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The History of Outsourcing

It is important to dig out the history while moving forward on a path, the study will certainly bring up some valuable insights which may drive us to take decisions in the future.

Outsourcing is defined as the decision by a company to contract a task to a third party vendor who in exchange provides and manages the task or service for financial gain over an agreed period of time (Kern, 1997).[1]

We all know outsourcing started with IT business, it took off in the 90s when companies started focusing on cost saving measures. The outsourcing business started on the following grounds,

  • Lack of specialized team to perform certain task meaning no internal competency
  • Avail Cost benefits in the form of cheap labor with no compromise in quality

Crowd Sourcing- Looking back into the past again

Crowd + Outsourcing became crowd sourcing

  • Crowd sourcing is fairly a new concept but it existed since 1714 when British government offered £20,000 to solve The Longitude Problem and John Harrison the son of a Carpenter solved it by creating a accurate timepiece which can used to determine longitude
  • In 1936 Toyota held a Logo Contest, They received 27,000 entries and the winning logo was the three Japanese katakana letters for "Toyoda" in a circle, which was later modified by Risaburo Toyoda to "Toyota".
  • The Sydney opera house is the result of a contest floated by Joseph Cahill, 233 entries were received from 32 countries around the world.
  • Between 2000 to 2006 Wikipedia & Youtube got formed.
  • In 2006 Jeff Howe coins the term crowd sourcing in Wired Magazine article in June 2006.

Collaboration is the key to success

From Individual contributor to Team Contributor - Earlier in the late 90s in a typical web development company we used to have one person as the whole & soul he is the person seen taking requirements, further analyzing them and creating visual mockups and then converting the mockups into HTMLs, also he/she used to be SPOC for any issues or concerns relating to the website.

But things changed and the IT industry started believing that a collaborative effort is the key to success, rather putting the responsibility on ones shoulder and make him slog for 10-12 hours a day it is better to have specialized teams to do a particular set of activity. These specialized teams started working on there piece but while passing the ball to the next team they gave some guidance on certain things, and this cycle continued for a period of time

Going little further in the process these isolated teams realized that instead of going waterfall let's adopt an iterative model and allow involvement of the entire team from the discovery phase of the project, these resulted in lot of ideas flowing in across the table, and team started learning & speaking each others language & jargons. Today 99% the software products are the results of a collaborative effort put together by a group a engineers from different domains.

What motivates people to be a part of the Crowd sourcing projects

As mentioned by Prof Karim Lakhani Crowd existed for centuries, people have contributed ideas to projects in everything from architecture to agriculture and crowd in the form of contest & communities have been used to solve major problems & technological advancement, but What’s different today is the Internet’s ability to connect communities of people, whether they’re coders, designers, researchers, or gamers, and direct their energies toward problems in a concerted way.

Prof Karim lakhani also mentioned crowdsourcing is viable model today because of the massive excess mental capacity, can be called as Cognitive surplus, He saw people travelling by train at the end of the day after hard work still have the capacity to solve puzzles & sudokos meaning they still have the mental capacity to utilise their brains and solve puzzles

What motivates people is the opportunity to participate in the design of a product, earn some buck as well solve complex problems However, the crowd sourcing platform is yet to mature and there are problems like low wages, respect for workers, legal risks[2]

My Experience as a crowd worker

I tried registering in Amazon Mechanical Turk and my registration got rejected and then I started using sandbox version and below is my earning

Amazom MC Turk.png

I could see some major User Experience issues.

  • As an user, the first thing I expect is a demo, The help link is not getting any prominence, also on clicking help I was directed to an FAQ section with a list of items, a video demo is expected, the same is applicable for the requester section
  • Creating task as a requester had to go through a steep learning curve, there are very less customization options for the requester
  • The task flow for accessing an HIT and working on the same is not straight forward and it involve a learning curve
  • While submitting task as the requester there was a complex math which is not clearly explained.

Since we are using sandbox, I am not sure if the experience is different in the public version. Attached is the HIT results file


The experience in Mircoworker

At the same time I also started working as a worker in I registered into the site and started looking out for jobs. There are some dominant problems I have noticed which are listed below

  • Most of the projects are smaller in size and does not involve forming a group rather it require individual contribution.
  • Low wage, typically there is a scope to earn between 2 to 3 US dollar on successful completion of a project meaning I cannot earn a living with 3 dollars per day, and so I cannot take this up as a full time activity, and if it's a part-time activity what would motivate me to be a crowd worker. Can I get promoted to the next level on completion of certain number of task meaning can I apply for jobs which are most paying
  • There are certain task which has a dependency, for E.g. Find any video-game related forum that is below 600.000 ranking on
  • Dead links, There was a task to signup and a URL was given. The URL had some error showing missing database connection
  • There was a task where there were certain pre requisites, with some maths knowledge too.

To do this task, you need to have a twitter account that meets the following requirements:�- is tied to (free signup) and has a Klout score of at least 30�- at least 200 followers�- your follower count needs to be at least double your following count (meaning - if you are following 150 users, you need to have at least 150*2 =300 followers)�- not more than 30 retweets per month have been posted on our behalf�- the majority of the 20 most recent tweets are in English�- at least 8 out of 20 most recent tweets have no links, are NOT retweets, and sound natural and interesting

  • Clicked on a signup job, but the site is completely in Arabic, to my opinion these jobs should be posted explicitly for Middle east users
  • There were task involved signing up in an website, but while signing up some websites looks risky
  • There are certain task for which the review will happen in 7 days, it is a long wait for the workers.
  • I was able to earn only $0.55 after completing 8 tasks which to me is little frustrating

Micro workers.png

The experience is different in upworker

I tried registering in Upworker and below are the points I could discover

  • The registration process is lengthy, it is almost like creating personal profile for a job, sometimes a lengthy form filling however create trust among the user in a way they feel the site is dealing with some serious work and probably that may be reason they seek more information about the person who is registering
  • Uploading Photograph is mandatory
  • On profile completion it will be sent for review, this step may lead users to quit as nobody likes to wait, research says the upcoming generation is restless in nature
  • Some customers have specific requirements like Need to know English with a perfect grammar, English is not a mother tongue for everyone
  • There are high paying jobs, but that also involve high risks especially for design jobs, you never know when your concept is copied & used.
  • Could not find a testimonial or rating from the workers who have worked with a particular requester in the past.
  • No ratings available for a requester

Crowd sourcing in Indian Context

  • The rupee symbol was the output of a common man through crowdsourcing.On 5 March 2009, the Indian government announced a contest to create a sign for the Indian rupee, there were 5 shortlist out of which they chose the symbol created by Udaya Kumar, Associate Professor IIT Guwahati.
  • With an attempt to make the consumer the centre of the entire communication process, Hero Moto-corp invited people to sing the Hero song, shoot their video and upload it, and their video became a part of the film.Anil Dua, Senior VP, Marketing and Sales, Hero MotoCorp said, “Billion Voices is an engagement programme where individuals were invited to sing along and submit their own videos for the ‘Hum Mein Hai Hero’ anthem. This was the first time when crowdsourcing was used by a mainstream Indian brand to continuously create fresh content for its TV and digital campaign. Thousands of fans from across the country sent in their videos. This initiative helped us get our proposition ‘Hum Mein Hai Hero’ quickly into the hearts and minds of people across the country.”
  • The new Micromax logo design crowdsourced on Talenthouse resembles a punch capturing the attitude of the youth, adding to the brands esteem. According to Shubhodip Pal, Chief Marketing Officer at Micromax, the logo was globally crowdsourced resonating with the values of the brand. Crowdsourcing helped in coming up with an open-ended logo with a lot of connotations.

Companies such as Mahindra, HUL, Toyota, Airtel, Ricoh are the few companies that are regularly investing in crowdsourcing initiatives in India [3]

The Final Thoughts

  • Together we can achieve more, that's mantra prevailing today across industries, As I was mentioning earlier about a collaborative effort, crowdsourcig projects must open up a channel and enable people to talk to each other, brainstorm on ideas, probably come up with low-fi prototype which may pass through several rounds of iteration and then post a solution.
  • There can be mechanism where workers can vote on solutions posted and the solution receiving the highest vote can further move to the next phase.
  • The problem with fair & low wages is a debatable topic, as our industry does not have a benchmark, it is commonly seen in software companies engineers with less experience earning more than the one with higher experience, however each crowd sourcing platform being different the wage varies, but as a worker one should not loose the opportunity cost meaning the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
  • Especially in context to India We live in an orthodox society where there are issues like over-population, un-employment, political instability, dependence on the global economy are dominant people tend to take the normal course and settle their life, this lead to the discussion of if crowd sourcing is going gain popularity in near future, can an an interesting point of discussion. However at the same time the new generation is ready to explore options.