Outsourced (2006)

Imagine you are told your department is being outsourced to India, and if you want to stay with the company, you have to go and train your replacement.

What’s more American than sourcing jobs where the cost is a fraction of the American workforce?

Outsourcing is a real subject and a divisive one. Millions of American jobs have disappeared in the name of profit. This film follows the jobs to India.

OutsourcedPosterFinalOutsourced is little gem of a film, made during a wave of films about Westerners going to India for work or for retirement.

A Seattle fulfillment company decides to outsource their call center to India. Ironically, they sell Americana products. Todd Anderson, or as his new colleagues call him, Mr. Toad, is the manager who is sent to India.  Culture shock is an understatement.

Todd is greeted with kindness and interest, even a bit of celebrity.  He immediately gets a lesson in Indian culture, including learning which hand to eat with (the other hand is used to wipe your behind).

v1.aDsxMDEzO2o7MTgxODA7MTIwMDs3MDA7NDY1The call center is little more than a converted concrete bunker, it is a work in progress.  Todd’s directive is to get the transaction time (MPI) under six minutes, it is currently over 12 minutes. One his first day, he suddenly finds himself adjusting to the rich food, and needing to use his hand (see above).

Todd’s first effort is to help his call takers sound more American, with their pronunciation, and to make small-talk. He discovers the education process is going to take some time, but he’s patient.  The call takers do have trouble understanding why Americans want to wear blocks of plastic cheese on their heads. Americans and Indians even have different meanings for the same item which can cause confusion and even embarrassment (an eraser is called a rubber in India). Asha, one of the most perceptive and direct of the call takers, suggests that Todd needs to learn about India.  An so it begins.

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Todd lives with the family of his replacement, Puro, where he learns some of the customs, like which hand to eat with. Beyond the walls of this family’s property, are the less fortunate population.  When someone puts a tray of food on the top of the wall, an empty tray is replaced.  Todd is curious, so he tries it.

Todd makes progress on getting the MPI time down, but it seems unrealistic he will ever hit the mark and get to go home.

Josh Anderson plays Todd, a bit lost in life, without any constraints. When he checks his answering machine there are never any messages.  Todd recently broke up with his girlfriend because she wanted to start a family and he didn’t.  He phones her and discovers she has already moved on.

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Puro and Todd monitoring calls.

Puro (Asif Basra) is very polite and helpful, in part because he desperately wants the job so he can afford to marry his girlfriend.

One day Todd is warned not to go out of the house, but doesn’t listen.  Everywhere is covered in a variety of shades of dry paint.  As he walks along the street, he is attacked with people throwing paint.  He learns this is a celebration.  He joins in the fun and is covered in paint.  Todd then wades out into the pond to washing off the paint, and seems for the first time feels serene and content.

Todd has to borrow something clean to wear for work.  At the end of the shift, he feels the need to apologize to his team.  He understands that he can’t manage the center exactly as if they are in America.  The MPI time is improving, and he wants them to feel comfortable in their work, so he announces they can bring personal things to their work area.  He also says he will get a shipment of the company’s most popular items and will allow any team member to pick from the shipment when they improve their MPI time. Todd also learns that his team likes the kitschy items the company sells.

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Todd finally settles into the Indian culture.

Todd recognizes the leadership that team member Asha (Ayesha Dharker) brings to the job, so he says she is in line for assistant manager, if she can get the MPI down to six minutes.

Todd learns their shipment of items has been misdirected to another location, so Todd and Asha have to go retrieve it, from to an island that has the same name as their town.  On the trip, Todd and Asha get to know each other, they have fun trading accents. and Todd has his first mango.  Their ferry transportation back from the island catches fire, so they need to find a place to stay the night.  There is one room available, the KamaSutra Room, for both of them.  It has a red, heart-shaped bed.  Asha is upset with Todd for not insisting on a different room.  That anger, part of her attraction to him, turns into a kiss. And then spending the night together.

Returning back home, Todd and Asha, have difficulty pretending something hasn’t happened between them.  The MPI time is down to six minutes, one second, so life is good.

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Todd and Asha enjoy mangoes.

Todd and Asha meet at the market, very properly, where Asha tells Todd that she is engaged to be married.  The families know each other and it has been arranged since she was four years old. Her parents had an arranged marriage. Does she love him? Not yet, she says, but she will learn to.  She is getting married soon.

Finally, Todd meets a man from the other side of the wall.  Todd goes over the wall, and sees the less fortunate side of the country.  He goes to the man’s and enjoys a traditional dinner.  The man’s family borrows power from a community outlet. Todd experiences warmth and kindness from people he doesn’t know.

Todd’s boss arrives from Bombay and needs a ride, so Todd meets him at the train station.  His boss is impressed with the progress on the MPI time, but needs to see to believe. When they arrive at the center, the building is flooded, from area agriculture operations.  Todd gets the idea to move the team and computer to the roof where it is dry.  Todd brings the man from the other side of the wall to help rewire the electricity so they can use the computers on the roof.

His boss is really there to announce the call center operation is being moved to China, so the call center is shutting down.  Todd goes to the restaurant where his team is enjoying themselves, and delivers the bad news to everyone.

Todd sees Asha for the last time and they realize how much they feel for each other.  He is the first person to tell her that “Asha can do anything,” and it opened her heart to his believe in her.

Todd’s boss tells him that there is a great position for Todd in China. He will get a fat raise and stock options that will double or triple.  Todd hesitates.

Instead of accepting the promotion, Todd sends Puro to China instead, for the job and to get married. Todd goes back to his quiet life in Seattle.   But Todd is not exactly the same person that left Seattle a few weeks earlier.  As he’s standing in his apartment, his phone ring; it is ringtone that Asha gave him.

The end.

The film was directed and co-written by John Jeffcoat.  It was adapted into a short-lived television series.  The film was based on Jeffcoat’s experience in Nepal and India, as fish out of water.  His idea was to make a film in Seattle but the story took them mainly to India.

Outsourced is a quiet, little romantic comedy.  Like fish out of water films, Todd goes through many cultural experiences during his awakening.  The film doesn’t end on a grand life change, but Todd has changed and so as Asha.  Not only did Todd undergo some changes, but he was able to help those around him.  Even though the call center shut down, his team members can get better jobs because of their training, and Todd’s belief in them.


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