The Future Group is getting closer to launching knowledge and business process outsourcing business for the retail sector.
The group has appointed Ushir Bhatt, a former Tesco Plc. executive, to head the wholly-owned subsidiary, Future Knowledge Services Ltd, which was formally approved by the parent’s board in January.
Bhatt was an architect of the UK-based retailer’s offshore business in India and previously the chief e-commerce architect of the UK retail group Kingfisher, which owns B&Q, Woolworths and Comet.
Confirming the development, Future Group chief executive officer Kishore Biyani said, “Ushir Bhatt will be heading this business and also be an executive member of the board.”
The company plans to setup the knowledge division in Bangalore and is scouting for location in Gujarat for its business process outsourcing (BPO) division.
“Although the final strategy is still not in place, the new company would initially outsource activities for Pantaloon (Future’s retail brand) in the fields of human resource, information technology and accountancy among others. Later, the group would also approach Pantaloon’s existing partners and clients for providing value added outsourcing and offshoring for them,” said a Pantaloon official who did not want to be named.
Pantaloon’s existing partners includes the US-based Staples Inc., for selling office products, Singapore-based CapitaLand Ltd, to form a retail mall management company, Liberty Shoes and Gini & Jony among others.
Besides, Pantaloon also owns stakes in several companies such as Planet Sports, which sells Marks & Spencer, Guess, Debennhams and a 33% stake each in Capital Foods Ltd and Capital Foods Exports Pvt. Ltd, whose brands include Ching’s Secret and Smith & Jones.
“The company also hopes to outsource IT-related activities for other retailers as well, but at a later stage,” the official added.
The National Association of Software and Service Companies, a trade body for that industry, predicts that in the BPO segment alone, total exports are expected to exceed $8.3 billion (Rs36,520 crore) in 2007, up 32% over 2006.
Industry analysts note that Pantaloon would have to service its own business in the initial four to five years to prove its credentials as a serious service provider that can manage similar activities for others.