From the NYTimes, December 26, 2006
'Office Tigers'

Helping U.S. Companies Export White-Collar Jobs


For a while Office Tigers looks like one of those middle-of-the-night
get-rich-quick infomercials. In this curious but ultimately intriguing
four-part documentary, which begins tonight on Sundance Channel, Joe
Siegelman, a 34-year-old American, prances around the Chennai, India,
offices of Office Tiger, the company that he and a partner founded, and
brags about how fabulously successful it is. Mr. Siegelman (who used to
work in investment banking at Goldman Sachs), a co-chief executive, stands
on a desk to make a speech to adoring employees who surround him. He talks
proudly about changing the way the world does business. Office Tiger
exists at a fairly high level of corporate outsourcing. It does, as the
documentary says, PowerPoint presentations, number crunching and research
for American companies, functioning as a back office far, far away.

Executives suggest that Office Tigers secret is working its staff
remarkably long hours (Chennai, formerly called Madras, is 10 hours ahead
of New York time), eliminating coffee and tea breaks, and instilling pride
in the employees work by periodically telling them that theyre the best
and the brightest and that this job is the gateway to a glorious financial
future for them. As seen by the director, Liz Mermin, and her crews
cameras, the place lies somewhere between a white-collar sweatshop and a
religious cult. But that may be true of a lot of corporations. In the
first episode Mr. Siegelman presents himself as a self-satisfied
character, living in a hotel for six years, not owning a car and stopping
male employees in the hallway to ask why they are not wearing ties.

The four episodes titles Meritocracy, Integrity, Accountability and
Commitment to Clients would work just as well (O.K., better) in a
recruiting film for the company. Fortunately they are about more than the
titles suggest. Unfortunately their messages are a bit scattered. Fast
facts appear on the screen periodically: Unemployment in India is almost
10 percent. There are 2.5 million new Indian college graduates a year.
India does 85 percent of the worlds outsourcing. The average age for
marriage in India is 24 for men and 19 for women. A handsome 41-year-old
American executive refers to himself as an old bachelor, while wedding
invitations pile up on his desk. He is also condescending to his
secretary, in a 1950s way, joking that she is the one who really runs the

One Indian employee makes an impassioned if not fully convincing speech
about the value of honesty. Another is declared a marked man after he
inexplicably lies about his identity to a client. Based on what is seen in
Office Tigers the company relies heavily on instilling what are seen as
American corporate values in their Indian employees. The better to have
them accepted and respected by American clients, the officers believe. For
starters that means a 10 a.m. meeting starts at 10 a.m., not 11 a.m. or
noon. And for better or worse it means working in a world where the staff
training people are the talent transformation team and strategies have
names like rapid organic acquisitive rollout.


Sundance, tonight at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time.

Directed by Liz Mermin; Julie Goldman, Krysanne Katsoolis and Caroline
Stevens, executive producers; Lawrence Elman, Liz Mermin and Roo Rogers,
producers; Viraj Singh, director of photography; Ms. Mermin and Jake
Roberts, editors. A production of the BBC in association with Cactus


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