The world-shrinking Internet has enabled many companies to utilize offshore employees for everything from computer programming to customer service, with the promise a great cost savings (which actually, at the end of the day, turn out to not be that much). Well, now corporations don't have to be the only ones capitalizing on this trend -- you can now hire your own personal assistant or homework tutor in India. For fractions of what you would normally pay for US-based help, your Bangalore butler can help make travel arrangements, book dinner reservations, and help coordinate your busy schedule. Or, if your child is having trouble with their math homework, hire a remote tutor to help them out. Instead of paying $30 an hour for a local tutor, the offshore services charge $99 a month for as many 45-minute tutoring sessions that you want to arrange. The price savings is there, but it is still questionable whether or not these services will draw enough demand to sustain themselves. TutorVista currently has 10,000 subscribers, which sounds impressive until we recall that in 2005, 20,000 students were estimated to be using Indian tutors. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the economies of scale will apply to consumer services -- whereas offshoring corporate services like customer service lends itself to large, multi-million dollar contracts, consumer services are sold to one individual at a time for a few hundred dollars. For the new personal assistant services, the future is murky at best. While most corporate offshoring projects are driven by cost savings, personal assistant services are a new market, now made available through falling prices. Personal assistants once only affordable for Devil Wears Prada-like executives would now be affordable to middle managers. However, since it is a new market, a considerable amount of marketing must be done to even let people know that these services exist. And, of course, with these remote assistants halfway around the world, you still have to make your own coffee.
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