Will Apple Outsourcing to India Equal Lost Jobs and Frustrated Customers in America?

by Darcy Richardson Mar 10, 2006

Apple Computer Inc. announced its decision to set up its first massive technical support center in India. It will open as early as May 2006. Apple has officially jumped into the ranks, with Dell and other global technology companies, of those who outsource outside America. Apple fans and employees, in the United States, have been posting their concerns over the potential loss of employment and the quality of technical support that Indian employees can provide.

According to a post at Times News Network by Sujit John, a Karnataka state government official in Bangalore, the site location for the facility, said, “the government had cleared Apple’s proposal to invest in Bangalore. But they are yet to reveal the extent of investment or the total employment. They should be starting operations within the next two months.”

Apple could hire as many as 1,500 employees by the end of this year, and then double that to 3,000 by the end of 2007. Bangalore was chosen after an evaluation of seven Indian cities, and property developer RMZ Corp will create the facility. Sources think that Apple’s decision is predicated upon its record fiscal performance in 2005, in which a growth of 68 percent raised the company’s worth to $14 billion dollars. The future of Cupertino’s Apple employees is uncertain; outsourcing to India will save money, but how far Apple will cut back stateside with its tech-support team is a hot topic for speculation.

Apple fans began immediately posting their comments early Thursday morning when the news was released. At the MacWorld.com forum, user “Uchuugaka” posted:“No. No. NO…  this is terrible news. When tech-support centers are far afield from real management centers of companies, you get nothing usually…Apple has had outstanding support and service for years…Why would they blow this?? Even here in Tokyo, I can speak to someone from Apple on the phone.” “Uchuugaka” continues his lament with the soothing thought that at least there are Apple stores that give great service in person.

“Philbert” writes: “As an American, I don’t have a problem with outsourcing in principle. It’s truly a global world and everyone has a right to earn a living. I just think it’s a BAD idea to have personnel who’s job entails communication with customers when the exchange turns into [a] frustrating experience because of language barriers. There’s a good chance the customer is already frustrated with a problem (why else would you call tech support), and trying to communicate with someone who’s hard to understand only compounds the frustration. I know it’s about saving money but BAD MOVE Apple! Let’s hope you do a better job in picking personnel than the other companies I’ve dealt with.”

At the Arstechnica comments page, user “svdsinner” does not have a very positive forecast for Apple’s outsourcing move: “I’ve never seen any of the companies I watch have long term success with outsourcing. Outsourcing that saves money always comes with a loss of quality, and outsourcing that does result in a loss of quality doesn’t result in cost savings.”

User “Deimos the Impaler” suggests: “Well if it’s used for after-hours support only, since it’s daytime there when it’s night over here…if they work on their employees’ English skills perhaps it can work…”

And not to be ignored are the people who defend the customer service skills of Indians, such as user “Pureheartedsoul”: “Indians speak English just fine…you pay American companies lots of dollars for ‘SUPPORT’ and they keep all the money for themselves and outsource the support to India and SAVE money…[accept] the fact that India is the global leader in outsourcing…”

Another result of Apple’s outsourcing efforts partnered with Hollywood is detailed in the www.macnn.com post, “Apple digital media training center opens in India.” Apple Computer India and Hyderabad-based Padmalaya Telefilms have partnered to create a center in India for digital media training. “This digital media center aims to bridge the gap between demand and supply of qualified technicians - a problem that is quite common in the TV, film and broadcasting industry.”

It’s the global age, and Apple is an integral part of it. Only the future will tell if outsourcing is a wise move for the company, or if the backlash will sting of reconsideration.


  • The only reason that there could be a backlash is if service is poor; this is true regardless of where the service is provided from.

    Devanshu Mehta had this to say on Mar 10, 2006 Posts: 108
  • Hiring In India:

    Mujibar was trying to get a job in India. 

    The Personnel Manager said, “Mujibar, you have passed
    all the tests except one, unless you pass it you
    cannot qualify for this job”. 

    Mujibar said, “I am ready.”

    The Manager said, “make a sentence using the words
    green, pink and yellow”.

    Mujibar thought for a few minutes then said, “Mr.
    Manager, I am ready.”

    The Manager said “go ahead.”

    Mujibar said, “The telephone goes green, green, green
    and I pink it up and say ‘yellow, this is Mujibar.’”

    Mujibar now works for the Dell-Oops-Apple Call Center for computer problems.

    No doubt you have spoken to him.

    I used to love razzing my Dull using friends with this one.  Fun while it lasted.

    HyperHippie had this to say on Mar 10, 2006 Posts: 3
  • As an Indian living and working in America as a physician, I find the joke by user “hyperhippie” quite insulting. It’s one thing to comment objectively on communication difficulties, as the author of this article did. It’s quite another to laugh at their expense. I have friends and relatives who work in call centers and speak English better than many Americans. In fact, the literacy rate for local languages AND English is higher in some Indian states than in the United States.

    As a Mac fanatic who reads this site regularly, i’m ashamed that a fellow fan would make such vulgar comments on Indians.

    Finally, as an American, I’m disappointed to see such ignorance. Most Americans speak only English.  Your fictional “Mujibar” probably speaks Hindi, English, and the local language - all fluently. He probably works all night (time difference to the US) and is happy to get whatever wages he can to support his family.

    There are other people in the world besides Americans. It’s time for us (already at war with two countries) to recognize that. May I request that Applematters NOT remove Hyperhippie’s posting so that other readers can learn from his/her unfortunate choice of humor.

    gmathur had this to say on Mar 10, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Howdy Dr. gmathur,

    I refer you to Gene Steinberg’s Mac Night Owl story of today, Apple Technical Support: Ready to Take a Dive?
    You need to forward your views to him also.

    I’m sure you thought my ignorance was just awful.  I’m a Spanish speaking Texan for goodness sakes.  I don’t “speak” the same kind of English as you do.  I don’t “hear” the same kind of English as you do.  In fact I don’t “hear” as (fast) as you most likely speak.
    But I can laugh, at myself, and with my neighbors for the strange little quirks we have.  I don’t have time to look for something to take umbrage about.  When you’re a Texan where Spanish was spoken at home, there are plenty of jokes about what you sound like, some of them darn funny.
    By the way, while working my way through school I worked as a hospital aid carrying bedpans and providing patience care.  My favorite RN was Miss Myra, who lived with two other Indian RNs in a house trailer so she could send most of her check home. We had the best times laughing about what we thought the other had said.  Some nights (11 to 7 shift), a pen and paper were all that saved us.  Ms. Myra would have hurt herself laughing at my original post.  She would giggle for an hour if I made a face at her and said shicken. (You may need someone to explain that one to you.)
    The only one who didn’t seem to like her was an male Indian OBGYN. Ms. Myra never did make me understand about caste and educational differences.
    Take it down, leave it up. It makes me not a hill of beans.  Maybe we can agree about Macs.
    I like them.  You?

    HyperHippie had this to say on Mar 10, 2006 Posts: 3
  • I’m going to leave this up. I think HyperHippies post is fine and wasn’t meant to be rude in any way. Rather, he was using humor to point out something that is a barrier to off-shoring customer service.

    The fact is that dealing with people cross-culturally can be challenging, which in and of itself can either be viewed negatively or positively. I consider myself extremely open-minded, but when once talking to a representative from Vonage from India I really couldn’t understand them. The fact they were from India didn’t really matter, they could have been here, but I was just annoyed that as a customer I wasn’t getting the help I needed.

    That said, I’ve also had off-shore customer interactions that went fine.

    Hadley Stern had this to say on Mar 10, 2006 Posts: 114
  • Everybody is jumping to the assumption it will be a call center. I don’t see anywhere in the original sources that mention this. There are plenty of companies who outsource only the email technical support.

    Saying that, though. I have had idiots talking to someone in this country, and geniuses while talking to someone in India. However the only times I’ve had instances of not being able to understand the other person at all have been Indian call centers.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Mar 11, 2006 Posts: 299
  • Darcy,

    Nice picture to choose. Perhaps, a picture of one of the slums of India would be more apt? Maybe some cows walking around? Yeah, that is much better.

    Tell me, what does a woman in some stage of undress have anything to with this article? Is this some psych 101 tactic?

    Me thinks, Darcy is playing mind games.


    bacchus1 had this to say on Mar 12, 2006 Posts: 9
  • Dr.Gmathur, and any other individual that may make bias statements to jokes…......they are jokes, meant to be funny, put a smile on the face of a fellow friend (like people posting). I am a mix breed of, Lithuanian, Polish, German, American Indian and probally a few others I don’t know about and also raised in the southern mountains (so hick, redneck, ect) can be added.  Anyone telling a joke is telling it to make people laugh, it is not a crack against your race or even religeous backround. The only people complaining in my eyes, seems to be the the prejudice people. Society is difficult enough and laughing seems to ease alot of attention or focus on the difficult times we face. I really don’t think anyone can say they have never told a joke that can’t be twisted around to incremenate someone, so lets get off the insecurity wagon and just laugh.

    Macster2 had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 40
  • Macster2: Don’t know about that. It is all a matter of platform. If you decide to make inappropriate jokes with your friends in private that is your prerogative.

    But this article is exposed to a bigger crowd - therefore, it is and should be accountable to a higher standard.

    And, no - people don’t always tell jokes to make others laugh - Sometimes it is to hurt or insult the person that joke is directed at.

    Yes, society is difficult and blah blah - but let this slide and let some more slide and it becomes a slippery slope.


    bacchus1 had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 9
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