Accenture Ltd, one of the world’s top technology consulting firms, is looking to add muscle to its outsourced back-office services offering by acquiring smaller BPO (short for business process outsourcing) firms in India focused on a niche technology or service.
New York-headed Accenture is planning “smaller, focused acquisition, and not a headline grabber in the country,” said Pankaj Vaish, managing director of Accenture’s BPO delivery centres, in an interview at the ongoing Nasscom BPO summit in Bangalore on Monday. “High valuations of large BPO companies in India make them very unattractive for an acquisition.”
Accenture, which in the past three years has doubled the portion of its projects handled in cheap, “offshore” locations such as India to almost 60%, has been accelerating its back-office business since a July 2006 buyout of Savista Corp., a Wichita, Kansas-based vendor focused on providing finance accounting and payroll services to companies with less than 12,000 employees.
In August last year, Accenture acquired Advantium Inc and Meridian Information Purchasing Ltd, companies that provide solutions to help customers detect and recover “lost profits” by analyzing procurement and payables data processes. Such “differentiated BPO assets” help Accenture “bundle high value offerings, above and beyond labour cost savings,” Kevin Campbell, senior managing director of Accenture’s BPO business said then.
Niche BPO firms focused on areas such as analytics and consulting have been the “hot picks” for larger vendors such as Genpact Ltd and WNS Holdings Ltd.
While WNS acquired Marketics Technologies by paying $65 million or Rs260 crore in May this year, Genpact acquired Mumbai-based Axis Risk Consulting in June for an undisclosed amount. Axis delivers risk assurance services to customers in India, US and Europe.
One of the reasons why Accenture is keen to acquire a smaller BPO firm could be to avoid post merger integration blues, “and since the company has built its BPO business brick by brick as it is difficult to make our culture integrate with another culture,” Vaish said. From almost 400 people in India five years ago, Accenture has grown to over 30,000 people across the Indian cities of Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi.
A lot of back-office work being done by Accenture now is executing “business outcome” based contracts, wherein a customer pays only if the promised business improvements are delivered.
“We are doing many such projects out of India because the country offers a wide range of capabilities across voice-based support, transaction processing and consulting,” said Vaish.