Excerpts from the bestseller ‘The World is Flat’

by Thomas L. Friedman

Every time I think I have found the last, most obscure job could be outsourced to Bangalore, I discover a new one. My friend Vivek Kulkarni used to head the government office in Bangalore responsible for attracting high technology global investment. After stepping down from that post in 2003, he started a company called B2K, with a division called Brickwork, which offers busy global executives their own personal assistant in India. Say you are running a company and you have been asked to give a speech and a PowerPoint presentation in two days. Your “remote executive assistant” in India, provided by Brickwork, will do all the research for you, create the PowerPoint presentation, and e-mail the whole thing to you overnight so that it is on your desk the day you have to deliver it.

“You can give your personal remote executive assistant their assignment when you are leaving work at the end of the day in New York City, and it will be ready for you the next morning,” explained Kulkarni. “Because of the time difference with India, they can work on it while you sleep and have it back in your morning.” Kulkarni suggested I hire a remote assistant in India to do all the research for this book. “He or she could also help you keep pace with what you want to read. When you wake up, you will find the completed summary in your in-box.” (I told him no one could be better than my longtime assistant, Maya Gorman, who sits ten feet away!)

Having your own personal remote executive assistant costs around $1,500 to $2,000 a month, and given the pool of Indian college grads from which Brickwork can recruit, the brainpower you can hire dollar-for-dollar is substantial. As Brickwork’s promotional material says, “India’s talent pool provides companies access to a broad spectrum of highly qualified people. In addition to fresh graduates, which are around 2.5 million per year, many qualified homemakers are entering the job market.” India’s business schools, it adds, produce around eighty-nine thousand MBAs per year. “We’ve had a wonderful response,” said Kulkarni, with clients coming from two main areas. One is American health-care consultants, who often need lots of numbers crunched and PowerPoint presentations drawn up. The other, he said, are American investment banks and financial services companies, which often need to prepare glossy pamphlets with graphs to illustrate the benefits of an IPO or a proposed merger. In the case of a merger, Brickwork will prepare those sections of the report dealing with general market conditions and trends, where most of the research can be gleaned off the Web and summarized in a standard format. “The judgment of how to price the deal will come from the investment bankers themselves,” said Kulkarni. “We will do the lower-end work, and they will do the things that require critical judgment and experience, close to the market.” The more projects his team of remote executive assistants engages in, the more knowledge they build up. They are full of ambition to do their higher problem solving as well, said Kulkarni. “The idea is to constantly learn. You are always taking an examination. There is no end to learning… There is no real end to what can be done by whom.”

Vivek Kulkarni, then Information Technology Secretary for Bangalore’s regional government, told me back in 2002, “We don’t get involved in politics, but we did bring to the government’s attention the problems the Indian IT industry might face if there were a war.” And this was an altogether new factor for New Delhi to take into consideration. “Ten years ago, (a lobby of IT ministers from different Indian states) never existed,” said Kulkarni. Now it is one of the most important business lobbies in India and a coalition that no Indian government can ignore.