Ford plans to invest about $US30 million this year to set up a call centre and a software development unit in India to design components for its cars, Bloomberg News reported.

The company already processes supplier payment in India and has now spent about $US10 million on a call centre in the Southern Indian city of Chennai. The centre helps answer queries for all Ford customers worldwide.

Ford has followed a number of other international firms to the continent. India is fast becoming an attractive call centre base because of the availabilility of well educated, predominantly English-speaking labour who work for what are, by Western standards, very low wages.

"We see the downturn in the North American market and our recent success here (as a reason) to move more business here faster,"' John Larson, director, Ford Asia Pacific-Information Technology, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "As long as India remains competitive, we want to expand and triple that kind of investment.''

Bloomberg said that Ford, which makes Fiesta-based Ikon sedans in India, hopes to replicate the success of General Electric, which lowered costs by setting up offices in India to process loan applications and insurance claims. GE's call centres also answer customer queries for companies such as the famous English department store Harrods.

Ford expects to announce the opening of the call centre, which will employ up to 2,400 people, on March 29. The automaker will team up with about three Indian companies to help run the call centre and software development business.

Ford also plans to buy stakes in companies "that have the skills" it's seeking, Bloomberg said, adding that the vehicle maker also plans to set up call centre and software development units in China and the Philippines.

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

Ford Strategic Review

Global Car Forecasts to 2005