Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

China and India are coming to get you!

Ok so they're not really coming for you, but here's an interesting post from the Wall Street Journal on the number of engineers they are producing. I agree that just because you produce more of something doesn't mean the quality is better. So why do people get two very different things so confused?

My initial thought is with people like Tom Friedman publishing The World is Flat and warning us about China and India's oncoming dominance, a certain sense of paranoia/fear gets paraded around. Yes, China and India are both rapidly developing countries with many people hungry for "success". I put "success" in quotations because that "success" they strive for is a definition of the word that the western world has created and spread. Thus I find it ironic they're striving for something we mostly have (if you agree with the common definition of success including lots of luxuries and an easier way of life) when its precisely the lack of luxuries that is giving them their current advantage. What I mean by this is that the western world becomes accustomed to luxuries and thus are not "hungry" for "success" like the many people in China and India. It's quite a vicious circle of consumption...

My next thought is wondering what role the private sector is going to play in the balancing of education/training between the western world and rapidly developing countries such as India and China. Take, for instance, this passage from the WSJ post:

In China, a program to expand college enrollment in the 1990s led to slipping standards, says Prof. Mao Shoulong of Renmin University. “Once you get in, it’s [too] easy to graduate,” he says. Many Chinese universities support themselves by charging tuition. Despite taking in as many students as fit in cramped dorm rooms, they can’t generate enough cash to pay for high-quality equipment, labs, and classrooms. The resulting scarcity of strong scientists and engineers coming from universities has led many companies to set up in-house training programs. Microsoft was the first high-profile company to set up such a program in China. Software-services company Infosys Technologies Ltd. has a 16-week training course that costs $5,000 per employee.”

Very interesting! And then there are programs such as the one provided by Infosys for US employees where they send the trainees to their 300+ acre HQ campus, train them for 6+ months, then set them free in various cities around the US. *Note: To read more about such an experience I point you to Rizwan's blog, a former CK employee and a good friend.

Somewhat on a tangent, I wonder specifically how this US to foreign country type of program pays off for a company when it's so obvious how the above mentioned programs such as Microsoft's (foreign country to US or improve skills in foreign country) pay off. In the latter case, it's that the company trains driven, often poor individuals, thus capitalizing on lack of resources/opportunity in said country, then "underpays" the individuals relative to performance in comparison to western world, expenses stay low, profit goes up... and the company has a loyal employee who is likely thankful for the opportunity the company that is often from the western world gave the individual.

More importantly, I'm amazed at the ability of companies to influence the balance of education/skills between the western world and the developing world. However, if you're a young adult like me in the western/developed/whatever you want to call it world, you shouldn't be afraid of the ongoing improvements in China, India, and the like - you should welcome it, because the improvements there improve the companies and way of life here, making us (in theory) all wealthier. Not to mention that certain jobs CAN'T be outsourced and if you're good enough, you're not going to get outsourced... so this phenomenon should only drive improvements in our productivity, the developing world's productivity, and thus the general quality of life should continue improving.

Addendum: But then I wonder about other things, to be written about in other posts. One of these worries is that even with the gap between the developed and developing countries narrowing, the gap (seemingly) between the have and have-nots within the developing countries seems to be widening. This could become a significant issue, if it is not one already...

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another good follow-up to the Infosys experience can be found on one of Rizwan's friend's blogs here

Anonymous said...

Specifically, here

Rizzo said...

interesting thoughts! seeing as how i'm Rizwan, i'm curious to know who this anonymous character is =) but you have a number of provoking questions. specifically with regard to the payoff a company looks to get when they send US trainees to development and training facilities on the other side of the world, you're right - it would almost seem counterintuitive at first glance. not only are we flown here from the US on the company dime, we are paid more than the local trainees - almost 3 times more - and taken care of for the better half of a year before we're flown back home - again on the company dime. the company is clearly investing a HUGE amount in us, and at times their return on that investment, financially, can be very low, even negative, for some trainees who see the opportunity as nothing more than a free ticket to India.

but this reverse outsourcing has proved to be immensely rewarding, not just for Infosys but also for other companies, including Microsoft, that 'import' employees from developed countries. after all, training costs here are SIGNIFICANTLY lower. although US trainees get paid much more than Indian trainees, at the end of the day we're still getting paid in Indian rupees, which when converted into US dollars is a meager income - barely enough to scrape by - if we were being trained in the US. the money that's gone into developing this 300-acre training center is also much less than if a similar set of facilities were built in the US or somewhere in western Europe.

more thoughts to come sometime soon, hopefully - right now it's after midnight here and i need to sleep =)

Visit College Knowledge to take a look at our website. said...

You know, that's a good point - I didn't know they pay you in rupees and that they pay you "less" than you would make here. Of course, your money probably goes much further in India than if you were training here in the US.

You promise more to come... hopefully we'll see a full post with your thoughts on this and related topics - I'd love to link to it and add my two cents.

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