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07 September 2009  
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Head to Head

Hinduja Global Solutions Limited (HGSL)

The $165 million Hinduja Global Solutions Ltd.(HGSL), an outsourcing arm of the multi-billion dollar Hinduja Group, excels in providing outsourcing solutions that include Back Office Processing, Contact Center and Customized IT Services to its global clients including several Fortune 500 companies. With over 75 clients, HGSL's client list has grown across verticals. Partha De Sarkar, CEO of HGSL and Ajay Bakshi, AVP - process improvement & automation have had great success in implementing key IT projects both internally and for their customers. Sarkar believed in driving automation as a practice within the organization to achieve operational success. Bakshi has had the credit of implementing 28 process improvement and automation projects across the organization.

How do you foresee the growth potential in the industry that you operate in?

PDS: The Indian BPO industry successfully reengineered itself to face the challenges of the global financial meltdown and emerged as a net hirer even during the worst phase of the recession. It has reaffirmed the faith of the global community in the robust and cost-effective models of the Indian Outsourcing Industry. This industry will continue to expand geographically, add new service lines and create new business models. The Indian BPO industry currently serves customers in over 80 countries and in our opinion it will continue to make significant additions to intellectual property and add new products and solutions.

In the near future, the key global outsourcing drivers would continue to be cost, access to talent, business improvements, speed-to-market and access to diverse markets. In the current scenario, the focus on cost control and reduction will grow and it is in this context that we envisage more integrated delivery models in Tier 2 and 3 locations. We also foresee a rapid growth in value-added offerings such as highly analytical processes, information research, financial portfolio analysis, customer data mining, statutory reporting, and inbound insurance sales, among others. These 'value delivery models' can be across multiple functions or processes or across a process by vertical or function. Our outsourcing projects in the future will be operative as well as consultative in nature. We will be working jointly with the clients to determine outsourcing opportunities, models, knowledge transfer plans and critical-to-quality measures.

Hinduja Global Solutions Limited (HGSL)

CEO: Partha De Sarkar

AVP - process improvement & automation: Ajay Bakshi

Business Challenge: To broaden the company's footprint in the domestic market and establish it as a leading BPO player in the rural segment, gain a keen understanding of customer businesses and become a visionary for driving customer growth.

Upshot: The company is deploying enterprise-wide workforce management tools; voice recording
solutions for voice and data migration; a customized CRM and payment gateway; an IVR as well as broad-based attendance automation and online appraisal system tools.

Interview by N Geetha

As per NASSCOM's estimates, India is all set to get past the $60 billion export target in FY 2011 and maintain its leadership position in the global sourcing market.

AB: Despite all the talk by various bodies of growth saturation, in my opinion this industry has just come out of the teething stage. We have only seen the initial phase of the ITES/BPO/KPO industry and the next one will herald the supplemental offering of value-added services and innovations to end customers. The transition between these phases has begun and it will accelerate over the next three to five year period and the industry will witness astonishing levels of value-addition in the ITES/BPO/KPO industry. I see a major transformation taking place in the industry's service delivery mechanism.

Can you give us an instance of how information availability makes a difference to your business?

“IT is our lifeline and for our
domestic and rural forays, we need extremely efficient yet low-cost IT infrastructure.”

- Partha De Sarkar,

PDS: Real time availability of critical information is of great importance to our business. Our train-the-trainer programs are constantly updated with the latest information regarding specific sectors. This is significant because we want everyone in our company, from the CEO to the agent, to be equipped with knowledge relevant to the industry as a whole and sectors in particular. The Indian government's plan to digitize all medical records by 2015 (based on the Knowledge Commission of India's recommendation to set up a National Health Information Network) might translate into an excellent business opportunity for us in the long run. Information on the ideal locations for setting up Tier-II / Rural BPOs will save us valuable time in exploring unattractive locations. Information is the lifeline of our organization and central to all of our processes.

AB: Information availability is the key and the only key apart from hard work which drives all of our business and what is commendable is that process automation brings in a high amount of transparency to the system. During one of the improvement initiatives, we found that the existing feedback mechanism in a client's complex process was taking 7-10 days to reach the last level of processor/associate. This was obviously having an adverse impacting on the SLA, not only in terms of speed but also in terms of accuracy, as the shop floor was practically carrying that error for 7-10 days. Our solution now ensures that the feedback loop closes out in 30 minutes and this has resulted in a significant jump in the quality of those processes which now stands at 99.9998%. Our present efforts are to move up the chain by building in business intelligence applications, which will pick crucial and critical business indicators and then be used to create a white paper to help our clients in making their businesses that much more competitive.

What are the significant business challenges that you face as the MD/CTO of the company?

PDS: My biggest challenge has been to capitalize on the low-valuations to acquire new skills and client relationships, which will strengthen our business models and deliver long-term value for stakeholders, extending our cost-arbitrage value proposition to an entirely new dimension by establishing HGSL as a large player in the rural BPO segment. While targeting markets such as China and Latin America, our challenge is with regard to broadening our footprint in the domestic market.

“Since successful IT implementations are an "Art of catching contradictions early in day", we discuss all our issues before the final plan is penned.”

- Ajay Bakshi,
AVP - Process Improvement

AB: The biggest business challenge is to grasp the business domains that our clients operate in, while having a focus on increasing the clients' productivity. Besides understanding the customer business intricately, the challenge is to be able to envision their growth as well.

So how does IT help in meeting these challenges?

PDS: IT is our lifeline and for our domestic and rural forays, we need extremely efficient yet low-cost IT infrastructure. This helps us keep the business profitable. We would also need robust IT security systems, since the clients will have to be convinced about the safety and real-time connectivity of the new locations with urban centers. In the initial phase of the implementation there will be a distinct need to balance workload between our rural and urban centers through call-traffic diverting tools.

AB: IT has helped us in e-enabling our internal processes thereby helping us not only gain efficiency and transparency internally, but also to improve processes compared to their erstwhile state at the customer organizations. IT has evolved many new productive business processes and helped us get rid of slow manual methods of transacting proving beyond a doubt that IT achievements today are no longer perceived as hidden gains, albeit they manifest themselves in improved efficiencies, productivity, lower attrition, better performance management, repeat business etc., that creates a win-win scenario for us and our customers.

While we understand the advantage of labor arbitrage, we have also begun our journey to move towards being a value partner for our clients. This journey is a combined effort of our staff supported by process and automation as well as innovations ensuring impeccable delivery which will eventually drive growth.

Can you recall any major IT deployment where you have been the pioneer? Was there any skepticism about the value of the application?

PDS: We had deployed a few technologies where we had been the pioneers before the competition began work on similar technologies. These implementations include a variety of enterprise-wide workforce management tools, voice recording solutions and those for the migration of voice and data. We have implemented Customized CRM applications including the integration of CRM with payment gateways, IVRs and dialers across verticals.

AB: All of the IT process improvement and automation projects were started off after the creation of the concerned function. The top two which come to mind are the Automation of Attendance and the Online Appraisal System primarily keeping in mind the size and diverse geographical base that these processes had to be successfully implemented in. These two projects are sensitive in nature considering that they have a direct impact upon our associates. Being a people-intensive business, the most crucial asset of any ITES/BPO/KPO organization are our employees and we had to be careful while planning and executing these projects.

These two projects did initially meet with skepticism as they involved a large number of logistical issues and since our organization is spread across diverse domains, we needed to work with diverse factors and bring all business processes under a common framework.

We were able to pull this off on account of the close proximity in which the IT process improvement and automation team worked with the businesses at each level and implemented the projects with the buy-in of all the stakeholders.

On what basis do you evaluate each IT project?

PDS: For each IT initiative in HGSL we defined business objectives and requirements, conceptualized solutions, conducted risk analysis, framed the deliverables, put together the resources, mapped out a preliminary schedule and budget estimates as well as calculated the ROI. Every phase is strictly monitored by the accountable authority and the IT department. Post implementation, if required, corrective measures are taken. Each project is evaluated against criteria such as uptime, adherence to budget limits, meeting the projected cost savings and other quantifiable elements (such as reducing the idle time in case of installation of a call-monitoring or diverting IT support system).

AB: Besides following the strict guidelines mentioned above, we ensure that we cover the risks of a project in terms of technology, its impact on employees, the handling of transition issues and the migration activities thereafter. The Priority of any project is decided based on business needs and gains that will be derived from the implementation.

The core objective of each IT project covers customer satisfaction, process improvement, SLA gains, increase in revenue and cost reduction.

Have there been any situations where the two of you have disagreed on an IT-related issue?

PDS: Generally there has been agreement on IT implementations as the value is discussed in detail and the same has been delivered. There has been considerable involvement of the management committee on any IT project that is proposed to be taken up and therefore the benefits have been clearly visible and delivered.

AB: All of our clients' requirements are discussed internally amongst the management team, who evaluate and discuss the holistic impact of the project as well as the solution process and timelines with senior as well as mid-level management. Each project implementation is rolled out after forming user teams with specific roles and time-driven tasks. Since successful IT implementations are an "Art of catching contradictions early in day", we discuss all our issues before the final plan is penned. As they say, if everyone thinks alike then no one is thinking.

What are your priority areas going forward as far as the business is concerned?

PDS: Our priority area is to expand our presence in Europe through inorganic growth, add newer language capabilities to our portfolio (Spanish, French etc.), consolidate our position in the domestic market,establish ourselves as a major player in the rural Indian BPO segment and adopt a business transformation approach and build competency in selected domains.

AB: The immediate priority would be to consolidate all of our business process-related achievements under some case studies and showcase these whitepapers in a structured way to our existing and prospective clients.

We will be getting into greater detail on more business intelligence models and maximize gain from the huge accumulation of data that we have.

Can you list out three technologies that most of your IT spend would go toward in 2009?

PDS: Enhancing availability solutions, migration to Hosted Model offerings, Software or Application Licenses, security implementations as well as the refresh of desktops and management software. Our IT investment across geographies would range from Rs. 35-40 Crores during fiscal 2009-10.

AB: Most of the focus this year would be on leveraging service oriented architecture, business intelligence and possibly looking into cloud computing.



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