"Hiring In BPO Industry Is Happening Across The Spectrum"
"Hiring In BPO Industry Is Happening Across The Spectrum"
Diksha P Gupta, EFY News Network
(Monday, June 18, 2012 10:21:27 AM)
"BPO earlier was not perceived as a 'good' profession. It was seen more as a stop-gap arrangement where people would step-in and step-out depending on their demand for money and experience to go for higher-education. But as times are moving on, that trend is changing," says Unmesh Pawar, senior vice president, HR, Accenture India BPO.
Monday, June 18, 2012:
Gone are the days when BPO industry was seen as a stop-gap arrangement. People now find this industry as a serious career option where they want to stay, given the right kind of growth opportunities and rewards. Yes, the hiring patterns have changed over a period of time and one does not see much of weekend walk-ins happening for BPO jobs but all this has transformed into some serious business. Unmesh Pawar, senior vice president, HR, Accenture India BPO shared his views on the changing hiring patterns in the industry and lowering of attrition rate in the industry.
Careers in BPO industry seem to have lost their sheen. The hiring doesn't look as aggressive as it used to be five years back. What is your take on this?
I think it will be unfair to say that BPOs are not hiring. I think two things are happening. To my sense, BPOs across the spectrum have matured and by virtue of that maturity, the kind of hiring has definitely changed. So the BPOs are doing more of transaction and analytics kind of work, which is high revenue, high margin kind of work. They are no more restricted to the call centre kind of job. My sense is that BPOs are still hiring and they are hiring across spectrum. The hiring may not be visible in numbers but it's in quality. The other thing that is happening is the distributed hiring. Not all hiring is being done in one location or one centre today. Most of the IT and ITes companies have a distributed presence not just in India but abroad. So hiring is happening across the spectrum. Of course the sense may be that they are not hiring in Mumbai or Bengaluru or in Delhi but the companies being spread across the globe, hire everywhere they have a presence.
A lot many BPO companies are exploring opportunities in Tier II and Tier III. What do you think are the major contributors to this trend?
I think this business requires you to be smart and constantly innovative. I think what has happened is that companies have started realising that some of the work they have been doing for sometime can be moved to lower-cost locations and as you start maturing in a process, the process emerges to be a good candidate for moving to a low-cost location or a geography. That's where companies are doing that to take advantage of low-cost infrastructure. I think two things are happening. The transactional work is moving to Tier II and Tier III cities while the high-end work is in bigger cities since the system may not necessarily be supported by some of the Tier II cities- in terms of talent. And by virtue of that, high-end processes are being concentrated to the metro cities while the mature processes are moving to the Tier II cities.
Is Accenture also exploring options in any of the Tier II cities?
Well, we don't necessarily have a presence in Tier II and Tier III cities. All our locations today are primarily in the metro cities. While we constantly evaluate the need to potentially go a Tier II or a Tier III town depending on the business need but I think our business models are very different. The kind of work we do, we need to have strong metro presence because the talent that we need is much more high-end and we are aggressively moving up the value-chain. So, at least for the near future, we have no plans of getting into a Tier II or a Tier III city. But we will continue to review these options depending upon how the business model changes. If there is a client that needs us to be there, we will think about it, but not as of now.
BPO industry is known for its high-attrition rates. Most of the companies still see attrition rate of about 30 per cent. What do you see are the underlying reasons for this and how does Accenture address these issues?
We cannot deny that BPO earlier was not perceived as a 'good' option. It was seen more as a stop-gap arrangement where people would step-in and step-out depending on their demand for money and experience to go for higher-education. But as times are moving on, that trend is changing. As the business models are changing, the nature of work is changing, people have realised that the BPO work is a lot of high-end work. It is really a core part of the client's business. And therefore, people have started staying in these jobs for longer. The other element is about what kind of leadership you have, what kind of people practices you have for people to stay and grow and what are the learning opportunities. I think what works well for Accenture is the coming together of the four-five levers that I have talked about. That's what has really allowed us to have low attrition. I believe our attrition rate is lowest today in the industry. By virtue of this fact, we have been an employer of choice for the last two years consistently. I think these are basics and the companies need to ensure that people have long term careers and they constantly endeavour to make their careers enriched. People should feel valuable in being part of systems. That's why we see low attrition in our business.
Philippines BPO business is coming up as a major threat for the Indian BPO companies. As an HR specialist, what steps do you suggest that Indian BPO industry needs to take for having an advantage over its competitors?
Philippines, China, Russia or any other country... there will be newer locations that will keep coming up. I think competition is a good thing to have. Clients are today asking us to source talent from cities and locations where the quality of talent suits the nature of work. The way I look at it is I don't see a reason why India should feel the heat of the competition because there are certain things that Philippines is phenomenally good at doing. We should let Philippines do that. It is high time that Indian companies start figuring out what we are good at doing and move up the value chain. Because I would like to believe that we have got phenomenal talent, clients are asking us to do very different kind of things and they are asking Philippines to do very different kind of things. At some point Philippines will get to where India is and hopefully India as a country will figure out what else we need to do. I don't see that as a challenge. I think it is good because it allows us to focus on our clients and help our clients get better.
What do you think are the challenges for the Indian BPO industry and how do you see our companies recovering from them?
I think if we keep doing what we did five years ago, we will be a dinosaur organisation and we will be extinct. If your offerings have not evolved, what and how you are doing things for your client has not evolved, then you are bound to become extinct. And then newer and newer competition will come up and keep hitting at your feet. If people are going to be more competitive, the capability is going to get better. It's time we need to focus on our business models, we need to invest in our offerings, we need to make sure that our offerings are relevant to our clients, companies need to aggressively invest in skill-building of their people. This is not an industry where you hire people and you fire people. Companies need to genuinely invest into people, genuinely need to build their capabilities and keep moving their capabilities to where your business models are or what your clients are asking you to do. I think clients are asking today for companies to be real partners and helping them. It's a big opportunity for the companies to become partners of their clients and help them become effective businesses.
So what do you think, is Indian outsourcing industry moving in the right track?
By what I see happening in other parts of the world like Continental Europe and America, I think companies will need partners who can help them focus on specific areas of business. And therefore, I feel that into the future, at least in the outsourcing space, there would be more and more opportunities for companies to be relevant to the agenda of their clients but the trick in this entire thing is what the company needs to be focused on, how are they helping their clients and customers to become high-performing businesses and helping them either turn-around their businesses or become more profitable from what they are. If you are going to focus on client's business outcome, then there is enough to do in the outsourcing space. But if the conversations are all about SLAs and transactions, then my worry is that clients may not just be willing to buy that. Clients are looking for partners who can help them get better. That's the major shift that I expect to see in the off shoring business. Companies need to bring in the intersection of technology and to be able to help their client get better. They also need to look at how do they leverage some of the newer trends in technology and social media to bring that for their clients. The trick in the entire thing is to not do what you are doing today and to keep innovating and inventing to be able to stay ahead of the curve.