The latest news that TCS has given the pink slip to 500 employees ‘for poor performance’, comes in addition to the worrisome declining US dollar and the US economy’s possibilities of a recession. The BPO industry, highly dependant on US-based outsourcing, would surely be affected. In a Q&A with Devraj Uchil, chief people officer of WNS Global Services (one of the largest BPOs in India), Aniruddha Limaye, talks about his company’s approach and the BPO industry’s challenges in the near future.
Is the rupee rage blunting the outsourcing lucre for India?
The Indian rupee has appreciated against the dollar by over 12 per cent in the last 12 months. However, the Nasscom-McKinsey report says that the Indian IT-BPO sector has the potential to generate export revenues of approximately $60 billion by 2010. The inherent advantages – abundant talent supply, strong cost advantage, government support, and a scalable high-quality infrastructure – have been instrumental in driving this growth. We do not see these advantages waning in the foreseeable future.
What are your strategies to address current challenges?
We have defined a ‘hunting and farming’ strategy – we continue to ‘farm’ for more from existing clients and ‘hunt’ for new business in our industry domains. To fuel growth, we are expanding our footprint within India and globally. We have received approvals for new delivery centres in Navi Mumbai and Gurgaon. We continue to hire talent –from campuses and laterals – to meet our growing demand.
Where do you see the industry headed?
A few trends that will define the industry’s shape include: one, flexibility of engagement and operating models by BPOs, as more companies adopt outsourcing as a growth strategy. Two, outcome-based solutions that go beyond cost savings. Three, the building of deeper knowledge by in specific domains, in addition to process excellence.
How is WNS looking at such trends?
WNS is consistently focused on delivering business value for clients. For example, our client – among the largest utility companies in Europe - saw a 400 per cent improvement in its collection, in addition to significant cost savings because of outsourcing. Through the WNS Learning Academy, we also provide employees with extensive training across industry domains, functional domains and professional development. Many of our employees are also CIMA, AICPCU, IATA certified.
What are the new kinds of job roles that will come up in the future?
People seeking a career in the BPO industry will need to develop specific industry knowledge – understanding retail and banking better, for example. Functional domain expertise in areas such as finance & accounting, HR, procurement, research and analytics, for example, will become a pre-requisite. The BPO industry could employ 2.7 million people by 2012 (0.17 million in 2003). But the employability of people passing out of colleges is only 10-15 per cent. This warrants a serious focus by the government, industry, and the academia. WNS has started a campus programme where we engage with campuses in a partnership model for enhancing the curriculum, creating greater sensitisation of BPO as a career, faculty development, and guest lectures.
And the challenges for the industry?
Managing global teams will become important as more clients seek multi-geography solutions. The industry will need to build skills in managing globally distributed teams — both from cultural sensitivity and distance/proximity perspectives. Another requirement will be a solutions orientation mindset as the Indian BPO industry moves towards an outcome-based model that requires thinking solutions rather than just transactions.