Brickwork India – Just more of the same

Working with offshore companies has always had an appeal to me. The US dollar, even at the low point, can buy so much more in India, it seems like a no-brainer to work with these companies. But those of you who have know that there is a real challenge to this.

First you have the language barrier. Don’t be fooled by the fact they say they speak English. Call up a Dell customer service line and see the level of English we’re talking about. It’s not their fault. I mean they have a lot more knowledge of our langauge then we do theirs, but it’s just not fluent enough English to communicate properly.

Second you have the time barrier. Again, don’t be fooled by the idea that they can just work your hours. Even when they say they will, that never quite seems to be the case. Again, not their fault. I’m sure no one reading this wants to drag their ass into work at 3am.

Then there is an issue that I feel is difficult to mention without sounding very offensive, but here it is. Don’t expect an offshore company to be as into their work as a US company. Now it’s wrong to speak in such broad context about the work ethic of other countries. We have plenty of horrible companies in the US, and I’m sure there are some exceptional companies in India and other countries who do work from the US. But I have to say that in my years of working with at least a dozen of these companies, I have never found a solid company to outsource to in India or Ukraine. The fact is I have just not seen the level of competency I would expect in an US company.

I was hoping to find something different in Brickwork India. They were mentioned in both The World is Flat, and The 4-Hour Work Week. Supposedly major companies use their services, and some people have written some wonderful things about them. But my experience with them has been nothing short of laughable. At lest most of the offshore companies I have dealt with are anxious to get going. Evidently Brickwork India is so flush with business, they don’t respond to email more than once per week (They must have read Tim Ferriss’s book!).

I tried to try their services out with a personal assistant, and all I got was a complete runaround. After 3 weeks of emails (mostly on my end), an uncomfortable Skype all, and begging for a response from them, I’m still at a loss for what the next step is in hiring them.

My initial email was from someone named Vivek Kulkarni. His email was short and professional. He referred me to someone named Satwik Joglekar. This is where things started to slow down. Email to Satwik went unanswered. The only time I could get a reply is when I copied other people at Brickworks India.

It’s a shame that I couldn’t hook this up with them. I had such renewed optimism for the outsource model after reading 4-Hour Work Week. I was thinking I could use them for a number of tasks. The bad part about this is now I question all outsourced models again. For example Corefino. I would really love to give those guys a try. But companies like Brickworks India, who supposedly are among the best in India let me down, how could I even think about handing over something as vital as accounting to an offshore company.

The fact is, you get what you pay for. The company we use at USWeb for outsourced development is a US based group of programers. They are not cheap, but damn are they good at what they do.

If anyone out there has some feedback or advice on this, I would love to hear from you. Until then I guess I’ll just keep looking for the Made in USA logo and leave offshore to Wal-Mart and Kathy Lee.


  1. Ed,
    I have used offshore providers for small jobs but not for projects. I think the issue is that the work is not as good as you would do for yourself. I hate to say it, but it looks like you get what you pay for.

    I’m now trying to find good domestic help for development projects. I hope to have more success with a 16 y/o US student that is easy to communicate with.

  2. Ed,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It is an eye opener. It looks all glossy reading about companies like Brickworks in books/websites. But the reality strikes when you have to deal with them.

    I had a frustrating 3 weeks dealing with Brickworks (person named Rajesh Pai) just for getting a RFP/RFQ for a tiny work we wanted to Pilot.

    I have come to the conclusion that we are better of paying more for a work thats important to us by near-shoring.

  3. No, i do not really agree with you with alot of points on this post, for starters if companies in India (or abroad for that matter) didnt have the same level of commitment as US companies then i do not think that jobs would be outsourced as much as they are being outsourced.

    Secondly, I think that the issue with not understanding Indian English is not the accent, rather its the lack of any accent 😀 No offence, but the truth is both British and American have their own accents but Americans have grown up listening to both the types of english so undertanding aint the problem 😀 The same could be said on the Indian side where comprehending the language of British/ American customers is tough but as they deal with hundreds of customers per day they get used to it sooner or later !

  4. Leon,

    Thanks for your comment, but I have to respectfully disagree with you. Let me share with you an example of the point I’m about the make.

    Today I called Gieco to get my car insurance renewed. I call their toll free number and of course go through a phone tree that no doubt saves them time, but is painfully slow to me. They could have just sent along an extension to dial to put me into the right queue, but chose to be lazy and therefore have poor customer service. I did renew through them this time because they are a lower rate than other companies. But because of the way they treat their customer service I feel no loyalty to stay with them, so when I find someone as much as $1 lower, I’ll switch.

    My point is that just because some big companies do something doesn’t make it a good idea. My friend Jim always used Dell computers, until he had a problem and called them. After a couple hours with someone he could barley understand, it was easy to get him to switch to a Mac.

    I can’t say this is a bad idea for everyone. But I will say that I have not personally seen the work ethic from Indian companies that I require from key employees. This is just my personal experience.

    As for who has the accent, my feeling on that is simple; the customer is the one without the accent. The fact that some people haven’t excepted that yet is exactly the difference between us.

  5. […] One of the areas I found most interesting was his suggestion at hiring someone through India to be a remote personal assistant.   This would have made a lot more sense if just about every project I ever did with an offshore development firm went to complete crap.   But I decided to give it a try and attempted to hire one of the firms mentioned in his book, Brickwork India.   You can read how that went in my review of Brickwork India. […]

  6. Reads to me Ed like you’re reading these books but not joining the NR.

    Of course BrickWorks only do the work up to the standard needed. And answering e-=mails once a week is the point.

    More than 2 thirds of the world speak English, badly perhaps, but the advantage you have is you understand them, even if that takes some effort.

    Books and systems like The four hour work week do work when you go for it.

    I remember seeing a video of an Australian entrepreneur once who said that part of becomming succesful was accepting that others would only do your work 80% as well as you could, but you can’t do everything.

    My experience of outsourcing to off shore companies was initially poor. The firms involved couldn’t speak English properly, the spelling was awful. They were hours off our work day timing.

    They were ridiculously cheap for what my Pound can buy here in the UK
    but that showed in what they laughingly called their coustomer relationships and were so nationalistic you’d think the only country in the world was theirs.

    For that reason I moved all of my virtual assistant work from the USA to India and Eastern Europe. Now everything is excellent and I am old fashioned work practices free.


    • If you're still around, please share what companies you found that provided acceptable virtual assistant services. You will be thanked by many! I have been using GetFriday and am not satisfied, although I'll admit they did save me time in some instances.

      • At this point I don’t know why anyone would go offshore for this type of help. There are so many people here who need the work, you should be able to find talented American’s that are happy to work for the same amount that Brickwork or GetFriday charge.

        Simply post a job listing on Craigslist and start interviewing people. You can go local, or go a state with a lower income. Either way you end up with someone who can easily be on the same timezone as you, and speaks english clearly.

        We are in the middle of one of the worst financial crisis to ever hit the United States. The best thing you can do is to put more American’s back to work. Hire as many as you can afford.

  7. Hey all,
    We’re used brickworks recently to do a bunch of transcriptions (60 hrs worth) and they were great – quick turn around, good accuracy and easy uploading.
    Just thought I’d pass that on.

  8. Ed:

    Your experience matches mine EXACTLY.

    I am writing this email 50 minutes AFTER a scheduled call with Brickwork that never arrived. I have scheduled several calls with them – none of which ever arrived.

    I spoke to them about layout of a book. No quotes were given. They asked for some sample pages which they were going to lay out and they never responded.

    I could go on about the number of times I emailed Vivek and others practically begging for things to get done. And I’ve tried SEVERAL times over the last 5 months to do business with them.

    Perhaps they are too big, perhaps they are too busy. Bottom line is I wouldn’t deal with them and certainly would suggest that others avoid them too.

  9. Ed:
    I worked with Brickwork for about 16 months, till the beginning of this year, and would like to share my thoughts on your blog. While quite a few of the clients have had a pretty good relationship, a lot, lot many more potential customers there share similar experiences as you. Delayed response to a client query (sometimes as much as 2 months) was, in most of the cases, a result of a flood of such queries every time Brickwork was featured in these books, newspapers and magazines. Most of the days it averaged 40-50 emails and peak was around 200 mails a day. Added to that, customer relationship is generally a weak point for Indian firms.

    I’ve had a nice experience working with American and British customers and have found that, almost always, the first month is the tough period with the employees here not sure what to do, and client not sure that he made a good decision. Relationships that moved into the second month generally flourished for atleast 6 months or more. Brickwork (and many of the other outsourcing firms in India) has different sets of employees with different educational qualifications and industry experience, that cater to different categories of client industries. In general, work that was more challenging or “high-end” that involved finacial analysis, or strategic studies was the one where clients were most satisfied. While they maintained that the professionalism of US employees was better than ours, it always came at a much higher cost than what they were charged from us. I think Brickwork and other such 150 employee strong outsourcing firms work best for small to mid-sized boutique consultancy firms in the US/UK/Australia which need smart people but generally find it tough to attract local talent because of their size or pay constraints.
    All said and done, at a ground level, this market is still in its infancy, irrespective of what Thomas Friedman says, and it’s still couple of years away from achieving a satisfactory performance level. Hope you use some outsourcing firm’s services in the future and hope you won’t be dissapointed the next time 🙂

  10. I’m at the point with BFU where I will need to outsource some work, or hire a part time employee for special tasks.

    Your post does give another view than what I just got in The Four Hour Workweek. It is hard to give specific instructions when you can’t communicate. I may still have to try a small project to judge for myself; but my expectations will now be open rather than hopeful.

  11. I’m just starting to learn about outsourcing to India. I recently assigned some research work to a company in Gujrat and the results were not bad and the hourly rate very modest. However, what took them 6 hours I could have done myself in 2 – so to a some extent I think you get what you pay for.

  12. I’m new to the whole outsourcing gig, but after reading the 4 hour workweek I decided to also try a service located in India. To be quite honest, the service was sub par, always slow and there was a tremendous cultural and language barrier.

    I then tried to hire a part time assistant but it became way too expensive, especially now with the economy. I went back to an outsource solution and read about a company called Red Butler based out of the US. I have a dedicated assistant and can use up to 100 requests a month for only $168 dollars per month. So far so good and they get my two thumbs up.

    Try to ask for Eric Klum to be your dedicated staff. He takes care of everything for me and I highly recommend him if he’s available.


  13. Wow! A good review for GetFriday and Brickworks is impossible to come by online it seems.
    Yesterday, GetFriday removed $70 from my account because a few months ago, I spent 7 hours with their staff figuring out that they couldn’t do the job for me.
    With that $70 went all my respect for GetFriday. If they had actually achieved a result that would have made sense, but after the 7 hours I spent on IM going through and defining the job step by step only to figure out they couldn’t do it, that just smells wrong to me.
    I have tried a number of approaches to outsourcing; I tried Brickwork and had the Skype call that never happened with Satwick.
    I have also tried a full month with the ideas of and eventually I have returned where I started, the freelance sites of and
    The fact that my projects on these sites are so succesful, with predominantly Indian and Pakistani firms pretty much confirms what the problem is on my end.
    First of all, granted, most outsource staff I have met to this point have been gloriously sub par but on our end, I think our problem is not properly defining tasks and thinking that magically these folks with language barriers will get it.
    The act of putting together a clearly defined project is an art we need to learn to communicate with people on other shores.
    That aside, I think we are long overdue for either an SME outsourcing forum or web 2.0 way of rating these guys.
    My vote goes to,, (Got my current VA who costs $2 an hour and is going pretty damn well) and for clearly defining your projects.
    Thanks for the post.

  14. You should try BPOVIA is the rising star in virtual assistant industry. BPOVIA is the winner of the "Red Herring Asia 100 2008" Awards. They are are the first and only virtual assistant service provider ever won this prestigious award.

  15. Indian cos aren't as committed/professional as the US ones……….mmmmmmmmmmm….so Dell outsources to India and is thus not US/not professionally committed…confusing..someone help me here please…

  16. I AM ABOUT TO BLOW ANOTHER GASKET RAGING ABOUT BRICKWORK. Oops, I never type in all caps! I reviewed them already on Ferris's 4-hour site, but have more data. They still suck. They suck bigtime. They do not respond. They do tasks wrong. They couldn't care less about deadlines. I can be specific if you wish but suffice it to say I needed quotes for home insurance and gave them two weeks and my old policy. Two weeks later I have from them a list of insurance agents in my city. Big flippin' whoop. They were unable to get quotes, which they only attempted today, because the companies want to talk to me. Fine, but why two weeks to tell me this and why, the night before I have to renew my insurance, do I have nothing? This is one of five tasks I gave them. The only one they did not screw up was formatting a Word document. This is life and death for me–I am hoping not to get a recurrence of Stage 4 cancer so I tried to make my life simpler–these jackwipes have put me into a hot boil of poisonous immune suppressing chemicals. NEVER EVER EVER trust these ass-monkeys.

    Have I been at all clear?

    Caroline Collins

  17. I came across your blog when I was looking out for people who want to hire Virtual Assistants. I am very keen to find gainful employment this way. I know this post is almost 3 years old but I cannot resist posting a reply.

    I am sorry that you had a experience when you tried to execute a idea that is fundamentally good. If you had managed to outsource some of your work, it would have been beneficial both to you and to the person you hired in India! Your dissapointment reflects in your post.

    I would just like to make some observations to your post in a hope to clarify some points so that readers to your blog do not get so put off by the idea that they dont even attempt to get some virtual assistance from an Indian.

    Outsourcing to India is not something new. Several very large corporations like Dell and Microsoft to mention just a few have outsourced many business processes to India. Apart from software requirements, there is a large market in India that caters to outsourced service needs like medical transcription, data processing, medical billing and customer support. Thousands of Indians work in this sector and interact on a daliy basis with people from another country, having a different culture and living in a different time zone. I must bring it to your attention that these several thousand Indians are doing an excellent job and many companies in America still continue to view this as an excellent business decision. Infact the BPO Industry in India is only expected to grow.

    If you are reading this mail, I am sure you must have figured by now that Indians do know some English. Atleast enough to have read your post, to have understood it and to have been moved enough to actually write a long response to it.

    Regarding the difference in the time zone you would be surprised to know how many Indians reach their workplace at 3:00am and do it cheerfully too, just so that they can delight an American Customer who is not able to cope with some problem with his AOL mailing account.

    You have pointed out yourself that you have plenty of horrible companies in America. I am sure that in India too they maybe some companies that will fail to meet your high criteria of judgement. But I am rather upset by your generic statemnt about the work ethics of Indians. This is almost as bad as the popular belief Indians have about ALL Americans being overly obese because all they do is sit in front of the TV with a bag of potato chips – and not do an ounce of work all day, as the Governemnt gives liberal social security. haha…..

    Finally before I end this mail I would like to make you an offer. If you are still looking for an Virtual Assistant in India I would be happy to help. I have several years of experience is admistrative and secretarial roles. I can help you in the following areas:

    1. Manage you e-mails
    2. Coordinate your meetings
    3. Help you plan and schedule your day
    3. Provide Reception services (you can be assured that I have a neutral accent. We could speak on the phone before you decide)
    4. Provide customer service over phone / mails
    5. Compile information from the Internet

    But because you have had a bad experience I offer to give you a whole month of free services. We can use this time to understand each other and see if there is a scope for us to continue working together. I assure you that I do not need training in performing any of the above-mentioned tasks.

    If you are interested you can leave a reply to this post or send me a mail

  18. I have had a very negative experience over the last 6 weeks with Brickwork. In fact, it is obvious that they did not understand the tasks, nor did they attempt to provide me with the final documents I sought. Instead, I have no idea how they used the time I paid for. Not only that, but when questions, they failed to respond to my question about how the time was used.

    In general, I have been very frustrated with the Brickwork service–I have had a serious problem communicating with the staff about projects and expectations. No one I've spoken with or communicated with at Brickwork has understood what I am trying to do, but they have also NOT made an effort to learn more, ask questions, clarify anything. From the beginning, I tried to make my project/the task clear yet it seems as though Brickwork did not understand what I was asking for.

    When I received results from someone at Brickwork over the last 6 weeks, the work has been bad and the time used enormous. What they said would take their staff about 16 hours took me only 3. And this last project should have been far less time consuming than the results have shown. In fact, rather than be a user-friendly service to help facilitate my project, Brickwork made it about 10 times MORE difficult for me because I've had to spend time reviewing their work, which has had many errors, version control issues and a clear lack of concern of the result.

    I have come to the conclusion that I should have done it myself the first time and saved the money or hired someone locally. It's too bad. I had high hopes for using this service, but instead, have been sorely disappointed at every turn.

    • I have been hearing plenty of negative things about Brickwork. There are so many companies in the virtual assistant space right now, so it's a shame that Brickwork couldn't maintain a good reputation.

      Personally I would rather pay a little more and get someone local right now. With unemployment being so high, you can find people willing to take less money. How it might be tempting to get someone a few bucks cheaper, there is a lot to be said for having someone you can actually sit down with and go over tasks. Plus, we should be trying to employ more people here at home.

      • "there are so many companies in the virtual assistant space right now,"

        Can you share some of these companies that do have a good rep?


  19. BRICKWORK India sucks. I don't know who Tim Ferriss thinks, but these people are cracked. Talk about run aound. I've been tying to get them to d oa job (yes, I have a full page of detail, it's NOT a hard thing) and no one can tell me how much it will cost.

  20. People you gotta try Ive been working for over a month with them and they are just fan-frikin-tastic! I understand they are based in centra america and most of the agents lived in the US so theire english is near-native or native… speak spanish and some even speak french.
    I think you can get a week for free.

  21. After reading so many experiences with Brickwork I still want to post my own. Please note that I'm an Indian and I called Brickwork after reading the 4hww to start a muse. Just because I'm Indian doesn't mean we didn't speak in English, the people I spoke to had very good English fluency and we never used in vernacular languages to communicate. That being said I can't help but say that my experience with Brickwork is in no way better than the many who already posted their experiences. If they've made it blatantly obvious that their book was featured in the 4hww by plastering the 4hww's image on their home page, the least they can do is familiarize themselves with the possible tasks that people who have read that book would contact them about. I contacted them for a muse and possible research on that and some ideas but everything they carry out needs a "estimate". I wanted something simple but they make everything very complex. I bought 20 hrs from them @ $15/hr and frankly I don't think any of the time is worth it. I assigned a task of finding out information on different business models in India and US and give me a brief on it. It may be that I wasn't specific enough but he later reported that 8 hrs have been used in my account and gave me some docs on business models. I wanted him to do research on the net and give me the websites that I could refer to, but instead he gave me a lengthy doc detailing many things which weren't in any way relevant to me. Also, I don't know what took him 8 hrs to perform that task which would probably have taken me 2 hrs to perform.
    I assigned them a second task of searching for content writers and this time I gave them a limit of 2hrs and I specified the rate and other details, they gave me a doc with 10-15 writers a few of them just elance profiles. Frankly this would have taken me 15 mins or less to find out. The reason I gave them this task is because I've totally lost faith in their ability to perform most of the tasks I give them.
    I still have 10 hrs in my account with them but I don't know what to use it for.

    I asked them to create a pricing model for a company of a friend. They sell adhesive gum and just wanted a simple pricing model. When I contacted BW about this they asked for a write up of the company, a write up of the product and some other vague details. I don't know how this is relevant, we gave them our profit margin and production cost and the price that the product should retail for.

    I've had tons of communication which was mostly over the phone, but it's of no use. They just don't seem to understand any of the new business models.

    My experience with Brickwork has been terrible, their communication is good, but their basic grasp of business seems to be different. The first person I spoke to Pradeep, said I was his first Indian client in his 4 yrs of experience. They seem to like complicating simple tasks, rather than simplify them. Every person I spoke to in Brickwork, this includes Pradeep J,Kalyani P, Sanjeeth were puzzled when I spoke about a muse or information product. I assumed that since they were so familiar with foreign markets, they'd know what I'm talking about but contrary to popular belief laid down by Tim Ferriss, they are nowhere as good as claimed.

    I'll be happy to answer questions about Brickwork to the best of my knowledge, if I can save anyone the hassle and money I'd love to. I just wish I had found this before paying them.

    Just reply here and I'll get back to you.

    • I think we are getting a little carried away here. A muse is a muse not your CEO.
      For a Pricing model to work,the inputs your muse asked is very legitimate.If providing a write up, (about company and product) is giving details, i am not surprised that the model prepared by the muse was not specific, the input provided by you (to sound friendly) is not even helpful.It is like telling someone to list out the best performing index in equities and not telling the muse which market you need the details for.
      Come one guys get real.!

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