A systems integrator from the United States is hoping to bring offshore development resources to the Canadian telecom market.

Horizon Companies Inc., which recently opened offices in Toronto and Vancouver, hopes

to employ between 20 to 30 Canadians by the end of this year. Headquartered in Edison, N.J., Horizon was founded more than 12 years ago and has specialized in enterprise-level application development for a number of telecom firms, including Bell Mobility.

Girish Nadkarni, Horizon’s executive vice-president, says the firm is hoping to replicate its success with U.S. clients like Lucent and AT&T by offering offshore development services through its India-based division, Trans Horizon Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

“”The American clients we had here were very happy because we could provide the same service as if the development was done here,”” he said. “”More so from last year, the trend towards offshore (development) has increased, because companies are under a lot of pressure to cut costs.””

Thornhill, Ont.-based telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg says Horizon may not find its offshore resources are much of a competitive edge.

“”If what they’re suggesting is they have access to low-cost skilled labour, frankly a lot of people are doing that,”” he says.

Horizon got into the offshore development market in 1998 when it opened its Bombay office. It has since expanded into China, creating a joint venture through which it will also help develop business ventures for Canadian telecom firms, Nadkarni says.

“”I’m not too aware whether U.S. or Canadian clients are exposed to offshore that much. They might want to see how this process works,”” he says.

Goldberg says offshore operations may be attractive for the development of simple equipment, but nothing of a highly proprietary nature.

“”I think you’ve got to be real careful with who it is you’re dealing with and what countries you’re dealing with to be certain that you’re comfortable that you can enforce your intellectual property rights,”” he said. “”I think that’s the reason that companies like Celestica will continue to exist because people are comfortable with Canadian and U.S. patent law.””

Nadkarni says he’s aware of the market challenges —Horizon’s revenues went down along with anyone else’s as the carrier market dwindled—but telecom is not the firm’s only focus. The firm has considerable expertise in SAP and Oracle enterprise resource planning implementations, he said, and serves as an incubator for ventures like its mobile products and services subsidiary, Mobiliti, Inc.

“”We realize we cannot put all our eggs in one basket,”” he says. “”But the telecom market will come around again.””

Horizon has already worked with a number of Canadian clients, including the Bank of Montreal, Nortel and Hydro-Quebec.

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