Posts Tagged ‘globalization’

Polyglots and call centres on the beach

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Globalization maybe has an image problem, but that doesn’t stop the flow of new businesses and practices created by inventive entrepreneurs. Observations at the micro level are often more telling than generalized analyses. So Die Zeit reports on the business model of ITI Consulting in Manila. From here the company’s Filipino employees teach their customers in Germany, France, Italy, Russia and other places how to speak and write better English (a second language for many Filipinos) — by calling them at work, at home or in a hotel room, sending them homework per email and rating their progress, as any teacher would. ITI’s employees earn around a fourth of what German language teachers get, according to Die Zeit.

One more observation: Dagens Næringsliv last week (not online) wrote about Norwegian regional airline Widerøe, which claims to have dramatically improved the health of its call centre staff ( has written about this earlier). The solution: regularly send them to live and work in a company house in Thailand with flight ticket paid. In Thailand they still do their work with the booking requests, but can take a swim on the beach inbetween shifts instead of enduring the Norwegian winter. One reason for starting this innovative offshoring was to better handle customer requests in the evening and nights, exploiting the time difference.

Widerøe’s example shows how call centre jobs in Norway are protected by our exotic language, but it also reminds one of Timothy Ferriss’ rules for a rich, globalized life: work in a warm and cheap place, and get your salary from a cold and expensive one. But this is even better — here expenses are paid as well!


Monday, March 26th, 2007

I’ve contributed an article in this week’s Mandag Morgen (in Norwegian, not online) about how tiny service companies – even one-person outfits – can participate successfully in the global economy. The story focuses on several portals such as that match buyers and sellers of services. Many of the projects are fairly small, often the transactions are just a few hundred dollars. The portals have been active for years, but haven’t received much media attention.

The main example I describe is Asia Observer, a news portal/community site run by Norwegian journalist and previous Asia correspondent John Einar Sandvand. The site has been around since 1999, but last year Sandvand wanted a major renewal. So he posted the job on two of the portals and found his Belgrade-based programmer through Joomlancers. Recently he expanded the spare-time project further by hiring a part-time employee through the Manila version of Craigslist. So now the site which has a growing community is run and developed by three people living very far apart from each other who have never met physically. That’s microglobalization.