The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

India Diary: A CIO recounts his visit to BPO vendors

Monday, May 31, 2004
Shiva, the Hindu God embodies a central paradox in life, writes Chris Satulla in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The ascetic lord of Hindu mythology is considered the creator and the destroyer. To create something new, you must destroy the old. For the automobile to prevail the blacksmiths had to suffer; knowingly or otherwise, Bill Gates replaced the typists and clerical staff world over with his ubiquitous Windows.

We too wanted to change. For us to grow from a billion dollar market cap company to 10 billion dollar company some things have to change. With this broad mind-set and a strategic view to address some of the issues that we will face in our corporate ventures, we packed our bags wanting to see how global sourcing could assist us in this journey.

We went looking to educate ourselves, explore and evaluate the possibilities of the growing phenomenon of offshore Business Process Outsourcing. We were amazed by what we saw. While we are all used to on-shore outsourcing, a fact in every company’s operations, we strongly believe that the opportunity for offshore is tremendous and definitely worth pursuing from a long-term standpoint.

To start with, we avoided the death-by-Powerpoint syndrome. We carefully planned the agenda so that we were not listening to hours of marketing monologues. We allowed each company a 15-minutes slot to talk about itself. Details of infrastructure architecture, voice-training programs, and candidate selection are all hygiene factors—everyone had to have them to exist. We spent most of our time listening about the companies’ actual work for clients (the fact that no one allowed us access to client detail and data was reassuring from an IP protection standpoint); learning how the vendors actually address the logistics of the work effort; and saw how it actually took place by walking the floors at night when the majority of the work is done (to synchronize with U.S. time zones). We sat in classes for voice neutralization training, talked to actual worker bees about their backgrounds, work effort, motivations and long-term aspirations, and rounded off with talking to the cab drivers on what this industry has done to the local community.

Broadly, the industry is divided into three segments: pure-play BPO’s, IT industry BPO outfits and captives. Two of the largest pure-play BPO organizations have been gobbled up by IT organizations in the last couple of years – Spectramind was acquired by WIPRO and IBM acquired Daksh during our trip. While the IT companies were late to the table they have capitalized on the opportunity. Given their contacts, customer base, proven track record of offshore work and existing infrastructure they are expanding very fast. In some cases, the larger companies of the world have set up their own captive BPO—case in point are GE and American Express.

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