Security and Operational Risks of Western Companies Offshoring Operations to India

Introduction to the Risks Offshoring Operations to India

The allure of India’s skilled workforce, proficiency in English, and cost-saving advantages have made it a hub for Western companies seeking Offshoring services. But beyond the glossy brochure lies a labyrinth of security and operational risks that can turn your offshoring operations dream into a nightmare. This paper takes you through a journey of real-life case studies, all of which have their roots firmly embedded in the Indian offshoring industry, showcasing the risks that you, as a Western company, could potentially face.

Offshoring Operations
Security and Operational Risks of Western Companies Offshoring Operations to India 2

Security Risks in Offshoring to India

Data Breaches: A Growing Concern

Imagine investing in a well-known Indian IT services firm, only to wake up one morning to news of a scandal that shakes your faith in the integrity of offshoring operations to India.

Case Study: Satyam Scandal, 2009

Satyam Computer Services rocked the business world when it was engulfed in a corporate scandal that saw its chairman admitting to inflating the company’s balance sheet by $1 billion. The ripple effect of this scandal dented investor confidence, making businesses rethink the security implications of Offshoring operations to India1.

Case Study: Evalueserve, 2007

But the risks don’t stop at financial malfeasance. Evalueserve, a business research and analytics firm, suffered an internal data breach. A rogue employee leaked sensitive client data, showcasing the lurking risks of data security within Indian Offshoring firms2.

Legal Implications and Liabilities

The introduction of regulations like GDPR and CCPA mandates companies to ensure the security of their outsourced data. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines, as exemplified by the $230 million penalty imposed on British Airways for a data breach.

Operational Risks

Quality Control: More Than a Catchphrase

Quality control isn’t just a slogan; it’s an operational cornerstone that can make or break your business.

Case Study: General Motors, 2008

Imagine being General Motors, one of the automotive giants, only to find that the quality of your IT work performed in India wasn’t up to the mark. Frustrated, GM reversed its offshoring operations decision, taking the work back to the U.S3.

Case Study: Dell, 2001

Dell learned this lesson the hard way. Complaints flooded in about the poor customer service provided by its Indian call centres. The company had no option but to pull the plug on its Indian customer service operations4.

Software Development Challenges

Complex projects and quality expectations often lead to missed deadlines and budget overflows.

Case Study: Qantas Airways

Qantas Airways thought they had made a savvy move by offshoring operations of their IT to IBM India. But soon, they were grappling with frequent software glitches, disrupting their operations and affecting customer satisfaction5.

Case Study: NHS IT Failure

The UK’s NHS painted a dream of a seamless National Programme for IT. A part of it was outsourced to India but was abandoned due to delays and budget overruns. A stark example of how ambition can overreach capability6.

Geopolitical Instability: The Case of Aviva

Aviva provides a case study of how geopolitical factors can influence your offshoring operations plans.

Case Study: Aviva, 2010

In an age where data is gold, imagine an employee from your outsourced Indian operations leaking sensitive customer data. Aviva found itself in just such a scandal, adding another layer of complexity to their Indian operations7.

Over-Reliance Risks

Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky, especially in an environment you don’t fully control.

Case Study: Vodafone

Vodafone was so invested in its Indian call centres that when quality issues arose, they found themselves having to navigate a complicated exit strategy, all while trying to mend a damaged reputation8.

Hidden Costs of Offshoring Operations: The Untold Story

At first glance, the financial metrics of offshoring operations seem attractive. Labour costs are lower, and initial project estimates promise a substantial reduction in operational expenses. But as many Western companies have come to discover, the devil is in the details—costs that are not apparent on the balance sheet can balloon and transform an offshoring operations venture from a cost-saving strategy into a financial burden.

Training Expenses: The Investment You Didn’t Plan For

Imagine you’re a U.K.-based tech company with a reputation for high-quality products. You decide to outsource your customer support to India. While the labour is less expensive, you find yourself facing an unexpected cost—training. Your outsourced workforce lacks familiarity with the subtleties of your product line and needs extensive training to meet your quality standards. The training isn’t just a one-time cost; it needs to be ongoing to align with any product updates and changes10.

Compliance and Legal Fees: The Hidden Cost of Doing Business Abroad

Once you venture into the realm of international business, you’re entering a complex web of laws, regulations, and compliance measures. From GDPR for data protection to industry-specific standards, ensuring compliance can be a draining process both in terms of time and financial resources. Legal consultations, compliance audits, and adjustments to business processes to meet foreign regulations can accumulate into unforeseen expenses2.

Quality Assurance: The Price of Keeping Standards High

If you’ve outsourced production or development to India, maintaining quality levels becomes crucial. Regular audits, quality checks, and potentially redoing tasks that did not meet your criteria add up to your overall cost11.

The Boomerang Effect: The Cost of Bringing Jobs Back Home

Many companies such as Dell and General Motors have experienced the ‘boomerang effect.’ Initial cost-saving advantages were offset by hidden costs and operational issues, compelling them to reverse their offshoring operations decisions. The process of pulling operations back into their home country—known as back shoring—involved logistical, contractual, and financial complexities that added to the expense12.

Communication Barriers: The Silent Profit Erodes

While English proficiency in India is generally high, nuances and cultural differences can sometimes result in misunderstandings. This can affect productivity and may require further investment in communication tools and training programs13.

Currency Fluctuation Risks: The Unpredictable Variable

When dealing with cross-border offshoring, currency exchange rates become another hidden player. The value of currencies can fluctuate due to a variety of factors, including economic conditions, geopolitical issues, and market sentiment. These fluctuations can affect the actual cost of services14.

Risk Mitigation Strategies: Navigating the Offshoring Minefield

While the path to offshoring operations to India is fraught with security and operational risks, Western companies can employ a range of strategies to mitigate these challenges. By implementing these strategies, businesses can strike a balance between reaping the benefits of offshoring operations and safeguarding their interests.

Due Diligence: The Foundation of a Secure Partnership

Before entering into any offshoring engagement, thorough due diligence is paramount. This involves a meticulous background check of the potential offshoring operations partner. Companies should delve into the offshoring firm’s history, financial stability, past performance, and reputation within the industry15.

Robust Legal Frameworks: Protecting Interests Through Contracts and NDAs

Contracts serve as the backbone of any offshoring agreement. They should be comprehensive, specifying data security protocols, operational procedures, dispute resolution mechanisms, and delineating legal responsibilities. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) further safeguard sensitive information, preventing its unauthorised dissemination16.

Regular Audits: Ensuring Consistent Quality and Compliance

To maintain the desired level of quality and compliance, offshoring operations should undergo frequent audits. These audits can encompass a variety of aspects, including security measures, adherence to industry-specific regulations, and overall operational efficiency. Adherence to internationally recognised security standards, such as ISO, can provide an additional layer of assurance17.

Local Expertise: Navigating the Regulatory Landscape

Navigating India’s intricate regulatory landscape can be challenging. Companies can benefit from consulting with local experts who are intimately familiar with Indian laws and regulations. These experts can help interpret and navigate the intricacies of local business practices, taxation, and compliance, ensuring a smoother offshoring experience18.


As we’ve embarked on this journey through the complexities of outsourcing to India, it becomes abundantly clear that this strategy is a double-edged sword. On one side lies the promise of accessing a skilled workforce, lowering operational costs, and potentially boosting competitiveness in an ever-evolving global market. On the other side lurk security breaches, quality control issues, and a myriad of operational challenges that can swiftly erode the anticipated benefits.

Western companies contemplating outsourcing to India must weigh these risks and rewards with utmost diligence. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the decision to outsource should be driven not just by cost-saving ambitions but by a holistic understanding of the intricacies involved.

A Prudent Approach to Risk Mitigation

Our exploration into risk mitigation strategies reveals that while outsourcing to India is not without its perils, it is manageable. By conducting due diligence, establishing robust legal frameworks, conducting regular audits, and seeking local expertise, companies can better navigate the challenges and uncertainties that outsourcing brings.

The Hidden Costs Unveiled

The discussion on hidden costs has exposed the financial underbelly of outsourcing, demonstrating that the initial allure of lower labour costs often conceals substantial financial commitments in the form of training, compliance, quality assurance, and the potential expenses incurred during backs-horing.

The Case Studies: A Mirror to the Industry

The case studies of Satyam, Evalueserve, General Motors, Dell, Qantas Airways, and the NHS provide real-world insights into the pitfalls and triumphs of outsourcing to India. They serve as a mirror to the industry, reflecting both the potential rewards and the calamities that can befall companies who do not tread cautiously.

The Call for Prudence

In conclusion, Western companies should approach outsourcing to India with prudence and realism. It is an avenue filled with potential, but one that necessitates careful navigation. The decision to outsource should not be made in haste or driven solely by the allure of cost savings. Instead, it should be grounded in a thorough understanding of the risks, the commitment required to manage those risks, and a clear-eyed evaluation of the long-term benefits.

Considering Alternatives

While India remains a prominent outsourcing destination, it’s worth noting that alternative outsourcing markets are emerging in regions like Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. These regions offer their own unique advantages and challenges. Western companies should consider diversifying their outsourcing strategies to include these emerging markets, reducing their dependency on a single outsourcing destination.

A Path Forward

Offshoring operations to India, like any business decision, is neither inherently good nor bad. It is a strategic choice that demands thoughtful planning, rigorous risk assessment, and ongoing oversight. By taking a multifaceted, risk-mitigated approach, Western companies can better navigate the complexities and pitfalls associated with outsourcing operations to India. The key lies in balancing the promise and peril, making informed decisions that align with the company’s long-term goals and objectives.

In closing, outsourcing to India remains a viable strategy for Western companies seeking to optimise their operations. However, success in this endeavor hinges on a meticulous understanding of the terrain, the employment of robust risk mitigation strategies, and a commitment to adapt and evolve as the outsourcing landscape continues to change.


  1. Satyam Scandal
  2. Evalueserve Data Breach
  3. General Motors and offshoring
  4. Dell’s Indian offshoring
  5. Qantas and IBM
  6. NHS IT Failure
  7. Aviva Data Leak
  8. Vodafone and offshoring
  9. Training Costs in offshoring
  10. Legal Compliance in offshoring
  11. Quality Assurance in offshoring
  12. The Boomerang Effect
  13. Communication Barriers
  14. Currency Fluctuation Risks
  15. Due Diligence in offshoring
  16. Contract Management in offshoring
  17. ISO Standards
  18. Local Expertise in offshoring

This article is subject to our Disclaimer 

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