Outsourcing: A Helping Hand

We’ve all, at one time or another, called the customer-service department of a utility company and had a chat with a friendly young man or woman with a distinctly Indian accent.

But outsourcing is no longer the exclusive domain of big multimillion-dollar companies. Nowadays anyone with an Internet connection can offload the most mundane of tasks halfway around the world, thanks to companies such as Brickwork India (b2kcorp.com) and Tasks Everyday (taskseveryday.com).

Dan Lok, a Vancouver-based Internet consultant, runs Quick Turn Marketing International Ltd. out of his home – and cheerfully admits that “the only two things I know how to do is check email and orders.”

“All the programming, all the Web designing, all the work is outsourced,” he says. “Let’s say I want to create a little program. In the States or in Canada, it would cost $5,000. If I outsource it to someone in India, it would cost me maybe $1,000. It’s a lot less, and the quality is good.”

Last April a couple of UVic students took the outsourcing model to the extreme, launching Indochino, a Web-based business that provides custom-tailored suits for around $300. Customers send in their measurements, and within two weeks the garment is delivered to their door – direct from a tailor in Shanghai.

“We’re paying about a third of the cost, had we gone with a factory model,” explains Kyle Vucko, a 22-year-old commerce undergrad who started the business with 25-year-old political-science major Heikal Gani. “And we’re paying more to the local tailors than anybody else in the region.”

The duo’s business model was enough to catch the eye of AbeBooks Inc. execs Hannes Blum, CEO; Boris Wertz, COO; and John Chase, CFO. They, along with Eric Jordan, founder of PureEdge Solutions, invested in Vucko’s company to the tune of $40,000.

But it’s not just the tailoring that Vucko and Gani are outsourcing. “We’ve got two personal assistants: one in Beijing, one in Shanghai. We pay around $7 or $8 an hour,” says Vucko. “It’s affordable for us, but actually really good money for them because everything in China is a sixth of the cost it is here.”