man's vision and that is Gabriel Rozman, a retired partner from Ernst & Young. Mr. Rozman approached Tata Consultancy Services writes Mr. Friedman when "he did not have a single client or employee...He had just two things: gut instinct that Uruguay's quality education system had produced plenty of good, low-cost engineers and a gut desire to do do something good in Uruguay - the country that gave his Hungarian parents sanctuary from Hitler."


Mr. Friedman goes on to describe how Mr. Rozman's gut instinct paid off and how engineers from Uruguay and India are learning to work together in spite of the cultural shock. Imagine this there are no Indian restaurants in Montevideo. There are other shocks like customers expect the engineers from Uruguay to behave like Indians. As Mr. Friedman writes, "to see Uruguayans pretending to be Indians serving Americans is quite a scene." Another challenge is the fact that Latin American culture is "very non-hierarchical." Getting used to hearing "no" was challenging for the Indians to accept.


The central point in the op-ed is perhaps what Mr. Friedman calls the "new normal." Here is how he puts it:


"In outsourcing, though, Uruguay has leapt ahead of its neighbors by becoming the first to understand what could be done - that in today's world having an Indian company led by Hungarian-Uruguayan servicing American banks with Montevidean engineers managed by Indian technologists, who have learnt to eat Uruguayan veggie is just the new normal."


A few weeks ago I wrote a post about India and Latin America and mentioned that a gentleman from Uruguay knew about an Indian company and its IT work. Now, I understand why the gentleman from Uruguay knew about Tata. He mentioned that a whole bunch of engineers were staying in his apartment complex in Montevideo.


I wonder how many times before this new normal of the 21st century there were other new normals in the world? I am thinking of the 15th and 16th century and the discovery of the magnetic compass .... how did the word "batata" enter Marathi language? Or, how is that you have Indian cows and mango trees in Costa Rica? As any good Costa Rican eco tourist guide will tell you: "de India."

Kamla Bhatt produces and hosts an Internet radio show http://kamlabhattshow.com. The show is also featured on http://www.podtech.net/indiatech/author/kamlab/ a Silicon Valley-based She blogs at http://kamlabhattshow.com/blog and http://ifyougoto.com, a travel blog. Life, People and Ideas is the underlying and unifying theme for her show and blogs.
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India and Latin America: Tata Consultancy Services and Uruguay

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Author: kamla bhatt

 

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#1
Vikas
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September 24, 2006
12:22 AM

Kamla: I agree that it was an intersting article by Mr. Friedman. The best way to have some semblance of peace in today's world is to know and understand other cultures and appreaciate the differences.

I don't know if you read reader's comments to that article but they are quite revealing. There is of course some usual grumbling by a guy who thinks that outsourcing is taking away American jobs, but there are also some genuine concerns there about quality of service.

#2
Kamla
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September 24, 2006
12:08 PM

Thanks Vikas for your feedback.

While I do not have any facts or information about TCS in Latin America and its quality of service...I can only make an educated guess. basic premise of any business is there will be quite a few wrinkles before the process become smooth and efficient. Probably, that might be the case with TCS in Latin America. Language and culture are two issues that can hamper business operations, which in turn will impact the quality of service.

I am speaking from personal experience of having to work with virtual teams in different countries...no language barrier...everybody spoke English...however this one phrase from Indian engineers created quie a bit of confusion: "No problems, we can do it." The one example that I can think of is the Japanese phrase "hai," which is not exactly "yes," but more akin to "I hear you."

Hope my explanation made some sense.

Kamla

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