Outsourcing R&D holds the key

It is all very well for US politicians and the media to blame the country’s job loss on Bangalore.  But would a cut-back on Bangalored jobs and a freeze on outsourcing improve the employment situation? Bangalore-ing is no longer in vogue; it is a disincentive for companies seeking Obama’s stimulus package. But job losses are reported still. 

It is not because of the concern of the rich for the uplift of the developing world or the benovelence of corporate America, but because of their enlightend self-interest that so many jobs got Bangalored, for so long,  till some time back. A pity,the US can’t bring  the Bangalored jobs back to Boston. Instead, the US recession  has had a seismic impact on India, by way of loss of high-paying jobs, notably, in the software industry. Economists reckon the end of recession is in sight, but the six million plus lost jobs won’t be re-created anytime soon. In earlier recessions, they say,  the US economy had managed to bounce back  because of a steady stream of  tech innovations that gave impetus to economic growth with   high-value jobs creation on a large scale.  The current recession appears to have drained innovative juice out of the entreprenuerial America.

According to Businessweek, America’s position as innovation leader is no longer unrivaled. Time there was when the country had the best of universities, the strongest corporate research, and a government that invested agressively in areas such as advance communications and space exploration. Upshot was a steady stream of world-changing innovations such as the transistor at Bell Labs, and the Internet at the Defence Dept. It was in such a scenario US companies outsourced jobs to India  for cost advantage, but a lot more high-paying jobs were created within the US through breakthrough innovations. This time, they say, the outsourced software and manufacturing jobs have largely been replaced by low-wage service jobs in fast-food and retail sectors. The trend is attributed to a dearth of  breakthrough innovations in recent years; and this is happening  at a time when millions of jobs have been  lost to recession. The point made in the Businessweek article  is that the devil is not in outsourcing.  The key to a bounce-back in the US economy may well be in outsourcing  R&D. 

IBM is already into it, with plans to set up overseas ‘collaboratories’  that match up company researchers with governments, universities and companies in other countries. IBM is looking at Saudi Arabia, Switzerland,China, Ireland,Taiwan and India. It is their enlightened self-interest that drives IBM and a few others into making deals to tap global R&D potentials for breakthrough innovations. The projects are in basic research,  the benefits of which may not be evident, or seem tangible,  for the next three to five years.  The research process  tend to  have  innovative  spin-offs  with commercial  potential. 

Companies that have strong R&D base may well see that it is in their best interest to look beyond national boundaries and their own corporate walls, and seek radical, and globalised collaboration for life-changing innovations.

Obama at Jay Leno show

obamadiya-005Chat show host Jay Leno left us in little doubt as to who was in charge. It was meant to be a one-hour show with the President. And Obama wasn’t even asked in for nearly half an hour,  by the show host Jay Leno. What we got, instead, was some rapid-fire wisecracks, presumably,  to ‘warm up’ his studio audience. Must confess,  I had problem understanding him;  Leno talks a bit too fast for me.

However, a Leno one-liner I did catch was –  “you know what, our economy is so bad that Prsident (Obama) flew South West (to LA),  nine  stops”  (applause).  This was some 20 minutes and two commercial breaks into the show. I watched it on Z-Cafe.

Twenty-five minutes into the show  the President strides in,  shakes hands with Kevin (of the studio band),  makes a fitting remark about Kevin’s suit; and,  after a minute or two of inane preliminaries,  Leno and Obama get down to the serious business of discussing the US economy.

AIG…Tell us about those bonuses,  asks Leno. Obama obliges;  and Leno poses a supplementary on the Bill providing for 90 percent tax on those bonuses.  Before the President could say anything the show host announces yet another commercial break,  asking Obama to hold his answer.

obamadiya-0031‘I will’,  says President Barack Obama,  adding, ‘I’ve got a good answer, too’ (studio applause). Millions of TV viewers the world over witness the world’s most powerful man being put on hold for a commercial break.  Such is the marvel of television that it can make the mighty grin and bear it.

During the Emergency (1976)  our all powerful PM Indira Gandhi,  at an interview with a US channel, got cut-off, mid-sentence, by a clock-watching TV anchor who switched her off saying, ‘That’s all we have time for,  madame  Prime Minister’.

As for the Obama show with Jay Leno,  media pundits in the US  would have us believe that President Obama wanted to get beyond the Washington media , and push his economic agenda with folks who don’t read NYT or WSJ;  he wanted to reach out to the grass-roots audience fed on soap and stand-up comedy in TV.  Barack Obama may well be in a spot over the slide-down in the US economy.  But I didn’t realise he was that desperate as to appear on the Jay Leno show.  

Obama has endeared himself to millions as a President with a common touch.  But isn’t he doing it a bit much,  by  signing up for  chat-shows,  that too barely two months into his office ?

Of Obama and his BlackBerry

Reading about the US presidential right to keep his  BlackBerry, with certain restrictions on access,   I wondered  if  Joe the Plumber  would get  on Obama’s e-mail list. If  he doesn’t,  I don’t see how else can the  ‘people’s president’   stay in touch with folks at the grass-roots level .  Of course,  he  gets   feedback from his trusted Chicago friends  who are security-cleared for inclusion in President’s BlackBerry contacts list.  But it would not  be quite the same for Mr Obama as getting an e-mail from the man on the street.  MOTS,  on their part,  can no longer shoot a mail addressed  barack.obama dot com ,  giving vent to their concerns  on the bailout of General Motors or  the fallout of Gauntanamo closure;  and offering advice to their president on the pedigree that fits in with the White House protocol. 

A NYT article  says  Mr Obama has won the BlackBerry battle he has been waging with his  ‘handlers’.  Was amused by the newsaper reporter’s use of the word  ‘handlers’.  We tend to associate it with handling pets .   The  word may give a handle to newspaper cartoonists.   While on the subject I wonder what the latest is on the search for a puppy  for the Obama White House.  Such is the train of thoughts the use of the word  ‘handlers’ can evoke.

The media in the US,  tracking  the race for the title of  ‘First Dog’ at the  Obama White House,  has now  another Obama  story to chase.  Wouldn’t we all want to be kept informed as to  who makes it to the President’s BlackBerry list, and who doesn’t ? And the story would  not go away so long as there are people lobbying for inclusion. And then there may be some with whom Mr Obama would  want to be in e-mail touch, but can’t, because  they may have problem getting  BlackBerry clearance from the Obama handlers.

Obamas: homeless in Washington

The White House,  I presume,  doesn’t take   sub-tenent,  even if he is the President-elect.  They have Blair House,  a guest residence in the WH neighbourhood.  But when Barack Obama sought permission to move in there  from Jan.5  his  request was  turned down by President Bush’s aides,  according to The New York Times.

Reason:  Blair House was booked till Jan.15,  and the Obamas were welcome to move in then.  The presdent-elect wanted to shift residence from  Chicago to Washignton  in time for his daughters to start school on  Jan.5 ,  when Sidwell Friends re-opens after  holidays.  The Obama children,  Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7,  have been admitted in this school.

Blair House,  where a president-elect can stay for a few days awaiting Inaguration,  is used  rest of the time for White House related parties and receptions. Visiting foreign dignitaries stay there.

Is this a non-story? At least one person thought so. Spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush is quoted in NYT as saying, “you’re trying to make a story out of something that’s not a story”.