Uruguay Is the Next India

Thomas Friedman is on a roll. He’s just plain right about using sugar cane ethanol (and rolling back our prohibitive tax) and now finds something to celebrate about Uruguay.

Four years later, TCS Iberoamerica can’t hire workers fast enough. When I visited its head office, people were working on computers in hallways and stairwells. (Mr. Rozman also oversees 1,300 employees in Brazil and 1,200 in Chile.) It turns out that many multinationals like the idea of spreading out their risks and not having all their outsourcing done from India — especially after one big U.S. bank nearly had to shut down last year when a flood in Mumbai paralyzed its India data center the same day a hurricane paralyzed its Florida operation. And there is no risk of nuclear war with Pakistan here.

“When I first approached this big U.S. bank to outsource some of its services to Montevideo, instead of India,” recalled Mr. Rozman, “the guy I was speaking with said, ‘I don’t even know where Montevideo is.’ So I said to him, ‘That’s the point!’ ”

Another factor, added Mr. Rozman, was that multinationals that were depending on Indian firms alone to run their backrooms 24 hours a day were getting the third team for eight hours, since the best Indian engineers didn’t want to work the late-night shift — the heart of America’s day. By creating an outsourcing center in Montevideo, Tata could offer its clients its best Indian engineers during India’s day (America’s night) and its best Uruguayan engineers during America’s day (India’s night).

Most employees here are Uruguayans, but there are also lots of Indians sent over by Tata. It produces both a culture shock — Montevideo doesn’t even have an Indian restaurant — and a cultural cacophony.

The firm runs on strict Tata principles, as if it were in Mumbai, so to see Uruguayans pretending to be Indians serving Americans is quite a scene. Said Rosina Marmion, 27, an Uruguayan manager, “Our customers expect us to behave like Indians — to react the same way.”

In outsourcing, though, Uruguay has leapt ahead of its neighbors by being the first to understand what could be done — that in today’s world having an Indian company led by a Hungarian-Uruguayan servicing American banks with Montevidean engineers managed by Indian technologists who have learned to eat Uruguayan veggie is just the new normal.