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Trends: Life outsourcing

  • Story Highlights
  • Companies use skilled staff in Asian call centers to act as a personal assistants
  • "Virtual assistants will help with work or life's daily chores
  • Some using these services for more personal means like finding dates
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By Dean Irvine
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- They either obsequiously kowtow to your every demand, or mutter sarcastic remarks after reasonable requests like picking up your newly-heeled brogues or collected your Pomeranian from the dog salon -- so, really, who needs a real butler or even a personal assistant anymore when you can now outsource your personal life?


Don't call me Jeeves: Outsourced personal assistants can save time and hassle.

For the wealthy, personal concierge services are not new, but outsourced personal assistant services are booming and becoming the latest addition not only to "cash-rich, time-poor" executives, but ordinary people who just want some help with life's tedious tasks.

They may not be able to physically pick up your dry cleaning, but they can arrange to have it delivered, all via the click of a mouse or a quick phone call to a "virtual assistant" in a call center in Asia.

Outsourcing the chores of work or everyday life is the natural extension of the globalization of consumer services.

Companies catering for our personal lives are using the same model used by IT businesses that have utilized cheaper, skilled Asian workforces to take care of the service end of their operations.

GetFriday and Ask Sunday are two companies catering for this growing demand and are attracting more that just bankers and corporate lawyers who are joined at the hip to their PDAs.

For $15 an hour, customers with GetFriday -- an Indian company based in Bangalore -- are paired with a personal assistant. The customer can call or email their overseas assistant, calling them by their first name (for that personal touch) and request almost anything, from helping to draft legal documents to more everyday chores such as paying bills.

Outsourced consumer services have even spread to more fundamental areas of life. TutorVista -- founded by Krishnan Ganesh, an Indian entrepreneur who was one of the first people to pioneer off-shore call centers -- offers personal tutoring to high school and college students through real-time online lessons taught by PhD-educated tutors in India, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Avinash Samudrala, co-founder of Ask Sunday, says that they have clients from Sydney to Switzerland and research teams in cities across Asia as well as the U.S. and Canada who scour the Internet to meet any requirement. Typically each request will take 20 minutes to complete with customers receiving a call or e-mail to confirm it has been completed.

"We'll try and do everything that is asked of us, but we don't do things that we consider to be illegal," Samudrala told CNN.

Ask Sunday can count housewives and salesmen among their customers, but the majority of people signing up are still the BlackBerry addicted bankers, accountants and corporate lawyers.

Some may feel uneasy about leaving so much personal information, such as credit card details, passport numbers and home address, with a company.

Hamaad, a Wall Street banker, uses Ask Sunday's service three to four times a week and has no problem giving up his personal details.

"I asked them to buy me a pair of shoes from a Web site a few weeks ago, so they even have my shoe-size now, but I'm not worried about online security. It's worth it in saving the time and legwork that some tasks take up."

While freeing us from the daily minutiae, these remote personal assistants might also be making some parts of our lives more impersonal as some people are happy to outsource more private areas of their lives.

"We have looked up dates for people on and Craigslist. One investment banker who was up against it with work took the moment he had between a flight from New York to Europe to ask us to wish a friend of his a happy birthday," said Samudrala.

GetFriday list motivational calls to clients to encourage them to exercise among the stranger things asked of them, but the company's service has been so popular that it has had to suspend new membership for the moment as a growing number of clients threaten to overwhelm the research assistants. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Outsourcing

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