Re: India: Reality Check On IT - Masters or cyber-coolies? (fwd)
> The crux, the key, is low wages.exactly; trivedi makes a similar point in the post on 'cyber-coolies,
english and hindi'
from time to time the forbes magazine 'public legend' about the
bombay dabbawallas does the rounds on the internet. you know the one -
- "Six Sigma for Mumbai's Dabbawallas":
"They make one Error on every 16 million transactions.... The charge
for this extraordinary service is just 150 rupees ($3.33) per month,
enough for the tiffinwallahs, who are mostly self-employed, to make a
good living. After paying Rs. 60 per crate and Rs.120 per man per
month to the Western Railway for transport, the average Tiffinwallas
clears about Rs. 3,250."
"a good living" in mumbai on rs. 3,250 a month -- yeah, right.
and we all have anecdotes of this kind to narrate: take the the
local 'iranian' eatery, 'cafe bahar', 100m down the road from my
place. the amount of 'traffic' the front-desk chap handles at any
given time is simply amazing -- a dozen dishes in varying quantities,
some for the 'table' and some 'parcel'; the occasional customization
request -- mirchi kam -- to be built into the orders; the constant
reprioritization -- 'wajid, kya hora?' 'chicken 65 chota
saab'; 'nakko, usko do banao, ek parcel aur ek table, aur uske baad,
ek cashew parcel': and this triage is in 'realtime' as the kids say.
in the several hundred parcels i've taken from the place (yes, i'm
practically the cornerstone of their business :), there've been mix-
ups all of three times, and then the alternatives have been close
enough: mutter paneer instead of palak paneer, that kind of thing.
someone else was telling me about a chow mein joint on the pavement
on a commercial street in kolkata which was doing roaring business.
an upstart macdonald's came up opposite -- swank, slick and
expensive. the mac-place closed down in six months: it just couldn't
match the efficiency levels of the chow mein joint.
unfortunately, as bidwai and trivedi point out, the economic heart of
this high efficiency lies in low purchasing power and low wages.
precisely because wages are pathetic, costs are low, and affordable
within the disposable incomes of the middle class.
nor is this new: as fernand braudel in _the perspective of the world_
(1979; tr. 1984) -- the third volume of his magisterial 'civilization
and capitalism: 15th-18th century' -- reports:
"It is a truism to speak of the gap between Indian wages and those in
Europe. In 1736, the directors of the East India Company reckoned
that the wages of French workmen (and we know that these were far
below those of English labour) were six times as high as wages in
> The cost of an Indian employee is $6,180, or sevenif wajid's wages were such that he could live a half-way decent life,
> times lower.
these six sigma stories might look rather different.
Dr A Giridhar RAO
'Sudarshan' 1st Floor, 3-5-819 Hyderguda, Hyderabad 500 029, India.
Tel +91-40-2323 2989. drgiridhar@....
--- In FRIENDS_of_UP@yahoogroups.com, shaji john <shajijohnk@r...>
> "Frederick Noronha (FN)" <fred@g...> wrote:To:
> CC: s-asia-it@a...or cyber-coolies? (fwd)
> From: "Frederick Noronha (FN)"
> Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2003 00:56:49 +0530 (IST)
> Subject: [bytesforall_readers] India: Reality Check On IT - Masters
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> India: Reality Check On IT
> Masters or cyber-coolies?
> By Praful Bidwai
> [July 7 2003]
> The success of India's information technology (IT) industry and
> related businesses has produced such a euphoric and exuberant
> reaction that some of its more enthusiastic celebrants have already
> declared India a "knowledge-based society" and "information
> superpower" which qualifies it for a special global status. This
> "knowledge-based" description sounds odd, to put it mildly, in a
> society in which almost half the population is illiterate, the
> general level of skills very low, and transmission of knowledge
> severely restricted by the hierarchies of class, caste and gender.