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Cover Story
 
INDIAN BPO INDUSTRY
“Call centres contribute just 15%”
Swami Swaminathan, CEO & MD, Infosys BPO
Issue Date - 01/03/2012
 
B&E: How do you look at the current state of affairs in the India BPO industry? Is is on the right track in view of the declining competitiveness?
Swami Swaminathan (SS): I think it’s moving on the right track. Opportunities in the sector have not come down in any manner. The BPO industry in India is not only concentrated to lower transactional costs but is working harder than ever before to add value to make it more efficient and effective. More and more industries are providing analytical and accounting based services, life insurance and health services, thereby making their clients much more satisfied. And I particularly feel that there is still a lot that we can achieve in the industry.

B&E: Some critics have started saying the whole hype around BPO and KPO industry was done in order to build the initial traction for a fledgling industry. Was the hype really justified?
SS: See, the main motive of the industry is to drive efficiency and effectiveness, to reduce costs and to make clients much more attached to you for the back-end services. Indian BPO companies have not only limited their scope to national borders but are venturing into other countries as well. Our Infosys BPO centers are centered more outside India than within domestic borders, so you can very well imagine the kind of diversity that the companies are now providing to their global clients. It is no more about staying India specific. It is not only about talking only about the India-centric BPO services but about serving the entire BPO industry by a company, which has its roots in India and is now becoming a global players. Clients from UK and Europe are giving us fairly good piece of business from across the globe. So talk of the industry losing its sheen is baseless according to me, as we continue to be relevant to our clients in terms of driving effectiveness combined together with efficiency and are moving to new markets with our clients. The kind of delivery models that we have been following now are completely different from what we used to follow in the past. A lot of foreign companies are coming to us not only to discuss their needs and give us work but also to leverage their existing manpower to improve our efficiency and deliver better to our clients. So it is a very innovative and new kind of model that companies have started to practise.

B&E: In today’s industry environment, what is going to be Infosys BPO’s individual future growth strategy?
SS: We’re a 10 year old BPO company. Today we have more than 150 clients across all the verticals. We have companies, which are working with us from across the globe. We have clients in telecom, insurance, media & health care services also. We are providing them with all sorts of services like customer support, financial services and strategic sourcing as well. We have centres in Asia Pacific that are well covered and have been able to deliver globally for instance in China, Mexico, Brazil et al as well as to enhance the enterprise value chain. We have made investments in people, infrastructure, acquiring companies and building technology platforms. Today, we are ideally positioned to deliver a better product to our customers in end-to-end multiple functional areas. We are very close to touching the $0.5 billion mark in revenue and we have around 31,000 people, so the opportunity out there is so huge. We will continue to reinvent and re-engineer processes to deliver consistency in the quality. It will not only be through a metro city talent, but also from the tier 2- tier 3 cities with a simultaneous focus on rural BPOs as well.

 
B&E: There’s often been bad press about cultural and moral values with respect to young BPO employees. How do you look at that? Hasn’t that prevented many people from joining the sector?
SS: It is true that most companies were working for European companies that had erratic shifts to manage a voice based industry. But now, call centres contribute to only 15% of our revenues. 85% of our revenues come from processes like analytics and accounting, which are required by any other manufacturing industry as well in any part of world. But BPO companies have been able to facilitate employees to work for global companies, and interact with culturally diverse people. At Infosys BPO, we have more than people of 50 diversified nationalities working with us, serving more than 150 global MNCs and also learning in the areas of their interest like strategic sourcing or procurement function; and that stays unique to our industry against any other manufacturing or finance company. My colleagues & I personally go to colleges and student association forums to enlighten them about the prospects of the industry and breaking the jinx that they have of a call center in their mindsets.  We make them realise that BPO companies are now doing high end consulting work, operations work, and business impact work. So somewhere down the line, the message has to be delivered loud and clear. It can only be spread majorly with the help of people working with us.
          

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