Indians looking beyond call centres to new vistas

Friday, 26 December 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Outsourcing has become the byword for enterprising Indians on the move, creating new sets of services to support and cash in on emerging trends.

So for every call centre coming up in the vicinity of the Indian capital, there are numerous support systems springing up in retailing, catering and entertainment.

A visible symbol of this trend is the chain of supermarkets, giant malls, trendy cafes, fine dining restaurants and leisure zones being planned.

"Soon over a dozen impressive malls and hypermarkets are expected to come up in and around the capital to offer unlimited shopping experience, adding to the ever growing numbers of malls and multiplexes that have sprung up in the last few years to meet the demands of the floating population of call centres," said M.P. Singh, founder and CEO of Foodworld Hospitality Ltd.

From operating speciality restaurants and offering outdoor catering services, Foodworld Hospitality has just four months back branched out to offering food and beverages solutions to institutions, schools and BPO industries.

"In the BPO industry, almost 60 percent of the business is outsourced, which means for every dollar earned, 60 cents go for outsourcing - ranging from catering to transport," Singh told IANS.

"As a core industry expands, its core also expands spinning new opportunities. So far people have only tapped opportunities on the fringes. There is still plenty of space for growth," said Singh, who is looking forward to a big jump in institutional catering this year.

Foodworld Hospitality is presently handling 6,000 meals a day for BPO and other institutions and 3,000 meals for students in a leading school in the capital. In a year, Singh is hopeful of the number crossing 12,000 meals a day.

Accounting for over 15 percent of the operation cost of call centres, transport is another major beneficiary of the growing trend of outsourcing, say experts.

The retail boom as witnessed by the rising number of malls, and in turn the real estate are some of the other beneficiaries, said experts who envisage a three-fold increase in the volume of business being handled by the malls in the years ahead as the floating BPO population increases.

Seen as a major job creator, outsourcing as a trend may have got noticed only recently, but experts say it has been there for long years in sectors like automobile, leading to the growth of small and medium industries.

In the US, 90 percent of businesses employ less than 50 employees but contribute significantly to the economy and offer job opportunities, said Saurabh Srivastava, president of The IndUS Entrepreneurs, a non-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals.

"In India, we are striving to replicate this by promoting entrepreneurship," said Srivastava, who had roped in a large number of entrepreneurs from diverse sectors to illustrate the expanding scope of outsourcing business at a two-day conference here.

Set up in the Silicon Valley, TiE through its members is striving to press home the message that outsourcing is here to stay.

Around 10 percent of its 8,000 members offer advice to the enterprising to get started "in any kind of business, be it settling insurance claims, airline reservation, accounting services, human resources and payroll services, tourism, hospitality, media, entertainment or retail. The opportunities are numerous outside the call centres, which spawn their own set of businesses," said Srivastava.

Given India's strength in English, IT services and highly qualified workforce, the opportunities are endless, feel experts.

The Indian subsidiary of the US-based application service provider marketRx, which caters specifically to the marketing needs of the pharma companies, is one of the recent players to have arrived on the scene to cash in on the outsourcing trend.

Offering a special service is very different from call centres, President of marketRx India Private Ltd. Subinder Khurana said. "We take data and convert it into actionable knowledge, something you can act on."

Just six months into operations in India, Gurgaon-based marketRx is handling 60 percent of the global market of the company outside the US.

"The scope of data driven business is humongous. It could well be worth several billion dollars. In the foreseeable future it is difficult to say how much business we can handle as we are more keen on quality rather than quantity," said Khurana, who has built up a team of 40 highly qualified people.

In a year, marketRx hopes to expand the team to around 200 as more and more European and Asia-Pacific companies look to outsource their data analysis for knowledge driven decisions.

Source: IANS
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