India’s outsourcing industry took its birth in the form of call centers, where agents called people in the United States and sold them products like insurance policies and credit cards. But India’s outsourcing industry has come a long way in the past decade, with business process outsourcing (BPO) companies performing far more sophisticated tasks for their clients.
“Those who sold credit cards a decade ago are now helping clients with loan recovery strategies, and managing accounts and ad campaigns,” said CN Kumar, CEO of Advantage Offshore Knowledge Services
Showcasing innovation and adding value to the service was inevitable for BPO providers to keep pace with the changing business environment, Kumar added.
“Take the example of my company. Earlier, we would sell some financial products of our clients in U.S. As the days went by, they started asking to create a marketing strategy for them to increase sales. We wrote an application and that is now helping them boost sales through social media,” explained Suhas Gopinath, CEO & president of Globals Inc.
With call center jobs moving to the Philippines and elsewhere, Indian service providers are increasingly trying to become their clients’ business partner by exhibiting talent and innovation.
BPO By Another Name…
This desire to keep up with shifting business needs is driving India’s Nasscom (National Association of Software and Service Companies) campaign to rebrand the BPO industry by replacing the word “outsourcing” with “management.”
Nasscom believes business process management (BPM) would more accurately describe the increasingly diverse range of services performed, including designing marketing campaigns, analyzing investment portfolios, securities market research, supply chain inventory optimization and budgetary planning.
Nasscom isn’t the only party interested in a name change. At a recent BPO summit in Mumbai, according to a report in Times of India, Phil Fersht, founder & CEO of HfS Research, stated that 67 percent of U.S. companies surveyed by his firm wanted to use a term other than outsourcing. Fersht said the growing debate over offshoring in the U.S. election campaign may have influenced Nasscom’s decision to talk of rebranding.
Indian BPOs account for 37 percent of the global outsourcing market, and they have given employment to more than 2 million people. As many as 500 companies in India provide BPO services, and 200 multi-national corporations have BPO operations in India.
As part of its rebranding program, Nasscom has set up a team of experts and has urged corporate companies to join hands with educational institutes in order to identify talent and provide training in BPO services.
New Name Not Enough?
Some experts say rebranding the industry could prove to be difficult, and that more than the name will need to change to attract talented youths to such jobs. Though outsourcing is billed as a high-tech industry, India’s outsourcing sector has continued to focus largely on labor-intensive jobs
And some BPO employees seem skeptical. “All that Nasscom wants is to remove the tag ‘outsourcing.’ Nobody can rebrand the industry now,” said Girish Hegde, a BPO employee in Bangalore, India’s outsourcing capital
The BPO sector is losing talented employees to research labs, whose number is increasing rapidly in the country. According to a study from Zinnov Management Consulting, nearly half of the world’s largest R&D spenders have centers in India, where researchers and scientists collaborate to produce new products. Zinnov estimates there are over 250,000 Indian engineers working on global R&D.
As we noted earlier, global service delivery companies enjoy an edge over smaller BPO firms as they can lure recruits with the prospect of international assignments that give them experience working in different cultures. Their size and client lists of companies in various industries also provides opportunities for employees to move into new positions and take on new challenges over time.