Harith's Space!

In "Harith's Space!" I share some personal feelings, memories, thoughts and observations. Help me to make this space positive by allowing me to learn from your feedback.


Outsourced is the name of a movie that I watched on a flight from Abu Dhabi (UAE) to NY last July. I stopped in UAE for few days after two months I spent in India outsourcing!!

Apparently the movie has been out for quite sometime. It was released in 2006, however, it never occurred to me before taking this flight. Here is a little synopsis from the movie official website:

Outsourced is a modern day comedy of cross-cultural conflict and romance. Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) spends his days managing a customer call center in Seattle until his job, along with those of the entire office, are outsourced to India. Adding insult to injury, Todd must travel to India to train his new replacement. As he navigates through the chaos of Bombay and an office paralyzed by constant cultural misunderstandings, Todd yearns to return to the comforts of home.

I was not very pleased with Etihad’s Airlines list of 50 movies. Somehow all movies did not appeal to me. While browsing the list, I got caught by the name of this movie, so I decided to watch it (or at least part of it) while having my dinner.

I finished my delicious dinner, but decided to delay my nap and continue watching. From the first ten minutes I started to laugh. I was quickly able to relate to personal experience. For someone who has been to India twice to outsource software maintenance work, I felt the story and events were very true.

In my opinion, the message of the movie was in a sentence that one of the Indian co-workers said to Todd in the middle of one argument. He was frustrated how all his plans aren’t working and how he is not meeting a single milestone. The Indian co-worker said in full confidence: “You must understand the culture first!”

There is a misconception that India’s pool of resources is able to turn the hell to a heaven on the fly. Managements are usually distracted by exciting and promising financial reports and charts. They look to outsourcing as the silver bullet for solving all expected and unexpected problems. I see that management usually miss one of the most important aspects, and that is team maturity. Building a team is not an overnight assignment. It is a process that takes a lot of time, effort and patience. Depending on the team maturity and project complexity, it could take anytime from weeks to years!

I would like to share a very personal view. US management expectations are usually unrealistic. At the same time, India’s management over commit themselves. There is always a gap in communication and in managing expectations. It is clear that anything in the United States in based on a process. This is however not the same for India and so many other third world countries. This makes US processes and scales lack huge cultural differences, therefore they cannot be applied overseas. In my opinion, there must be cultural-oriented scales and metric for managing development teams overseas. Managing overseas teams should also be led by people who understand both cultures in order to bridge the gaps.

To make a very long story short, outsourcing is indeed a mutual learning experience. You teach how to do the work and you learn by time how to get things done! Again, from personal experience, software outsourcing is excellent on the long run, but definitely not advisable for hitting short-term goals. It can be devastating.

The movie is a very good one and funny as well. I highly recommend it especially if you’re curious to know more about outsourcing, and/or you’re about to visit India for an outsourcing mission!

5 comments

  1. iroosma  

    I have also seen the movie Outsourced. I thought all the Indian cultural references were hilarious. You appear to have some really valuable insight on outsourcin development projects. You really should write up a white paper on this for your company. I am sure your manager would be very impressed.

  2. iroosma  

    I have also seen the movie Outsourced. I thought all the Indian cultural references were hilarious. You appear to have some really valuable insight on outsourcin development projects. You really should write up a white paper on this for your company. I am sure your manager would be very impressed.

  3. Sujit Pal  

    Hi Harith, nice article -- I've seen this movie a while back. Although being from India originally myself, I don't find the contrast quite as stark as the movie projects. It is possible that my brain automatically discounts the promises with what is feasible. My experience working with an outsourced team of engineers from India has been quite positive. One thing I do notice is that there is a need for a lot more guidance and supervision from the US side for successful integration -- not surprising, since the only interaction they have with us is electronic.

    Oh, btw, I liked your clustermap, so I put one on my blog as well :-).

  4. adampreston2  

    good review. very thoughtful. i haven't watched that movie yet but I plan to.

  5. Parag Patel  

    Nice Article!! I totally agree with the line "Learn the culture" to be successful. Being brought up in India and now working in the US, I taught myself to learn and accept the US culture as I think that is only way I can be successful. In same way for outsourcing to work the firm needs to understand the work culture of that country whether it is Mexico or India.
    I really found this movie hilarious.

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