Indian media joins outsourcing boom

Indian media joins outsourcing boom
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First Published: Tue, Mar 20 2007. 02 28 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Mar 20 2007. 02 28 PM IST
By Vijay Satokar, PTI
New Delhi: Are you good in English grammar, spelling and editing? Well there may be a job waiting for you from a newspaper thousands of miles away in the US.
After IT companies, banking and finance companies, call centres, education, medical transcription and legal sectors, it is now the US that is looking for outsourcing editing jobs to India and some other developing countries.
“Sure, there have been some basic business reporting and data-entry jobs moving to India,” says Sreenath Srinivasan, a professor of Mass Communication in Columbia University in an e-mail interview.
Media watchers say Bangalore has already attracted attention of the world media. Reuters opened a data and news gathering operation in Bangalore in 2004 as part of a trial run. The agency’s Bangalore operation today has more than 1,000 employees, including about 100 reporters and editors, who churn out news briefs, analyst ratings changes, earnings tables, economic polling data and other data products for the company’s subscribers. The trend is only gaining momentum.
Global outsourcing of content and other services in the publishing industry is pegged at $2.5 billion (Rs10,979 crore). In India, outsourced publishing service business is doing a turnover of Rs.1000 crores annually. Recent industry analyses show that the newspaper industry in the developed world is ready to outsource its non-core and core functions to destinations such as India to achieve cost cutting.
A recent decision by the Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, to outsource editorial jobs to India has already triggered agitation by the unions there who are up in arms.
Although newspapers have started outsourcing of editorial work to Indian journalists, the change is not going to be smooth for the American readers, says Sunil Saxena, an online journalist and author of book Headline Writing.
Vijay Darda, Rajya Sabha M.P. and Chairman of the Lokmat group of newspapers says his Lokmat group was approached by a well-known British newspaper for editing work.
“We worked for them for six months and found so many grammatical errors. The newspaper editors were happy and were keen to move their classified advertisement handling too to India,” he says.
Saxena says that outsourcing of writing jobs, however, is already a huge industry. A website that sprung up a couple of years ago has substantial databank of ‘ghost writers´ who do copy editing, book editing, website proof reading and writing your resumes.
The website accepts projects and auctions the work — the job is awarded to professionals with lowest bids. Sitting at home, quite a few writers are making good money, he says.
American English is far more vibrant than Indian English. It will therefore be difficult for Indian journalists to rewrite copy. However, they will be able to handle outsourcing that is limited to simple editing and page making. Also, it will be easier to handle work for a magazine than a newspaper.
The main hurdle will be rewriting. Indians write long, convoluted sentences that may put off Americans. Another important factor is time. When will this work be done? In the night or during daytime? It will be hard to retain good staff if all the work is done at night, as currently happens with other BPOs, Saxena says.
Vijay Darda, a former President of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) said the trend is good for the Indian newspaper industry. “I feel good and proud. This kind of job paves way for further improving our performance besides generating additional revenue,”, he says. Darda said he was happy to see that his editorial team started spending more time in libraries reading and polishing their English.
Quite a few Indian companies already handling overseas work have now added editing and proof reading as also ghost writing to their portfolios.
A company, Hi-Tech Export in Ahmedabad offers 40 hours of proof reading and copy editing for $295. Started in 1992, the company did data processing for other Indian companies and later expanded its offerings developing markets in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
Now it also has an office in the US in Omaha. Another company, Cicada Media in Bangalore, India, focuses on corporate and marketing communications. It offered to correct errors in grammar, spelling, usage and style, and to proofread. US companies are advertising for copy editors now on Monster India, the overseas cousin of the Monster.com job site we know here.
A newsroom, bedeviled by missed deadlines, a short-handed copy desk and a lack of editing candidates, gets creative, says Joe Grimm, Recruiting and Development officer in Detroit Free Press on a website.
According to him, the newsroom then finds a company that offers editing services. The company is overseas, perhaps in India or Singapore. Powered by fiber-optic connections that carry data all the way around the world in less than a second, the off-shore company offers a guarantee on deadline performance.
The quality is good. Hundreds of thousands of people in India grow up in English-speaking schools, and they’re working hard to build careers. The work is cheap by US standards. The rate is a third less than what the American newspaper is paying. There are no health benefits, vacations or sick days, and no utility or equipment costs to the newspaper, he says.
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First Published: Tue, Mar 20 2007. 02 28 PM IST
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