New Delhi: From managing airspace above Dubai airport and running the London tube, UK-based Serco Group Plc. has added another vertical to its £3 billion (Rs21,780 crore) annual sales with the buy-out of Indian outsourcing firm InfoVision Group. In an interview, Serco CEO Christopher Rajendran Hyman talks about the buy and how the firm is shuffling its global revenue streams. Edited excerpts:
From a music and movie genesis to facilities management, can you outline the company’s transition?
We are the only company that says we do change management. We take it for granted that we will have the world’s best air traffic controllers in our air traffic business; we take it for granted that we will have the best train drivers and engineers in our rail business; and we have 5,500 nuclear scientists in our atomic establishment, we assume that they will be the best. The thing that is common, the thread, that is services and the management of people to allow them to do (the) best possible job themselves. And you will be surprised with similarities of those because, really, 90% of our business is public sector companies in 35 countries. When you talk to a minister— actually it doesn’t matter whether it’s health, transport or education—they ask you the same thing. Firstly, what is your track record? Secondly, will you push people safely from the public to the private sector? Will you keep us at the forefront of technology and how will you train and develop my people? The saving grace for us has been a compound 26% growth for 20 years—as long as we are able to continue that growth, enter new markets and bring new skills and capabilities into the company, then I think it takes care of itself.
New territory: Serco Group chief executive Christopher Rajendran Hyman says the acquisition of Indian outsourcing firm InfoVision provides a clear opportunity for the UK company to move into the private sector. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Are you constrained by the fact that 90% of your customers are in the public sector and perhaps most of them in the UK, and so you are seen as a British contractor?
We used to have this difficulty probably about 10 years ago—by the way, the UK for the first time this year will be less than 70% of the business, the US is growing in particular, the Gulf states are growing of course, there is (the) acquisition in India—so that’s becoming less of an issue. But the one thing we learnt many years ago is that you have got to have local people...running that business, otherwise you are seen as a foreigner.
What are you looking at in India after the acquisition of InfoVision?
It’s a new country for us. It’s also in the private sector. One needs to diversify as we grow. We made a very good job of the public sector. There is a clear opportunity (to)...move into the private sector. This is a wonderful opportunity of having 17 years of experience this morning and 10,000 colleagues in India that we didn’t yesterday...we will find that they will allow us to go into newer markets. And should the public sector market break in India, well, we have global expertise in there waiting to walk in should the government wish to seek our support and partnership. But I think there is enough work to grow in the private sector, which is what InfoVision has been doing... We don’t believe in any country you can have a meaningful entry if you don’t make an acquisition in that area in anything less than two-five years. That would be my expectation for a public sector entry.