Bangalore: Melanie Carter-Maguire and Robert Hoffman, the two lobbyists have been entrusted with pushing their companies' cases in a key market where the public outcry against outsourcing is getting shriller by the day. Maguire was hired by Wipro last week, and Hoffman had joined Cognizant last year as first Vice President of global public policy.
Following the global slowdown, India's $60-billion technology services industry, which has had a largely uninterrupted run in its key market, recognized that political lobbying is the need of the hour to educate local lawmakers about the economic benefits of outsourcing, after ballooning unemployment has exacerbated the cry against foreign tech companies. In an interview, Hoffman said, "For global companies like Cognizant, there is a simple truth that government matters. Whether it's in New Delhi, Washington, Beijing or Brussels, decisions made by legislators and regulators have a direct bearing on a company's ability to compete and grow, and provide a unique experience to its customers."
The U.S, along with Europe, accounts for about 80 percent of Indian software exports and Indian companies are keen to avoid any disruption to their fragile recovery. Company such as Wipro, that earlier preferred industry lobby National Association of Software Services Companies (Nasscom) to do lobbying for them are now single-handedly toying with the practice. By getting public policy experts on their payroll, these companies are attempting to portray sensitive issues in a high-stakes market in a kinder light. Indian IT frims think that these efforts will help them to break into the largely untapped U.S. healthcare market worth over $20 billion. Apart from Wipro, Patni and TCS have also engaged different lobbying firms for their time-bound and specific needs, though Nasscom continues to lobby on behalf of the industry. Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR), The Cohen Group and Hill & Knowlton are among the top lobbying firms roped in by the likes of TCS, HCL and Patni Computer Systems to reach out to lawmakers.
Clearly, Indian companies believe that some sophisticated lobbying efforts can break the myth surrounding job losses due to tech offshoring. In his interview to Economic Times, Som Mittal, President of Nasscom said, "This is signaling the kind of importance the industry gives to such issues as we become more globalised. It's not about influencing opinion but more about ensuring that our perspectives are known."
During economic uncertainty and rising unemployment, the impulse for many policymakers is to build barriers, particularly against foreign trade, investment and migration. Hoffman said, "Efforts like these tend to have global ramifications, including driving both skilled workers and capital investment to countries with fewer barriers and more inviting economic development policies."
The value of lobbying experts may diminish, if the U.S. balance of power between Democrats and Republicans equalises in 2010 and there is a return to high levels of stalemate on every issue, reports