Indian Outsourcing Vendors – Grammar

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary
London, UK

Hi Mark. First i want to know that what are your services & do u sent the BPO project in India before & what kind of pojects do u work on.

Don’t stop reading just yet. The editors at are not all sunning themselves on a beach in Goa and allowing all hell to break loose on the website. The previous sentence is an example of an email sent to me by a vendor in India who wanted more information on how I could help them crack the UK market.

The BPOIndia discussion forum was buzzing last October when a contributor from the US suggested that Indian vendors should make an effort to improve their use of English grammar in written communication. Some vendors were offended. Some commented that their service quality is demonstrable, so spelling errors and grammatical howlers are acceptable. A pedantic few with time to spare even started dissembling the messages of the pro-good-grammar contributors, criticising each split infinitive. These grammarians would probably correct Captain Kirk each time he uttered the immortal line “To boldly go…” during the opening sequence of Star Trek.

There is some leeway as we all see errors in books, newspapers and advertising everyday. No can ever achieve perfection in published English, however an Indian company contacting an individual in Europe or the US and hoping to develop a relationship must understand that first impressions count.

The basic steps to consider are:

  • Do not pitch for business from a Yahoo or Hotmail account. What serious business person is going to see a message arrive from Hotmail and then believe that the sender – who cannot even arrange a domain for his company – is qualified enough to manage offshore operations?
  • Ensure you have a web site featuring information about your organisation. It sounds basic, but so many people who pitch for business from a Yahoo! email account don’t have a web site. Sometimes those who do list a URL don’t actually place any information on the site, so the manager who is tempted to seek out additional information is greeted by nothing more than a 404 error.
  • Get a real phone number. Sure, we all have cell numbers now, but it gives your business a sense of perceived permanence if you offer a normal land-line number. You might just use a regular land-line on divert to your mobile phone, but the impression of having a standard office phone number is created.
  • Use the spell-check system on your PC. It is there for a reason. I know that the correspondent I mentioned earlier wanted to discuss projects with me, not pojects, yet the fact that he did not even check the message demonstrates a lack of attention to detail. How would that kind of vendor manage my mission-critical offshore project?
  • Grammar is trickier than spelling as the advice of the computerised check can often be wrong, just run a page of Ulysses through Microsoft Word for proof. Take a look at the example I gave though; “I want to know that what are your services” or “do u sent the BPO project”. Although the meaning is clear, the tense is confused and the honorific approach a potential customer or partner might expect is ignored. The best thing to do is to be polite and ensure you make your initial approach in crystal-clear plain English.
  • Do not write your letters or emails in the style of SMS messages. I don’t know why people do this, especially those who are soliciting business through written communication. It does not look professional to drop every vowel and replace characters with numbers, unless you are doing it on your phone when space is at a premium.

Some readers may think that these six steps are obvious. Surely any company that is seriously promoting itself as an offshore BPO vendor has a website or a personal domain name or a regular phone? Wrong. Too many small vendors are seeking international business in such an unprofessional manner that it could even damage the reputation of India Inc. for high-quality services.

In 1999 our very own Prince Philip made a joke about the poor quality of wiring in a fuse-box when he was touring an electronics factory. He said: “It looks like it was wired by an Indian.” Philip is well-known for his xenophobic gaffes, however smaller Indian companies in the ITES sector need to be forging ahead with the great strides made in quality standards by the big players, not reinforcing the stereotypes. It should be possible to get in the quality slipstream of Wipro, Daksh and Progeon with just a small amount of effort in improved presentation.

Some smaller companies employ consultants to help bridge the gap between them and their potential clientele. I think it is better for Indian companies to directly approach potential clients than for them to employ the services of shady ‘consultants’ who promise business in return for up-front fees, but some need to smarten up. As a customer, my impression of a vendor is created and then enforced right from the very first email or phone call.

For a smaller company, business is hard enough to find as it is. Make sure you give yourself a chance by following some basic advice on how to create a good impression. If not, then your Yahoo! email, promising cheap prices for the 50 seats you have in Pune, will be coming from nowhere and going straight back there.

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