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Sunday, 04 June 2006 16:25

Apple aborts Indian tech support facility

ImageApple tech support is closing down its Indian operations, which had barely begun to be established after its announcement of the new facility two months ago in April.

This is a premature death of Apple's embryonic plans of offering its own tech support in India. The centre had not gone live, not a single phone call was made, just about 30 support staff had been hired out of a planned 600-plus headcount for the whole year.

Apple had been offering and still continues to offer tech support from another third party BPO provider, TransWorks based here in Bangalore.

In April, when it had taken up 40,000 sq ft of commercial space in a leading software park and had announced plans to recruit 600 people by year-end, and later roped in a high profile former head of Dell International Services India, Mohan Kharbanda, to head the Indian operations, it was big news.

Then came the blog blitzkrieg. Apple's Mac and iPod users envisioned poor experiences as a result of the outsourcing of its support centre. They had taken to expressing through blogs, their strong disapproval and disillusionment with the company they felt they all owned because Mac and iPod users constitute a world of their own with a deeply embedded streak of loyalty.

Apple tried to allay fears of transfer of jobs from the US to India by clarifying that its US call centers would continue to grow and India was as good as any center to offer support services from.

Now, Apple is back again in the news. This move of shutting down the operations of its two-month old subsidiary, Apple Services India Pvt Ltd, seems to have come out of the blue.

While announcing its decision to lay off all its employees, senior Apple officials told them: "The company is re-evaluating its operations and has thought of pulling back its Indian operations." Apple is giving employees two months salary as a severance package.

According to Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling said: “We’ve re-evaluated our plans and decided to put our support centre growth in other countries."

But sources claim that this has nothing to do with the kind of quality of service that the India tech support would offer. “I think it has more to do with financial feasibility of the centre rather than the quality of service. You have to keep in mind that no work had started – basically it was just mid-level support staff that had been hired apart from Kharbanda who was expected to grow this the Dell way.”

Dell has about 15,000 people in India – who offer tech support through its captive centres as well as through other third party providers like Exl Services, Wipro BPO and Genpact.

“I think the company stock has also been on a southward route. Apple has realized that it makes business sense to work through a third party route rather make more capital investment here in India at this point of time,” sources said.

Dell was another company that was in the news three years ago for pulling out some of its work from its Bangalore tech support center but later on it was proved that support for only a couple of its products was moved back to the US. Just about 100 seats out of its 5000 seats at that time had moved back to the US. Much before that it was Lehman Brothers that had pulled out tech support from Wipro Technologies.

More recently, UK company Abbey moved a part of its operations back to home turf. However, according to sources, it was a very small part of their operations, although media reports had said that the entire operations had gone back home.

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