Software is only the more prominent half of India’s IT bonanza. A glimpse of other big new line of business can be found at Selectronic Equipment & Services, a three-year-old New Delhi company where young Indian workers are paid to watch American Programs like ER and Chicago Hope. They have more rigorous duties as well. Selectronic hires stenographers to transcribe medical records for doctors in California, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Without the Internet, the vast distance was unbridgeable; with the Net in place, a whole range of labor-intensive work — or “IT-enabled Services” can be done anywhere on the globe. Ireland and the Philippines have also caught on, but India is becoming the country to beat.
Selectronic’s business works like this: doctors in the U.S. to protect themselves in malpractice suits, have to keep detailed notes of all consultations but don’t want to hire stenographers at U.S. wage rates. Indians charge far less – and the Internet has brought them within reach. A doctor in the U.S. simply dials a toll-free number and dictates case summaries into the phone. Those recordings are transmitted via satellite to New Delhi, where they are typed up by Selectronic’s 200 transcribers.
Founder Veer Sagar, who quit a computer company to get into the business, says it has even more potential than software because it can employ Indian with non-specialized educations. “With our huge pool of educated, English-knowing workers,” says 56-year-old Sagar, “we have a chance to be No.1 in the world for the IT-enabled services.” Some 100 Indian companies are doing medical transcription already, and Selectronic operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — a claim that even Indian power companies and telephone exchanges can barely make. There are challenges to the job. Speed is a must; the company promises a 24-hour turnaround. So, too, is accuracy, and that poses challenges for Indians dealing with American English, which is why those U.S. TV programs are part of the training program. One worker couldn’t understand a case history that involved a patient having eaten a tortilla – so the company imported restaurant menus from the U.S. for study. “India is in the same position Japan was in during 1960s.” Says Sagar, “if we capitalize on our human resources.”