Indian Outsourcers Eye Contracts from U.S. States

Infosys Technologies, Wipro and HCL Technologies are among the software service providers that are laying foundation for the next round of multi-million dollar orders from the big US corporations, by pitching for low-value, but politically important US state governments' orders.

Infosys, which counts JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley as clients for its services, bids for Arizona Public Service's (APS) 400 positions, who work in its information-services department, and another 400 or so contractors to raise the staff strength for undisclosed amount.

Nine other US states, some from where politicians opposed offshoring work, are looking to outsource their healthcare operations worth over $2 billion, said Wipro chief strategy officer KR Lakshminarayana, and the company hopes to get a slice of these.

"The discussions are not about offshore outsourcing, but more about working with newer outsourcing vendors, who can deliver locally and keep the jobs here at lower rates," said a senior executive at one of the Bangalore-based tech firms exploring this opportunity. Many US states such as Missouri, Virginia and Arizona, which are battling falling revenues amid the worst economic slump in their country since the 1930s, are attempting to reduce costs and at the same time want to increase employment opportunities for their citizens. So, they are including clauses such as recruitment of minimum number of staff from their states.

Indian companies, which were used to contracts of hundreds of million-dollars at one go, are bidding for these low-value orders since their traditional clients are cutting down on technology spending and at the same time provides visibility, which would be helpful in getting big orders when tech spending recovers.

"The marketing muscle that comes from such contracts is huge and working with the US state governments send out a signal of importance to other customers," said Siddharth Pai, managing director of outsourcing advisory firm TPI's India unit. "For the Indian IT companies this is not a core business, but it creates a halo effect," he added.

While the global government IT outsourcing market is estimated to be around $100 billion, experts tracking the sector said the US state governments could outsource projects worth up to $5-6 billion this year. States, which in the past opposed the outsourcing of work to Indian companies by the likes of Microsoft and Citigroup, are now turning to the same Indian companies, as their mission now is in line with that of the companies cut costs.

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