Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai

The reason I came to Mumbai was to visit Tata Consultancy Services, the giant outsourcing firm. I had an introduction to the one of key leaders in India's outsourcing revolution, Mr. F.C. Kohli, who was the driving force behind TCS.

We had a great conversation high above south Mumbai in the Air India building, which overlooks Mumbai's peninsula. We discussed literacy and access for the blind, and I learned about one of Mr. Kohli's passions, which is adult literacy. Citing a lack of trained teachers, TCS had built a
PC-based curriculum for teaching reading in 40 hours. The program focuses on mainly teaching a core vocabulary of sight words in the the desired language, so that adults are able read the local newspaper. TCS has built this curriculum in a handful of Indian languages, and I'm looking forward to receiving a CD with several of these so that I can try my hand at this!

This is the sort of unexpected learning that I've come to expect. You aren't sure where a meeting is going to go, but you can count on it being interesting.

Traveling to Mumbai's Suburbs

After my meeting, I was picked up by a TCS car and whisked off the the suburbs. Mumbai's traffic is such that it could easily take 90 minutes during rush hour to get to the zone where much of the outsourcing work occurs. As we pulled into the outsourcing zone, my laptop was registered at the gate. It was late afternoon and thousands of employees were leaving many different companies, walking to their transportation, which seemed to be fleets and fleets of buses.

I was meeting with the Exegenix team, part of TCS that is working on XML document conversion technology. Exegenix takes PDFs of documents and outputs XML of those documents through a human-assisted pattern recognition process. Since pattern recognition was my career prior to Benetech, I was fascinated. Getting a demonstration from the development engineers made a huge difference to my grasping of what could be done with this technology to help blind and print disabled people through Bookshare.org.

So, I left for my return drive to my hotel with a brain buzzing with possibilities.

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