"Clients are very professional. But on a personal front, too, we have an excellent rapport. Some have even promised they will fly down for my wedding."
She loves her job so much that she admitted she often "eats her boss's head" for new projects. Shilpa Shetty may have taken the risk of joining an industry when not too many had even heard the words knowledge process outsourcing, a sector that is growing 50 per cent every year.
"I knew it was a new industry, so I thought I would give it a shot," said Shetty, who has been promoted and had her salary doubled every year. Today, Shetty is among the sector's 25,000 employees across the country - a figure that is likely to touch 2.5 lakh by 2010.
Like in the legal process outsourcing sector, here employees carry out high-end work that is knowledge-related or information-related for different companies, usually based overseas, in the area of market research, R&D in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, equity research, patent research, etc.
If the IT revolution benefited engineers and business process outsourcing made more graduates employable, jobs in this sector tap professionals such as chartered accountants, scientists, MBA graduates and lawyers.
Shetty, now 28, joined Integreon Managed Solutions in October 2001 as part of the 25-member team, for Rs 8,000 a month. Eight years on, Shetty's growth has been phenomenal. As director of content services, Shetty handles a team of 180 people and takes home a six-figure monthly salary.
Her team concentrates on finance-related work. For instance, it may ensure that a US firm's financial documents adhere to norms specified by the market regulator the US Security Exchange Commission. Her team may also design documents for companies abroad.
She manages up to five clients and is in charge of implementing the projects, reviewing contracts and renewing them as well as taking charge of client visits.
Having graduated in commerce from N M College of Commerce and Economics, Vile Parle, Shetty joined the company as an associate. Integreon was offering more than the Rs 5,000 that other firms were.
According to industry estimates, the Indian industry's annual revenue will hit $12 billion to $14 billion by 2010, which will be the bulk of the expected global revenue of $17 billion. Apart from India, firms in Russia, China, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Israel are also expected to bid for contracts.
Initially, firms in the US and UK outsourced work to India to cut costs, but the strengthening rupee is changing the scenario. "The focus will now shift from saving to quality work," said Lokendra Tomar, senior vice-president, Integreon. "We will now have to concentrate on making operations better and calling for innovations. We won't be game to provide cheaper people. Instead, we will sell ourselves as experts."
One recent morning, walking into her Powai office at 10 am, the first thing Shetty did was check about 80 e-mails from clients and managers in her inbox. "I am busy the rest of the day responding to mails, draw targets for deliverables and meeting with managers," said Shetty, adding that since the work revolves around finances, she cannot take work home because of confidentiality issues.
Her workday usually ends by 6.30 pm. But by 7.15 pm, she is sitting in a classroom at the N M Institute of Management Studies, where she is enrolled in a part-time course in management studies, with a specialisation in finance.
"Till now, the exposure has been good, and I have a 360-degree view of the industry," she said. "Since I see myself in the industry for a long time, a specialisation in finance will help me get clients and bag contracts. Also, doing an MBA makes me feel involved since I am learning about the economy. Outsourcing alone used to make me feel disconnected. Now I am getting best of both worlds."
She is worried about the US slowdown, but only a bit. "The rate of growth may not rise quickly. But I am sure things will settle down soon," said the optimist who loves trekking, reading books and does yoga thrice a week.
Shetty gets to interact with US and UK clients who come down for quarterly visits and regularly she speaks to them on conference calls.
"Clients are very professional," she said. "But on a personal front, too, we have an excellent rapport. Some have even promised that they will fly down for my wedding."