December 2009
By Prakash Sathe

Prakash D Sathe (B.com, MBA, MSc.IS) is director of Indite Technologies and part of the faculty of Pune University. He has twelve years of sales and marketing experience in hi-tech services and solutions and worked in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.  


prakash(at)inditetech.com
www.inditetech.com

Cooperation between India and Europe for technical documentation

With its enormous workforce, India could be destined to make up for the shortage of qualified technical writers in Europe and North America. However, until today, the Indian market lacks experienced teachers who are able to pass on the practical skills involved in technical documentation. A cooperation between India and Europe could possibly create huge mutual benefits.

Over the past decade and a half, India has become a hot destination for a trend known as “offshoring”. It guarantees a quality output along with timely delivery and ample availability of skilled human resources, all at significantly low prices. No wonder that executives consider offshoring a “three-birds-in-one-shot” scenario. As a result, there is a variety of fields for which outsourcing has become quite common and new areas are being explored.

Outsourcing technical communication

When it comes to outsourcing technical documentation, considerations can be slightly different. It is one of the niche areas where companies extensively rely on individuals and freelancers. Many companies do not have enough employees specialized in technical documentation, engineers are overwhelmed with their own work load and may not be good writers and core language professionals have little understanding of technology. Yet, technical documentation and website content remain the first things that prospective customers scrutinize.

North America and Europe have conventionally been pioneers in the area of technical communication. For decades, technical communication has been a recognized profession and there are plenty of quality courses shaped by the refined experience of many professionals. There are well-defined metrics to measure the effectiveness of technical communication. Moreover, laws like the CE-directives mandate the creation of user manuals, which guarantee business.

However, the profession faces the challenges of the demographic crunch caused by the dwindling population in these continents. As studies indicate, the demand for technical communication professionals exceeds the supply by far. Human resource consultants state that existing technical writers do not like switching jobs, few have taken up slightly different roles to accompany technical writing and a certain number of technical writers have permanently changed their profession.

Technical communication in India

In India, the technical communication field was practically unknown until the 1990s. Indians became aware of this field with the emergence of IT. Even today some Indian industries show little or no awareness of identifying it as a unique profession.

However, with almost half a million computer graduates entering India's workforce every year, technical writing has become a popular field in Indian cities. Most of the aspiring technical writers are young, tech-savvy and well versed in the English language. They have had some training in writing somewhere in their school-lives. With the hefty pay packages that these young professionals receive, no wonder that finishing schools are ever flooded with new crops of technical writing students.

However, as technical communication is a new profession in India, the nature of these courses remains more academic than industrial. Tutors are mostly new professionals who may only have the experience of a few assignments. The industry’s requirement for skilled workers is fulfilled by only the top students of these institutes. There is always a large number of graduates, which carry technical writing certificates but get no industry experience. Thus, many academies keep a purely commercial outlook to benefit from a huge student head count.

Mutual benefits through cooperation

Considering these facts, there is ample opportunity if someone guarantees quality education to the Indian masses. Courses can involve prolific technical writers as tutors. These courses can be full-time classes or operated through correspondence. Either way they will guarantee that every student is fully prepared to meet the industry requirements in an international market.

The potential Indian market is capable of building on-demand technical writer teams. If a little guidance is provided to these young, Indian, writing enthusiasts, they will have the strength to overcome the crunch that the world is facing in the field of technical communication.