Industry Research : Indian BPO Sector Wants Rebranding of its Offerings
The surging popularity of Philippines as a destination for business process outsourcing (BPO), and the somewhat tepid growth of the BPO business within India have persuaded the industry that it requires a serious rebranding.
BPO began as a voice-based (call centre), cost arbitrage story. But over the years it has migrated to a high-value, knowledge-based industry supporting global clients across multiple domains. The army of agents who only lent their voice to the industry has transformed into domain experts, specialists and analysts, turning BPOs from stop-gap options for employees to full-fledged career choices.
Yet, the industry feels these changes have not been fully appreciated or understood, both in India and overseas. "With global competition for BPO work hotting up, India needs to re-brand the industry, to make it attractive to prospective employees and more importantly to college teachers and parents (since they exert significant influence on children's career choices)," says Keshav Murugesh, group CEO of BPO company WNS.
The Philippines government has done some good branding for the BPO business, and it is now a popular contact centre destination. The industry there is also now a preferred career choice for youngsters.
In India, the industry feels a curriculum needs to be developed specifically for BPOs, and college teachers need to be trained for that. BPOs today employ domain experts in areas like financial accounting and legal, specialists in analytics, professionals like doctors, PhDs, chartered accountants, tax consultants and lawyers. Even in the call centre business, the level of complexity that is now handled is significant -- no longer is it just people making sales calls randomly. India produces the specialists required for such work in very large numbers, but many remain somewhat wary of the 'BPO' tag. In recent years, the industry has also not grown the way IT has. In the last financial year, Infosys BPO grew by 13%, compared to the company's overall growth of 22%, and WNS by just 5.8%.
Aman Mustafa, country head of ACS, a Xerox company, says many US clients feel India is the ideal destination for highend data services. "Some clients who came to India for data entry work are suddenly realizing that we are good at cutting edge analytics. Every BPO leader will have many such stories to share. But no one advertises for Indian BPO. Even our small and medium towns have enough talent that can take up high-end knowledge processes," he says.
Maturing BPO relationships and the consequent increased confidence in BPO service providers is also leading to enhanced expectations from the customers. They are no longer content with just high-quality delivery, but are asking for increased value. "At the same time, we have technological disruptions around cloud, social media, mobility, security. The result is that you have tremendous complexity and breadth of these services and solutions that require new delivery models and repositioning of BPO service providers," says Ashutosh Vaidya, global delivery officer (applications & BPO) in Dell Services. "There is also an urgent need to rebrand our offerings to attract and nurture talent across a broad range of profiles and provide opportunities to specialize within these offerings," he adds.
V Bharathwaj, who has over 10 years of experience with the BPO industry, says in the first 10 years, the industry had focused on growth and scale. "In the last few years, the industry has stopped growing. Only a perception correction can propel the next level of growth. Since 2009, the Indian BPO brand has been diminishing in its equity and image," he says. Raman Roy, CMD of Quattro BPO Solutions and considered the father of Indian BPO, says a rebranding is critical in the context of career development.
A few years ago there were plans to rebrand the BPO business and companies were asked by industry body Nasscom to contribute up to a $1 million to fund the initiative. But some feel Nasscom has done little so far in terms of lobbying or brand building. "Like in the Philippines, we need a strong independent body to support the cause of the industry, outside the purview of IT," says one BPO expert who did not want to be named.
KS Viswanathan, vice-president (industry initiative), Nasscom, agrees the industry has not yet communicated the kind of work they are doing today to the external world. "Employees too continue to perceive the old paradigm. We are looking at focusing on better communication. Customized communication is required to reach out to each and every stakeholder effectively. All the 35 members of the Nasscom BPO Forum are in favour of creating a new branding perception," he says.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012