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Friday Guest Column: An Indian Perspective on Outsourced, Offshore Tutoring

Anirudh Phadke is an executive with Career Launcher (India) Limited, an online training firm offering k-12 tutoring services to the U.S., headquartered in New Delhi.

Everyone has been talking about how the online tutoring option has impacted the tutoring business in the US. Its been quite an eventful five years since it first began. Expectedly, there have been good and bad things being talked about in terms of the effect on the students. However, it is also equally interesting to look at the other side of the outsourcing story. Parts of this story are common to the Big Daddy of outsourcing business- the contact centers and BPO's (business process outsourcing).

With the explosive growth of India's internet backbone, tutoring business setups here typically operate on a home-based employee model. Tutors work from the comforts of their homes because the assignments are spread out and fewer than a regular BPO operation.

Consider Mrs. Ambika Soni, an online lady tutor, who is a regular classroom teacher in the day. She has a Grade 6 daughter, Vandana, going to one of the good schools in Varanasi, her home town in Northern India. When Mrs. Soni dons the cap of the online tutor at 2 am at night, her daughter and her husband are fast asleep. Mrs. Soni tutors Angela, roughly the same age as her own daughter, and is almost an online parent for the child. Angela’s own parents have always liked her tutor, and in fact, had sent her a Christmas Gift last year!

Mrs. Soni has always secretly admired the American way of living, with all the courtesy, respect and love that Angela’s family shows her. Gradually, but surely, this admiration has started showing in her own family life. Her husband now takes more interest in the “new” methods of teaching that she uses for her own daughter. Apart from the learning aspect, the lives and aspirations of this small family have changed so much, that their neighbors now want to know more about her “foster family” in the US!

This picture seems like a distant cousin of the usual stories of teenagers’ life-styles undergoing a drastic change in contact centers. But the truth is that education outsourcing has had a larger socio-economic change in the lives of the tutors. On an average, a day-teacher earns between $100-$300 a month. By putting in about 15 hours a week during the night hours in online tutoring, she should be earning in excess of $400 a month! Obviously, this incremental amount would go a long way towards getting those few extra lifestyle items on the family’s wishlist. Just to put things in perspective, in the Indian context, a microwave or even a water purifier is a lifestyle statement!

Though it may be too early to say, the change these online tutors bring to their children and their immediate neighborhood, will be a key factor in increasing the supply side.

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