Pondicherry is in the news. The former French colony, handed over to India in 1954, has just become the lastest cause celebre in ‘the great outsourcing debate’.
Under the evocative title: Once they were French colonies, now they call back NewIndpress has a piece today on this very topic.
Says Joel Ruet, a researcher with the French Cultural Centre in Delhi: ??Companies?both French and Indian?now offer a variety of opportunities to French-speaking Indians in the software sector. Satyam, Wipro and other companies looking for opportunities in French BPOs have now started to have their own in-house French software translation units where Indians from the old colonies are hired,?? he says. This is apart from the French energy companies like TotalFina and EDS that have come to India and hire those proficient in the language.
The level of activity doesn’t seem to high at present. One India-base observer had this to say (perceptively in my opinion):
Balaji E., General Manager, Ma Foi Consultants, a recruitment firm…….commenting on actual level of outsourcing from France,….says, “France has not been doing too well economically and has a relatively high unemployment rate. There isn’t much outsourcing happening now.”
He also reasons that Europe is typically an employee-driven market unlike the US. “A European country would face greater resistance in outsourcing jobs.”
Nonetheless France’s economic lethargy is only being masked right now by the even greater lethargy to be found in Germany. Having not exactly outperformed in the ‘great China race’ French companies will like all their other EU and US counterparts find themselves cost-pressured to seek solutions. As and when they do Pondicherry, and numerous other former French colonial outposts, will be waiting. Could this at least turn out to be be the unexpected proverbial sting in the once great colonial tail? And could this once obscure village which the French – who arrived there in 1673 – converted into a flourishing trading centre be yet again reborn thanks to its newly revitalised cultural resource?