Outsourcing of work is not a recent phenomenon – it has been around for a while. The practice of outsourcing dates back to early 1700s, wherein manufacturers in Europe, during the industrial revolution, started outsourcing the manufacturing of goods to low cost locations.

While the outsourcing as a phenomenon has been around centuries, the real impetus to outsourcing was provided by the technological advances of the late 20th century. The advent of computers and later – the Internet, provided much needed platform to outsourcing, which was absent earlier.

In India, the outsourcing as an industry has developed in phases – in the early phases, i.e. 1990’s, mainly the Information Technology related services were outsourced to India. Again, the development of telecom and IP based communication provided a push to the next phase, which witnessed the outsourcing of Business Processes – mainly the call centers functions of the big corporations. Many companies in US and around the globe welcomed the cost arbitrage provided by the Indian companies wholeheartedly. After the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) , came the Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) and its younger cousin – Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO), each demanding an entirely different kind of skill-set from the workforce as compared to its elder cousin – BPO, wherein the complexity of the work was on the lower side. The availability of the skilled workforce – such as Engineers, Masters, PhDs and Lawyers in India has catered to the needs of the KPO and LPO over the past many years.

Speaking specifically about the Intellectually Property services, today, outsourcing has become more than just cost arbitrage – the skilled workforce in India has become more of process experts rather than just cheap labor. Over the years, they have developed a knack of providing right solutions, to the companies looking for outsourcing, at right costs. The reason for this not a hard one to guess – they work on delivering these services day in and day out, thus gaining expertise in their specific services. The easy availability workforce allows the outsourcing services providers to have multiple teams, with each team specializing in specific service. Be it patent searching or analytics – successful IP outsourcing companies invest heavily on training the employees on specific services, and continuously keep them updated of the dynamically changing laws of various jurisdictions worldwide.

The academia, in India, has also recognized Outsourcing as a significant phenomenon and has responded to cater to the needs of the outsourcing service providers by offering specific courses in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), for example, the world renowned Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur was the first of the league to offer an Intellectual Property oriented 3 year Bachelor of Law (LL.B) program. Also, the recent changes in IP law in India, for TRIPS compliance, are expected to further help the IP outsourcing companies by increasing the domestic clientele.

One may argue that having an office in India is expected to derive same benefits. True – but then other factors such as, initial setup costs, legal compliance with Indian laws, workforce attrition are expected to dilute the overall focus of the organization, and thus making the package prohibitive. Moreover, the option of setting an offshore office is not available to smaller organizations.

Thanks to the advancements in telecom and IT sector in India, the benefits of off-shoring are not only available to the larger organizations, the same benefits are available to Small and Medium Enterprises, and small IP boutique Law firms. For the companies and law firms looking for outsourcing – the best way to gain full advantage of the outsourcing phenomena, is to select the service provider carefully, and develop a strategic partnership with the vendor, instead of a black-box approach of outsourcing of specific tasks and receiving the output back. A strategic partnership would provide the necessary insights to the service provider, so as to tailor the services to suit the overall objective. On the other hand, a strategic partnership would also provide the companies an insight into the service provider down to the process level, thus giving them more control and better quality work.

Article contributed by Manoj Poonia