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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bhaav kam karo...Indian content writers...

"Bhaav kam karo," apparently, is Hindi for "make this price less." I thought it was an appropriate title for a post about Indian content writers.

Americans profess to love competition, whether it comes in the form of Sunday afternoon football games or holiday retail price wars. We flock to those who offer more for less and seek out values whenever possible. Competition is at the core of the free enterprise system and we commend those who find a way to offer lower prices or better service. We dismiss those who cannot keep up with competition as the natural casualties of the marketplace and don't shed a tear when bloated and inefficient enterprises are replaced by better alternatives. We congratulate winners. Competition is welcomed. It is, we say, the American way.

Hypocritically, we suddenly change our tunes when competition begins to have an impact on us as individuals. The very same writers who will compare prices and seek out better deals when buying office supplies are somehow offended at the prospect of dropping their own prices in the face of competition. We love the idea of competition as a society, but despise it as individuals. This is very evident to me when I look at American writers' reaction to Indian freelance content writers.

Economic realities allow Indian content producers to work for less than what American writers tend to believe is fair or feasible. Indian writers can "make this price less," and many of us simply hate it. Instead of recognizing the market forces at work and responding with greater efficiency or innovation, many American writers have resorted to complaint and the vilification of their Indian counterparts. I have chosen, instead, to compete with them.

American writers who understand the nature of the market and what must be done to retain sufficient business can compete with Indian freelancers. It requires more work, greater efficiency and a willingness to abandon the sense of "entitlement" many Americans seem to have. Competing with overseas freelancers necessitates providing a service that differentiates onself from the alternatives.

Can I beat every Indian content writers price? Of course not. However, I can reduce the cost differential considerably, rendering it virtually negligible. I can then produce a high quality product quickly and on time. I can do the little extras in terms of payment structuring and communication that make my offering more attractive. American writers can compete with Indian writers--it just requires a willingness to work. It requires a willingness to "walk the walk" of competition instead of just "talking the talk."

It would be easier to gripe and complain. It would be easier to join the chorus of voices who bad-mouth Indian writers, mock the occasional distractions of Indian English and adopt a tone regarding Indian freelancers that almost verges on racism. That's a route many writers seem to be willing to take. I prefer to compete honestly.

The nature of the world right now dictates that an Indian writer can often take on a project at a reduced cost. It's an undeniable fact of life. I think it is also a fact that a good American writer can produce better content for American audiences than can most Indian writers. I think most Indian freelancers would agree with both statements. American writers compose prose that can naturally resonate with American audiences in a way that most of those who grew up with Indian English probably cannot. The issue becomes whether or not an American writer is willing to do what it takes to make the price difference marginal and to increase the quality of work simultaneously. In order to successfully compete, Americans also need to be ready to offer high levels of consistency, in-project communication and other features that set them apart from the competition. Some of us are willing to do those things. Others are not.

I hold no grudge for an Indian writer who is willing to underbid me. I welcome the competition. I believe the competition will make me better at what I do. It constantly spurs innovation and motivates me to improve my performance.