As the outsourcing debate in the U.S. has raged over the past year, the individual who may have the most to lose has been a picture of calm. In the face of a steady flow of invective from Washington and U.S. state governments, Kiran Karnik -- the quiet, brainy chief of India's software trade group, Nasscom -- has avoided any angry words. His response has been to point out that the U.S. economy gets $2 in benefit for every $1 that American companies spend on outsourcing in India. Indian companies buy U.S. hardware and software, Indian tech workers spend wages in the U.S. and pay taxes there, and U.S. consumers save through lower costs at companies.
Karnik and his lieutenants have criss-crossed the U.S. trying to persuade legislators and unions that bills curbing outsourcing are bad policy. At the same time, Karnik lobbied Nasscom members to hire in the West. And he pushed India to cut tariffs on computer hardware. The message of mutual benefit has succeeded: So far, no state has passed a law against government work being shipped overseas.
Karnik's lobbying skills are backed up by strong tech credentials. Karnik, 57, worked for two decades at India's Atomic Energy Dept. and the Indian Space Research Organization. Then he led the Discovery Channel's successful foray into India. But his biggest success has been at Nasscom. "We just want the pie to grow bigger so everyone can benefit," he says. Under his leadership, that's exactly what has happened.