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 This time, they say, the outsourced software and manufacturing jobs have largely been replaced by low-wage service jobs in fast-food and retail sectors.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 ?

Leaving Dubai

Dubai is, perhaps, the last place with which I would have associated global recession,  had I not read Paul Lewis in The Guardian.  Excerpts:  At the (Dubai) airport, hundreds of cars have apparently been abandoned in recent weeks. Keys are left in the ignition and maxed out credit cards and apology letters in the glove box. 

Such is the fate of Brit  expats who become victims of the economic meltdown.  The plight of construction workers from India,  Pakistan and Bangladesh is more unimaginable.  They leave,  only with the clothes they are in,  and with their debts following them  home. Most of them had sold their land in the village and borrowed money to meet the airfare and agent’s fee.

The Guardian article quotes the site manager of a scaled down construction project  as saying,   We tell them to bring their clothes to work one day and then we send them home

Wonder if  MBP’s  Dubai-based  bloggers and some others familiar with  the region  (Maddy,  Happy Kitten)  have anything to add to this.