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Unethical practice by agency in India
Thread poster: S. D.

S. D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:44
English to Japanese
Mar 4, 2013

I am not sure where to post this, but I wanted to share this with other translators here. I apologize in advance for writing long message.

About three weeks ago, I saw this agency in India posting "Eng-Jpn translator urgently required" in Proz. When I saw this posting, I noticed that I had only 2 hours before the deadline to submit my resume. It was around midnight here in my EST time, so I thought I would just email them my resume with cover letter before I went to bed. I did not know how "urgent" it was for them.... I also gave my rate in the subject line as they requested us to do so. I assumed that they wanted to screen candidates by rate. I discounted my rate a little since they were located in India.

In 5 minutes, they replied to me and said they wanted me to take sample test. I told them it was already after midnight here and I could work on the sample next day. No reply... I looked at the sample and it was short (about 200 words) and easy. I decided to do it and submitted it to them around 1am here. They replied and asked me "how do you feel doing this sample translation? What was the difficulty level of this translation?" Next day I replied to him that I enjoyed taking this test and there were not difficult terminologies but it requires some marketing skills since this document's purpose was trying to sell a product. I feel comfortable doing this because I have experience. etc...... " After this, no reply. Then, next day I saw them posting the same job opening again, but this time they put (Marketing) after the same title "Eng-Jpn translator urgently required." So, I thought... okay, they just used my idea what sort of skill was required.

One week passed and no feedback, so I asked them about the result of the sample. No reply... so I decided to just let it go. Then, a week after that, I got an email from them using the same email thread with my rate in the subject line. I thought that it was about the sample I submitted. However, it had nothing to do with my sample and he had a translation project for me, which was 4700 words at $0.03/word and due in two days (Saturday and Sunday). I told him that I do not work for $0.03/word and that my rate was written on the subject line. Also, I told him that I accept a job only from an agency that I have good relationship with. I pointed out that I do not consider their business practice (not replying to my email, ignoring my rate, etc.) as good relationship for me. Later they replied to me and apologized for what happened. They stated that they were too busy and actually there was not feedback from the client for my sample. Then, why don't you say so???? They were still asking me if I could become their "business partner." I replied to them saying that I could do only if they could agree with my rate. They said the best rate they can offer is $0.04/word and $5/1000 word/hour for review.... Well, it is less than half of my rate. I, of course, declined their offer. I pointed out that they should not have asked me to take the sample test if they could not agree with my rate from the beginning and instead they should have just turned it down saying that my rate was too high for them. I mentioned that how they handle business is unethical.

I learned my lesson as well.... I needed to confirm at first that they do agree with my rate before I take the test. I just assumed that they agreed because it was already specified in the subject line in my email... This is a company with 4.7 BB rating in Proz. Please be aware, everyone! thanks for readingicon_smile.gif


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Sounds like you were badly treated... Mar 4, 2013

...but you should just write it off to experience.

One thing I'm interested to know is whether some Indian agencies do pay good international rates. We hear of so many bad experiences, but there must be some good ones. You don't have to mention names.


 

S. D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:44
English to Japanese
TOPIC STARTER
That is what I was hoping for... Mar 4, 2013

by looking at their BB rate, 4.7, I was expecting that this Indian agency would offer reasonable rate, but my guess was wrong. I do not know why they are getting good rating.... I guess this BB rate does not consider the rate that translators actually get paid and the business practice? I am curious if there is good one in India as well. And yes, I learn my lesson and write it off!

[Edited at 2013-03-05 03:30 GMT]


 

Apurva Barve
German to English
Unfortunate Mar 4, 2013

Hi,

Being an Indian I work with Indian agencies all the time. I never had any bad experiences with the payments or treatment so far.


About the rate - 0.03 is the average rate in India. Anything above 0.05 USD, for Indian currency is - very expensive for most of the Indian agencies. It is our currency that is at the fault and not us Indians. I would find 0.03 USD as a good rate and I can comfortably live with this rate. I have read many forums stating that we work for "peanuts". And I find it ignorant. What might be a "peanut" for other country, is good enough for us. Trust me. What I just wrote might be little off the topic, but I had to say this. I read a lot about this and I never reply.

And about the unethical treatment, I find it very unprofessional. They should have replied and I agree that many Indians agencies are unprofessional and people from other cultures find it very rude. They do not reply if they are not interested, which is rather sad! However unfortunately, this is how it is in India. So sometimes, we ignore that part and it doesn't affect us. I know it is bad and we are only encouraging this kind of behavior but I guess we are somewhat immune to it now!

Like Philgoddard asked, even I am curious to know about the "international rates". But Indian agencies do pay good "Indian rates"icon_smile.gif


 

felicij  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:44
German to Slovenian
+ ...
I also got an offer... Mar 4, 2013

but from another agency based in India. They told me the project is ongoing (1 year) and offered a very low rate, even for India. I decided to check them out on proz BB because the mail was not sent via proz. I found them and their average rating is 2.4 due to the payment issues.
The mail was professionally written so I was kind of shocked when I read the comments. They even got 4 from someone, who also pointed out that they don't pay as agreed.
I got burned once, so I check every new client before even interacting with them....


 

S. D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:44
English to Japanese
TOPIC STARTER
I see... Mar 5, 2013

Aqurva Barve, thank you so much for explaining to me about the rate in India. I was judging this rate with my standard of living in the US, but I guess I should have considered the standard of living in India. I keep it in mind that $0.03 from Indian company is good rate. Thank you for letting me know. I think what I was really upset with them was about the way they handled the sample test. If they knew that they could offer only $0.03 or $0.04, they should not have asked me to do sample up front knowing my rate that I offered, especially they were very demanding in late night here. Then, when I inquire something, they do not even reply.... This business manner is just out of question in my native country's (Japan) standard. I guess I need to adjust my Japanese standard to Indian norm as well. I worked for another Indian agency before, but they never had such a bad manner in doing business. The rate was low, but at least they were always good in communicating with me. yes, this was very unfortunate...

felicij: It was good that you checked BB and noticed that the company you received an offer had bad rating in BB. I do not understand why someone could rate 4 although he/she could not get paid.... I do agree with you about checking the BB rating before you interact with an agency. I do the same as well. Last year I worked for an agency and they did not pay me about $1900. After I sent a letter to CEO, CFO and others stating that I would bring it to small claims court, they finally started paying little by little from January. So, I am careful in contacting which agency to apply for as well. Too bad that this Indian company had good rating and yet had such a bad business practice.... but considering what Aqurva Barve said about the rate in India, many translators were still happy. thanks for sharing your experience!


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sorry, your fault... Mar 5, 2013

S. D. wrote:
I pointed out that they should not have asked me to take the sample test if they could not agree with my rate from the beginning and instead they should have just turned it down saying that my rate was too high for them. I mentioned that how they handle business is unethical.

My view on this is that you should not have done the test without first confirming that your rate level was acceptable. Their consistent lack of reply to your emails should have been a very clear hint to you that they were hiding their intentions of not paying your rate until they had their problem solved, i.e. sending a quality translation test to their customer. Now they got the job, which will be assigned to a cheaper translator, and you got nothing.

All this lost time and discomfort would have been avoided if you had clarified the rate level before doing any work for them. Another good lesson you can extract from this situation is that one should never do an urgent job as a first job for a new customer. Urgent work + new customer = trouble now or in the long run!


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Dealing with Indian agencies Mar 5, 2013

Apurva Barve wrote:
They do not reply if they are not interested, which is rather sad! However unfortunately, this is how it is in India.

Indeed this is my experience dealing with Indian companies. Over the years I have learned to follow their same business approach: I only invest time in them if they solve my problem, i.e. they respond to my queries quickly and in full, are ready to pay my rate, and have a good BlueBoard rating. To all the rest, I simply reply that I am very busy and wish them good luck, since sooner or later they are bound to disappoint me and are of no use to me.


 

564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:44
Danish to English
+ ...
Positive experience with Indian agency Mar 5, 2013

I have done two small jobs for the same Indian agency:

For the first job, I needed clarification of some terminology, which the agency couldn't get me, and they asked me to "just translate it word by word", which of course is not possible when you are looking for clarification of technical components. I did my best, but told the agency that I would not accept responsibility for the translation and therefore, I would give it to them for free. The owner of the agency seemed very upset at this and insisted on paying, which I refused (it was only about 60 words).

For the second job I did (about 500 words), I charged my standard rate ($0.18 per source word), which the agency found high, but they accepted it, and they paid very promptly, just a few days after delivery of the translation (my terms of business state payment within 2 weeks), and they accepted that I invoiced them in Danish kroner, not in USD as they would have preferred.

The owner specifically asked me to put a note on the BlueBoard to say that he had paid me promptly, as he was tired of the international attitude towards Indian agencies, i.e. that people immediately think that all Indian agencies are difficult to work with and that they don't pay on time. My experience was the exact opposite, communication was highly professional and payment, as I said, very prompt.

I should add that I did in fact leave a comment on the BB and then asked the agency to leave a comment on my WWA, which they didn't, so I asked ProZ to remove MY comment. Quid pro quo...

I would not hesitate to work for the same agency again, but although they have contacted me a couple of times, they have turned down my quotes, so I presume my positive experience, in terms of the payment rate at least, may have been a one-off.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Hebrew to English
It's a good rate for INDIANS i.e. people living in India Mar 5, 2013

S. D. wrote:
I was judging this rate with my standard of living in the US, but I guess I should have considered the standard of living in India. I keep it in mind that $0.03 from Indian company is good rate.


Don't fool yourself into believing they don't know what they're doing when they "offer" this rate to people living outside India. They do.

In addition, we're meant to be the ones setting the rate, so there shouldn't really be such a thing as "a good rate for an Indian/Chinese/US/British company...".


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Quite Mar 5, 2013

I agree with Ty. The rates offered by Indian agencies may be good for people living in India but I'm fascinated as to why these companies would contact freelance translators outside India for language combinations that come clearly from a client outside India.
If I get asked for a Dutch to English translation by an Indian company (which happens very often, and now I see that it's common practice - English to Japanese? From an Indian company?), it does get me wondering what the end client's motivations were in choosing an Indian company in the first place when they are based in Europe. Price perhaps? Of course, I'm unwilling to lower my price just because the agency using my services is located in India when I live in Europe. It wouldn't make any sense at all to do so. In fact, it would make more sense to move to India and work with companies everywhere except India.
This means that when an Indian company gets in touch with me, I make a POINT of discussing rates first before discussing anything else. This may seem a little direct or rude to them but it's the only way to avoid wasting my time and theirs as invariably the rate they want to pay isn't even remotely close to the rate I'm willing to work for.
I'm sorry S.D. that you wasted your time but if it's any comfort, I think that every translator has some kind of similar experience at some point and you always learn and adapt your business practices accordingly so it's definitely one to put down to experience.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:44
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
When dealing with agencies from other cultures Mar 5, 2013

S. D. wrote:
They stated that they were too busy and actually there was not feedback from the client for my sample. Then, why don't you say so????


If you'll permit me to generalise, India has a face-saving culture. What is considered honesty in the West may be considered rudeness in such cultures, and what is considered considerateness in such cultures may well be considered dishonsty in the West. Also, the giver of bad news often loses face by doing so, and so it is not abnormal in such cultures not to give bad news unless circumstances are dire. The agency did not hear back from the client about your test translation and did not want to tell you that, so they did the best thing they could think of in their culture, which is to keep mum about it.

I pointed out that they should not have asked me to take the sample test if they could not agree with my rate from the beginning and instead they should have just turned it down saying that my rate was too high for them.


On the one hand, face-saving comes to mind again (after all, is it not also a little embarrassing in your culture to have to admit that you are unable to afford a service?). On the other hand (if I may generalise again), India has a haggling culture, so it may well be that they did not realise that the rate you stated was meant as a final, non-negotiable rate.

When I deal with agencies from low-rate haggling-rich cultures, I always mention my full, usual rate, and then in the same e-mail I offer them a rate that is lower than my usual full rate, and even the lowered rate is still higher than I would be willing to drop my rate to. Hopefully this helps create the impression that the rate I quote is already "haggled" down and should not be interpreted as a possible upper limit to what I judge my services to be worth.

I learned my lesson as well... I needed to confirm at first that they do agree with my rate before I take the test.


I think the lesson here is that you should not reply to a late-night e-mail late at night, and that if you do, you should not reply to the reply that comes in immediately after that, otherwise you may end up taking part in a negotiation while you're not fresh and while you are pressured for time.

By all means, if you get such a late-night e-mail, reply to them and tell them that you'll respond more comprehensively in the morning, but then ignore their immediate reply and do what you said you'd do, namely to reply the next morning.

Think of the impression you created by responding to their e-mails when you did -- you created the impression that you are "at work" and that you are able to participate in a lengthy exchange of e-mails. Perhaps a good rule is to always assume that the client will respond within minutes, and if you know that you will not be able to respond to his mail until the next day, make sure the client knows this.

S. D. wrote:
I was judging this rate with my standard of living in the US, but I guess I should have considered the standard of living in India.


I don't want to nitpick, but: it is not the "standard of living" that is lower in India, but the exchange rate that is favourable for export (and unfavourable for import). You can't judge standard of living by the exchange rate of the currency.





[Edited at 2013-03-05 09:55 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Hebrew to English
I don't want to nitpick, but.... Mar 5, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:
I don't want to nitpick, but: it is not the "standard of living" that is lower in India, but the exchange rate that is favourable for export (and unfavourable for import). You can't judge standard of living by the exchange rate of the currency.


Isn't it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index

Many commentators also believe India's economic ascent has not been accompanied by a rise in the standard of living.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:44
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Ty Mar 5, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
I don't want to nitpick, but: it is not the "standard of living" that is lower in India, but the exchange rate that is favourable for export (and unfavourable for import). You can't judge standard of living by the exchange rate of the currency.

Isn't it?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index


My reply should be read in the context of that which I was replying to (which I did not quote), namely Apurva's response to the original poster. I did not mean to say that the standard of living is high in India, but rather that the standard of living is not the issue here.

I stand by my comment that you can't determine standard of living by judging the excange rate. Apurva's response to S.D. was not that Indian agencies offer low rates because of the low standard of living, but that Indians offer low rates because of the unfavourable exchange rate.


[Edited at 2013-03-05 10:23 GMT]


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 22:14
English to Hindi
+ ...
My experience with Indian agencies Mar 5, 2013

I generally do not work for Indian agencies, mainly because of the rate issue. I do not consider 0.03 USD per word, which most Indian agencies are willing to pay, good enough for me. (Often, these agencies offer a rupee rate because when 0.03 USD is converted into rupee it looks more respectable at Rs. 1.50!)

But I have done work for some Indian agencies and the experience has not been bad. There was one gentlemanly agency, a translator who had progressed to become an outsourcer, who at the outset itself, after studying my profile where I clearly mention my rate, said that he could pay only 0.06 USD per word (slightly less than half the rate I charge), but would I be willing to take up a small job. Charmed by his goodness, I did the job for him, and the payment came promptly within a week. He also inquired whether I would be willing to work for him at the same rate in future, and if not, he would not bother me in future. I told him politely that I cannot work for the rate he can offer, as I have other clients who pay much more. He replied politely, that he understood, and he would not bother me further with his job requests.

So we do get good agencies in India too. And I don't agree with Samuel's analysis about the cultural differences between Indian and Western people, where he makes out Indians to be some sort of exotic orientalists with a queer sense of fairness and justice.

What people need to keep in mind is that there are many low paying regions in the word and India is just one of them. For example, I never get the same kind of high rates from say Czechoslovakia or Spain or Portugal or even Italy as I do from say the US, Germany, UK or France. Talking of UK, there are quite a few low-paying agencies there too.

China, Thailand, Brazil, and Argentina never pay the kind of rates that a US agency or a agency from the affluent parts of Europe like Germany or France pay. That does not mean these low-paying agencies are any less professional.

At the end of the day, it is for us to make the choice whether to work for an agency or not, and whether an agency is professional or not. Yes, it is a learning experience, which for some comes the hard way.

Most of these low paying agencies, whether of India or other parts of the world, operate at the lower end of the business. Most of them are translators who have progressed to outsourcing, and they have little working capital or resources for quality control or client management. Most of them make their profit by squeezing translators.

The characteristics of such agencies, apart from their low rates, is the extremely tight turnaround times they demand. The reason is, they mostly bid as translators for jobs and to remain in the competition offer low rates and quick turn around times. Now if the translator is himself doing the translation, he can deliver to such tight deadlines. But these agencies have to send the job to a translator and get it back from them and then deliver to their end clients. So they can give their translators even less time.

One should be alert to these red flags and give such agencies a very wide berth.

And I don't agree with Ty either, that such low rates as 0.03 USD per word, are sufficient for Indian translators (those living in India) to keep body and soul together. The truth is, many places like Mumbai, where I live, are extremely costly, much more than many parts of the affluent world, and for a translator to maintain a decent life-style, competitive international rates are an absolute necessity.

The reason why many Indian translators are able to take up jobs at 0.03 USD a word is that most of them are only part-time translators who receive a steady income from a regular job and the translation earnings are just supplementary income for them.

Truly professional, full-time translators can hardly lead a civilized life even in India at 0.03 USD per word.

Because these low cost, part time translators have a full-time job to answer for, they can't give the same level of professional service as a genuine full-time translator can.

Fortunately, the better of the double-timers soon learn that they can make a decent full-time career out of translation and become full-fledged translators who no longer pick up the low end jobs.

But there is always a steady stream of new entrants on which the dubious agencies can continue to prey.

The only way to beat them (both low-charging translators and low-paying agencies) is to stand out with your professionalism, quality and better service.

[2013-03-05 11:50 GMT पर संपादन हुआ]


 
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