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Outsource to India: Would you do it?

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3rd Sep 2015
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Is your firm having trouble keeping up with its workload? Richard Hattersley explores outsourcing your workload stresses to India.

For years, businesses have exploited outsourcing to curb expenditure. Small to medium sized practitioners can lessen their costs of hiring and training new staff by embracing opportunities introduced by globalisation.

Our website analytics show a healthy pocket of Indian readers, which confirms the prevalence of British practitioners transferring work overseas to concentrate on their higher fee earning work and client care.

Sanjay Swarup wrote on AccountingWEB about his company SKS Business services that outsources basic accounting work to India. “We are part of a global economy and should be getting work done where it is most suitable to do so,” wrote Swarup. “Whether that be head-office, a low cost UK destination or overseas.”

Costs aren’t the sole reason practitioners opt for outsourcing, however. As Matthew Elliott, the specialist for Outsourcing at IRIS Software, explains: “Outsourcing requirements focus has moved on in recent years from cost and delivery times to support as it has become more widely adopted. Very rarely are practices looking to make more profit, they are looking for a partner (not a supplier) who can support and strengthen their business and help achieve their business goals”.

For American accountant Patricia Bell Harik, it was staff shortages which necessitated outsourcing tax work to India. She told AccountingWEB US, “Five years ago, we were forced to do this because we couldn’t find any staff members”. By outsourcing, she said, she eliminated the usual overhead expenses associated with in-house staff members. ‘It’s like employee leasing on a smaller level,” said Harik.

Despite the savings, though, outsourcing remains divisive among practitioners. On a recent AccountingWEB’s Any Answers thread, some users aired a moral aversion to outsourcing. Others were concerned about the quality of work. Chatman wrote, “I tried outsourcing to two different Indian firms before on-line accounting services like Xero and Clear Books became big and I gave it up because the quality of the work was so low and communication was difficult”.

The Director of finance and treasurer for the Centre for Applied Linguistics (CAL), Anna Douglas’ frank comments to our US site aligned with these criticisms. “Keep in mind that over the long term, outsourcing costs you greater than it saves. You will end up losing the few talented individuals that you had hoped to retain”. Douglas vexed at the quality of Indian chartered accountants that she dealt with, and the language barrier and time difference made communication difficult.

Not everyone suffered the same subpar experience. AccountingWEB user Paul Scholes wrote, “Quality is obviously the main concern but that applies whether I'm employing someone here or somewhere else so, again, it’s supervision that’s key”. Edhy, an AccountingWEB user based in Pakistan, agreed, “The key is, as already mentioned, invest in training and keep supervision to get long term benefits. Further outsourcing generally transfers low value added work offshore and frees resources for more value added work at home”.

For Elliott, Specialist for Outsourcing at IRIS, the fear of subpar accountants is groundless, saying: “What differentiates us in the market; our offering isn’t a third party operation; it is run by highly trained IRIS staff working in a dedicated IRIS office in Chennai, India”.

But outsourcing’s appeal may be usurped by technology. As Glennzy points out, “products like Receipt Bank will replace the need to do it”.

What’s your take? How has your experience with outsourcing been?

Replies (34)

Comments for this post are now closed.

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By carnmores
04th Sep 2015 07:05

glenzzy is
Right

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By njpandya
04th Sep 2015 07:57

Depends
This completely depends who is managing, I've witnessed significant rise of clients of course followed by revenue, when works were outsourced to India. Most work include Tax, Management accounts. As Anna pointed qualification of Indian CA's I partly agree and would challenge her if she can clear India Inter CA examinations, let alone finals. Benchmark of India CA are substantially high compared to objective based exams of ACCA and CIMA. If one knows well what they are trying to achieve, of course outsourcing helps as there is big talent pool available @ throw away price. One has to look both sides instead of blaming Indians, their people are becoming CEO of multi national giants, surely they must have something right. I smell fear and jealousy in this article in typical E way. IMHO!

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By carnmores
04th Sep 2015 09:00

cobblers
:)

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By qhas
06th Sep 2015 14:02

Remind yourself of that .,,,,,

carnmores wrote:
:)

When you buy your next Range Rover
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Nigel Harris
By Nigel Harris
04th Sep 2015 09:28

Works for us

We have been outsourcing final accounts preparation work to a big business services provider in India for a couple of years to manage peaks in workflow and staff absences. It has worked very well, the price is good, the turnaround time and communication is excellent and he quality of the work puts our team to shame sometimes. The company we use is familiar with all the main UK desktop and cloud accounting systems and is perfectly competent on the Sage APA and Digita Accounts software we use for final accounts.

I don't need them to do bookkeeping, VAT or payroll but I can see getting data to India would be a lot more complicated for such jobs where there's a lot of scruffy paperwork to be scanned.

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By carnmores
04th Sep 2015 10:09

how long does it take to enter a TB
On digita for example, how long does it take to check what they have done

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By why always me
04th Sep 2015 10:34

DID NOT WORK FOR US

We tried a couple over the years and sadly always failed. No one doubts the intelligence or qualifications of the people doing the work, but same issue, processing always poor as they do not live here and know the area and what businesses do (payments to john smith for a bar not someones wages, but purchases sort of thing!)

Always down to shortage of good staff, but if you outsource how will this ever get rectified. We nearly lost good staff due to frustration of standard of files, some were great, but the exception rather than the rule.

Ended up taking a couple of school leavers and taking the time to train them. New one every year as we keep growing and very rewarding to see them develop and financially been good too.

Put the time in, it is worth it.

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By AndrewV12
04th Sep 2015 10:38

Corruption

India is not as corrupt as it used to be however, personally I would not be happy sending clients bank statements and credit card statements overseas.

Extract above

“Five years ago, we were forced to do this because we couldn’t find any staff members”. By outsourcing, she said, she eliminated the usual overhead expenses associated with in-house staff members. ‘It’s like employee leasing on a smaller level,” said Harik.

 

Lets not be coy about his exploitation is the bottom line of capitalism.

 

 

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By Colster
04th Sep 2015 10:39

I work for a firm that did this several years ago, we invested huge amounts of time and effort choosing the apparent leading company in this area as part of our total package with our software provider.  We visited India and met all the staff and key members so that we had a real link with the providers, and after 2 years we had to abandon the whole project as the promises made were never kept and the quality although excellent to begin with deteriorated to a level we were simply not prepared to tolerate.  We spent more time 'putting it right' than we would have done doing it. Our problems arose mainly due to staff changes and poor communication from them although we had dedicated personnel this end liaising with our team in India.

I for one would never go down this route again.  

 

 

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Replying to johnt27:
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By martinmendit
04th Sep 2015 13:21

Outsourcing to India

I would be interested to know how long ago you used an Indian outsourcing partner?

The quality of services coming out of India in the last few years has come a long way.

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By Old Greying Accountant
04th Sep 2015 10:58

In a word ...

... no, but this has been done to death so no more to add,

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By IANTO
04th Sep 2015 11:05

Outsourcing to India

There appear to be sufficient reasons listed in the replies so far, to conclude that this isn't a good idea.

From my own personal experiences in relation to IT issues, I would not recommend this approach.

There seems to be a culture issue which is difficult to overcome. If they are given chapter and verse regarding any requirements, they seem capable of accomplishing the tasks satisfactorily.

However, if they are presented with a situation which isn't covered, they seem to be at a loss as to how to manage the issues. They are not self starters and seem unable to think problems through and come up with new solutions.

They also seem wedded to manual control, which is entirely at odds with the principles of computing.

 

 

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By jamiea4f
04th Sep 2015 11:07

All I would say is...
Tesco did it, look what happened there. A few years ago I worked for a practice who decided it would be a good idea, not informing the clients that their records would be shipped off to someone in India who would then do the donkey work and pass the results back to us, fair enough if that's what the client really wants (low cost service) but if he's paying for quality I can't see how this would ever work. This is people's private financial matters, not widgets.

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By evileve
04th Sep 2015 22:06

on the subject of tesco

In my credit control days, I used to detest ringing Tescos accounts payable - the phone line was terrible, I could hardly understand the staff and when there was an issue (which there often was) it was a nightmare to resolve.  I can to this day quote word for word, in the same (probably bad when I try it) accent, the recorded message..... 'you are tru to tesco accounts paaayable, if yor call is for.......'

So for me, the communication difficulties put me off.  I generally hate having to speak to overseas call centres for anything, EE are my current dislike, so why deliberately inflict it by outsourcing there.  Not for me.  Then again, I struggle understanding Scottish friends when they're talking, so maybe its just me!

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By qhas
05th Sep 2015 11:40

Yes

evileve wrote:

In my credit control days, I used to detest ringing Tescos accounts payable - the phone line was terrible, I could hardly understand the staff and when there was an issue (which there often was) it was a nightmare to resolve.  I can to this day quote word for word, in the same (probably bad when I try it) accent, the recorded message..... 'you are tru to tesco accounts paaayable, if yor call is for.......'

So for me, the communication difficulties put me off.  I generally hate having to speak to overseas call centres for anything, EE are my current dislike, so why deliberately inflict it by outsourcing there.  Not for me.  Then again, I struggle understanding Scottish friends when they're talking, so maybe its just me!


You are right. It's just you
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By Ultra
04th Sep 2015 11:17

Communication with clients?

Where firms outsource to India and find it to be successful are they fully open about this with clients?

I personally can't see it going down too well and know of firms who outsource and don't tell clients (which surely means they are embarrassed to do so).

Whilst having "meet the team" sections on their websites they seem to be less enthusiastic to disclose the fact that a lot of their daily work is done in India. I wonder how many potential new clients would look elsewhere if this was the case.

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By theCFB
04th Sep 2015 13:48

Liability

I accept that the ration of price to the standard of work in India makes it an attractive proposition but you'd need to cost in the liaison with the firm carrying out the work.  I would hope most people would not be so naive as to pass sensitive financial information to a company with no registered address and hiding behind a gmail account.

If the work is being outsourced, especially if clients are unaware of this, I would assume liability would reside in the UK company fronting it.  It would be interesting to find out how a breach of data protection was prosecuted in this scenario.

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By david ryan
04th Sep 2015 14:05

indian outsourcing

Whichever way you dress it up, its all about cost saving.

Basic inputting tasks may be OK to outsource and supervise from the UK. Any thing more involved and you run the risk of disappointing your clients

 

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Replying to Andy556:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
04th Sep 2015 17:06

disagree

david ryan wrote:

Whichever way you dress it up, its all about cost saving.

Not in my case.

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Replying to Andy556:
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By qhas
05th Sep 2015 11:57

Cost saving it is .,....

david ryan wrote:

Whichever way you dress it up, its all about cost saving.

Basic inputting tasks may be OK to outsource and supervise from the UK. Any thing more involved and you run the risk of disappointing your clients

 


I gave clients the choice. Service your account overseas and halve the cost or stick with the UK staff. They bit my hand off. They couldn't care less if it were camels or coolies. No moral dimension figured in the decision. Don't delude yourselves, guys. Those days are all gone. We are just as greedy monkeys as any other nation . Look no further than our lawmakers. We may like to proclaim we are, though. Hypocrites we all are.
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By ShirleyM
04th Sep 2015 17:46

Nor mine, Red Leader

Quality comes first, second, and last. The reliability and helpful attitude is also very welcome.

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By carnmores
05th Sep 2015 08:57

profit is probably a better word
10 times cost mark up, less NIC

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By carnmores
05th Sep 2015 09:17

and i agree
Abhor oversea call centres

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By qhas
05th Sep 2015 12:03

Overseas Call centres

carnmores wrote:
Abhor oversea call centres

Any chance of prevailing upon BT? And while you are at it can they switch their payroll operation to the UK?
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By Sheepy306
05th Sep 2015 12:14

At a previous firm we sent a few book-keeping jobs over to Bangalore, the staff were all ACCA qualified and we even had their ACCA accounts manager sat in our UK office for a few months.
They got the job done, a huge number of mispostings, a lot of confusion, luckily we had an admin person here twiddling their thumbs so they scanned everything in before sending it over there otherwise that would have been additional cost. Overall it was apparent that the quality was very poor but if you've got a lot of data entry to do and don't mind spending a lot of time correcting mispostings afterwards then on balance it may be commercially worth it. Personally I would never to do it, quality of work and personal knowledge of the clients business is paramount to my client relationship.

@ qhas - i'm happy for other greedy monkey practices to service their greedy monkey clients, it leaves the better/nicer clients for us to deal with.

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By qhas
05th Sep 2015 19:25

Wrong pal

Sheepy306 wrote:
At a previous firm we sent a few book-keeping jobs over to Bangalore, the staff were all ACCA qualified and we even had their ACCA accounts manager sat in our UK office for a few months.
They got the job done, a huge number of mispostings, a lot of confusion, luckily we had an admin person here twiddling their thumbs so they scanned everything in before sending it over there otherwise that would have been additional cost. Overall it was apparent that the quality was very poor but if you've got a lot of data entry to do and don't mind spending a lot of time correcting mispostings afterwards then on balance it may be commercially worth it. Personally I would never to do it, quality of work and personal knowledge of the clients business is paramount to my client
@ qhas - i'm happy for other greedy monkey practices to service their greedy monkey clients, it leaves the better/nicer clients for us to deal with.

I reduced my fee accordingly. That's how the fee was halved . You might have cared to read my submission carefully before you have a pop at me being greedy. You must not make yourself look so silly on a forum like this. It's not very clever, you know .
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By cheekychappy
05th Sep 2015 12:15

For those that didn't choose India based on cost:

Did you trial outsourcing to any other countries before deciding on India?

If so, what countries did you trial and what did you think?

If you didn't, what made you decide on India?

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By Sheepy306
05th Sep 2015 20:07

One giant leap
@ qhas
Well I did care to read your comments, in particular I noted that it was you yourself that said that we (as a nation) were just as greedy monkeys as any other nation. I actually disagree, my experience is that the clients I have aren't particularly price sensitive (or greedy), so I guess we do have different clients. Which is fine.
I do have a client that outsources work to Dubai, it works to some extent for them but that's primarily because they set the Dubai office up themselves so can monitor quality and how they want to receive the service, their trial beforehand with an existing Dubai company was a failure, for those same reasons.
You may also care to note that I didn't say you were a greedy monkey either, it was you that said that greedy monkeys exist here as much as elsewhere, I was simply commenting that if such greedy monkeys do exist then that's fine, there'll be greedy monkey accountants to service them.
How you choose to interpret that, jump to conclusions and respond is entirely up to you.
Pal.

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By cheekychappy
05th Sep 2015 22:04

Is it just me, or are the people outsourcing very sensitive? Why is that?

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By edhy
07th Sep 2015 11:02

Reducing Costs

What is wrong with reducing costs? Every business does it. I am not recommending here to reduce costs by compromising quality.

Outsourcing is not exploitation. In most cases staff doing outsource work is getting better pay and benefits than similar individuals working in “local” businesses (in any middle income country). Further it is opportunity to get employment and to learn international practices.

As of informing the clients, in my view this should be transparent. The clients should know and should also get benefits of reduced costs by reduced fees.

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By carnmores
08th Sep 2015 08:23

ive stopped driving

and i couldnt possibly afford a range rover or want to .....

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By First Call Financials
11th Sep 2015 17:52

Outsourcing to India

I read with interest Outsourcing to Indi - Would you do it? by Richard Hattersley with interest as I was heavily involved with a high profile company over 10 years ago.  The movement of accountancy work to Bangalore was very political and resulted in redundancy within the UK workforce an did initially save us a reasonable amount of money.  However the downside was tat there was more liaison necessary with this change of working practice and the UK suppliers, even though they had the UK call costs and not international costs, resented calling India an speaking to people "over there" as they put it. 

Additionally, the way things were happening in India at the time, we had to budget 23% pay rises every 6 months as the employees played on company off against another for higher salaries.  It was not unusual that New starters did not turn up on the day they were due to start work without even informing you that they had taken another job elsewhere.    

I had three people working for me in India, and I travelled there every six months or so for training and to ensure that the work was carried out as expected. I was lucky, the people working for me and their immediate Indian line management team were superb but this was not often the case and my colleague had  vastly different experience.

So in short I would say to anyone thinking of doing this to think carefully before you commit to it.  Its not easy going and will take quite a bit of planning and on-going commitment which you might not have understood in the beginning.   One of our current Bank Advertisements about how other cultures live and respond to circumstances is quite true and care MUST be taken here not t upset people without actually knowing you have done so.  Alternatively, you can place  lot of stress on Indian workers without knowing so simply by not understanding their work ethic and what a proud nation the are. 

My advice would be step cautiously!

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By Ian McTernan CTA
19th Sep 2015 19:20

Not for me

Outsourcing isn't for me for one simple reason- I'm a sole practitioner and the one thing all my clients know and rely on is that all the work is done by me, to my exacting standards.  If I outsourced work to save me money I'd rapidly lose clients.

I assume if you outsource work you tell your clients and also declare it to your PI cover?  Does your engagement letter cover it?

I can imagine some interesting chats with clients 'yes, I know you thought we were doing the work and paying us for it, but in fact we send it off to India and cream off a big fat profit that we don't pass on to you.  yes, of course we're acting in your best interests and always put you first'.

Then again, I don't have the sort of clients that query my fees!

As I have a slight hearing problem I also dislike using companies that have call centers in exotic parts of the world, preferring to speak to someone whose first language appears to be some form of English.

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By why always me
27th Jan 2017 14:50

Did not work for us. We sent processing work for 6 months and spent as long correcting as it would have taken to do ourselves.

Was not keen on idea of taking jobs away from uk on principal, but outwith my control.

Now taking people straight from school and training them up. All on way to ACCA qualification and overall practice has benefited hugely once you get over the initial time needed to train.

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