Too busy to make that personal call? Let the 'Bangalore butler' do it
In a new twist on outsourcing, an Indian company is offering busy executives in the west a 24/7 personal assistant at a cut-rate price.
Companies worldwide have already outsourced office work to India, but Asksunday is novel in offering a kind of 'Bangalore butler' - although the work is actually done in Hyderabad.
Asksunday provides remote assistance for people who are too busy to navigate endless menu options or dangle at the end of a phone line to get something done.
For US$29 a month, busy professionals can get a personal assistant at Asksunday instead. Most requests are dealt with in 30 minutes.
The service is the brainchild of American Steve Ludmer, who divides his time between India and New York, and investment banker Avinash Samudrala, who realised that busy people hated trivial tasks.
The requests are varied: booking a restaurant table, arranging a wake-up call, updating frequent flier accounts, calling a plumber, setting golf tee times, checking a flight's status, finding hotel rooms and researching digital camera prices.
'The Asksunday service is so simple to use. My wife thinks I am a superhero. She can't believe that I get so much done in a day. If only she knew,' one client commented on the firm's website.
'I work on a trading floor so it's extremely helpful. I use the agents to make personal calls on my behalf that I couldn't otherwise do at the desk in front of my colleagues,' another said.
The service is available in the US, Britain and Canada but Hema Prasad, chief operating officer, said it would be offered in Australia soon and then to other countries.
'It takes a lot off people's minds. If you're stuck in a meeting, a traffic jam, or on a plane, there are lots of small things you can't do.'
While the vast majority of requests are routine, there have been some bizarre requests.
'We had a lady whose daughter was staying with relatives in Japan who didn't speak much English. She asked an agent to read bedtime stories to her daughter every night in English.'
The service is similar to another internet Jeeves, which an Indian company offers, but in reverse. Called ourmaninindia.com, it is for Indians settled abroad who need errands done in India for their elderly parents back home.
The hugely successful business allows them to outsource family duties, such as visiting infirm parents at home, taking them to the doctor, bringing them their medicines, or paying their bills to ourmanin india.com.
It has proved hugely successful, allowing Indians overseas to ease their conscience about elderly parents without having to disrupt their own lives by coming home.