NEW DELHI :
India’s IT-BPO industry rode a two-decade wave of globalization to cement itself as an outsourcing hub for services. With protectionist voices rising across the US, the UK and Europe—the industry’s bread-and-butter markets—the tide seems to be turning. Keshav Murugesh, group chief executive officer of business process management company WNS Global Services, and the former chairman of Nasscom, believes that IT/BPO companies will rebound. The way they sell, meanwhile, is in for a pivot, said Murugesh. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Will covid-19 accelerate outsourcing? Or, will it be the reverse, considering the growth of economic nationalism?
While the 2008-09 Lehman Brothers crisis was a financial crisis, covid-19 is a healthcare crisis, which is leading to a financial crisis. Unemployment numbers are increasing significantly across developed countries.
Second, yes, political will has been changing. In the past, people took a lot of pride in talking about a global world, globalized processes, sourcing the right talent and service from any part of the globe.
However, in the past few years, we have seen reverse globalization, where political leaders across countries are focused on buying local.
This means that our industry will have to move against the grain by involving the talent that is available onshore and blend it with solutions that can drive offshore growth as well.
The BPM (business process management) industry can create small, near-shore centres, but these will not be large, 1,000-people centres.
The Indian BPM industry, in particular, will come back strongly.
One would have to wait for the labour force that is unemployed in advanced countries to get re-employed. Post that, every client will want solutions to reduce costs.
How are BPO clients taking to the work-from-home shift?
Blending of work-from-home will be significantly higher than before. Clients understand that there are some processes that can be delivered from home. The rest of the employees can return to office. It will be a few months before physical interactions can restart.
However, the safety aspects will never be compromised because as you and I know, a vaccine will take 18 months or so. During this period, we will need to be cautious, make sure social distancing norms are not compromised.
How are IT/BPO companies selling in the new normal where physical interactions are limited?
Sales will be a combination. The past model was significantly physical—salespeople landed up at the client sites (often in the US or Europe) and travel took place both sides. Clients interacted with delivery locations and centres across the globe before taking a decision.
Already, this model has changed. Today, we are winning new business although clients are not travelling. The physical model may not be dead forever—post-covid, it would re-emerge because having eye-to-eye contact with the client is useful.
In the meantime, smart companies have evolved new digital models. We know what are the core areas a client is interested in. This is covered in the digital model. There are case studies, virtual walkthroughs, different leaders leading different discussions. We also showcase teams of people who can potentially work on a project. The bulk of the experience clients would have had interacting physically at the delivery centre is now available digitally.
While travel will return in the future, a lot of the inefficiencies will get eliminated before we meet clients, going ahead, because these digital interactions will stay.