Bhupender Singh, CEO, Intelenet Global Services | NASSCOM
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Bhupender Singh, CEO, Intelenet Global Services

Bhupender is the Chief Executive Officer of Intelenet Global Services. He is responsible for managing Intelenet’s global business portfolio across US, UK, Europe, Middle East, India, and Philippines. He serves as the leader responsible for setting the course for achieving Intelenet’s long-term vision, through organic and inorganic initiatives, investment in new market entry & enabling technology, and people and client engagement. Bhupender exemplifies Intelenet’s commitment to deliver value to clients across the business lifecycle, with his penchant for aligning organizations to the ever-changing market demands. Over the course of his 25 years career, he has been part of critical assignments focused on Strategy, M&A and Business Growth.

“Sustained innovation and process innovation are now a critical ingredient for the success of the Indian BPM industry”.

Prior to assuming his current role, Bhupender was the Regional CEO of the Intelenet’s AMEA and UK divisions, where he led several key engagement to improve profitability and position Intelenet as the Leading BPO in India. Bhupender joined Intelenet in 2007 as the Head of Strategy and M&A, upon the acquisition of his company Travelport India Operations, where he served as the CEO. Before this, he was part of Cendant TDS’s Strategy and M&A team in London where his remit encompassed a $2bn turnover business spanning 38 countries in Europe, Middle East and Asia - Pacific. Bhupender was also part of the founding team for ICICI OneSource (now rebranded as Firstsource), a leading offshore BPO company with special focus on the UK market; before which he spent 6 years with McKinsey & Company and Booz Allen & Hamilton. Bhupender is an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and a B - Tech from IIT Delhi. He was awarded gold medals at both IIT and IIM for his all-round performances.

Q: How do you see the BPM industry evolving and what are the changes that you are seeing in the customer landscape, in terms of what companies now want? Has the Indian industry successfully transitioned from the cost arbitrage approach to domain knowledge and skilled talent?

A: Indian IT spending is expected to reach USD 71.0 billion in 2016, a 6.0 percent increase from 2015. Software, which accounts for nearly seven percent of IT revenue in India, will grow 12.7 percent and communication services will continue to account for the largest share of IT spend: 39.2 percent of revenue in 2016, amid changing dynamics, customer expectations and a challenging macro-economic environment according to Gartner. This scenario has also seen the customer landscape evolve in the recent years.

We are now seeing:

  • Customers push their partners to offer services at lower operating costs, thereby allowing them to improve efficiency.
  • Companies competing with rivals on the basis of efficient customer service or back office operations that act as differentiators

These trends have led BPM industry players to look for strategies that cut costs and deliver smart solutions and quality services to the customers of client companies. Speaking of the Indian BPM industry market in specific, it has grown tremendously over the past few years, keeping pace with the international trends.It is now using disruptive technologies and innovative solutions to meet customer requirements in the fastest and most efficient way possible. This has led to the creation of newer business models and services. The transition from a cost arbitrage approach to a more domain and skill-based approach is a necessity considering the competitive environment that the Indian BPM industry finds itself in. Multinational companies are now looking at Indian third-party BPM service providers as partners to help add value to the existing talent pool.Additionally the industry must constantly reinvent and evolve its service offerings into futuristic solutions, trying aggressively to build expertise around these.

Q:How has the sector been impacted by the Digital Transformation wave? How are your customers viewing this trend and how are you responding to this emerging need?

A: Volatility of today’s business landscape is unprecedented: it is harder than ever to stay on top and win a lasting competitive advantage. Due to the Digital disruption, it is now virtually impossible to develop a business model, cast it into the concrete of an ERP system and leverage highly optimized processes for years.

In keeping with the above, the BPM sector too is evolving and gravitating towards innovating tools with advanced technologies so as to be future ready andcreate smart business solutions and processes for its customers.SMAC, Big Data, Analytics, IoT, etc are simplifying the process operations and enabling companies to increase operational efficiency, enhance process visibility, and deliver excellent customer service and superior business agility. It is not just the BPM industry, but every industry that is undergoing a sea change in its processes due to technology advancement.

The Digital Transformation wave means BPM providers have to provide integrated IT-BPM services which include a combination of Digital, voice, automation and analytics. These enable the following:

  • Create a unified, seamless view of the customer and integrated multi-channel delivery
  • Profile an and personalize customer journeys
  • Analyze and align customer touch points with services

At Intelenet®Global Services, we have seen a huge rise in demand for Digital services from our existing clients. We have been investing in Digital for the last three years and have reached a stage wherein we have today got about 120 different technology products and applications which are in different stages of deployment. In line with the above, we recently launched iSafe™ (Intelenet®’s Systematic and Automated Fulfillment Enabler) – a unique workflow tool developed in-house for the travel and hospitality sector that enables users to interact across five different global distribution systems (GDS), thereby reducing operational costs and enhancing customer experience. Additionally, we also plan to launch iFARE™an artificial intelligence tool that has the distinctive capability of retrieving airline ticketing fare rules across multiple GDS’ and websites.

In line with our strategy of investing and developing Digital technologies, we are deploying applications that we have developed for our new clients and have started using it for our existing clients. The result is that today, we have a large repository of applications in the area of Digital and automation which is what clients are looking at.

Some of our offerings include becoming an Omni Channel CRM Service Provider and offering an app based real time interface for clients which enhances our mobility offerings. Additionally, we are looking at developing Robotics as another area of expertise with solutions which allow for elimination of the workforce for Internal Processes etc.

Q: Within the BPM industry, what are the areas that you believe will experience maximum growth? How is Intelenet®addressing the emerging market and the altering needs of clients?

A:With the total revenue (exports and domestic) of the Indian IT-BPM sector for 2015-16 including and excluding hardware expected to touch USD 143 billion and USD 129 billion, a growth of 8.3 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively over the previous year.This augurs well for India with the sector contributing a share of about 9.5 percent of GDP which was more than 45 percent in terms of total services export in 2015-16.

Some of the areas where I see growth are as follows:

  • Third party BPM providers, who will collectively generate over three lakh additional jobs as tier-3 and tier 4 cities emerge as the new market places
  • Export of Digital solutions which will increase owing to demand from clients for newer technologies such as the Cloud, software as a service (SaaS) and mobility
  • IT help desks, Enterprise IT processes, analytics, robotics and automation
  • BFSI, healthcare, travel and hospitality and retail sectors in terms of verticals, which will see a lot of traction. Retail will include both traditional retail as well as the e-commerce

Over the last few years Intelenet®Global Services has recognized the above demands and in line with them has been investing heavily in Digital technologies. Additionally, we have developed various technology solutions in-house to meet client requirements which have gone a long way in increasing efficiency in servicing our clients.

Some of the tools we have developed in house include the following:

TAP™ (Technology, Analytics, and Process Excellence): It is one of our core capabilities within which we assess and offer knowledge driven insights to explore opportunities across operations while providing a better customer experience, with improved efficiency and reduced costs to our clients. TAP encompasses:

  • Phantom Robotics Automation Solutions: Intelenet's PRPA solutions deploy rapid automation of manual, rules-based and back office administrative processes by creating a "virtual workforce" to manage the operational workflow effectively
  • Next Gen BPS: We support our clients by deploying Omni-Channel contact center solutions to connect and log interactions with customers across channels, in turn providing a single view of the customer in real-time. Additionally, we are leveraging SMAC to enhance our Digital Customer Engagement services

Furthermore, we are also looking at inorganic growth through acquisition for specific capabilities. These will mainly center around specific capabilities in verticals, Digital capabilities, analytics, robotics, etc. basically capabilities that we may not have but can access through our acquisitions.

Q: Is Robotic Process Automation going to be the next big thing and will it cannibalize the BPO market by reducing the number of BPO workers required for routine work?

A: Robots have revolutionized the way companies operate. Most famously that happened in a manufacturing context with the robotic vehicle assembly lines. Now, though, the next wave of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is hitting the back office. In the manufacturing world physical “robots” replaced human workers doing repetitive tasks; in the back office environment, software automation replaces many of the repetitive tasks delivered by BPO services. For example tasks that involve people moving data, checking, validating, aggregating and re-keying can be simply automated step by step.

That said, in 2014, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was predicted as the next big thing for the BPO market. It is said to be the next wave of innovation and has been predicted as having the potential to dramatically change the BPO market and the way it services customers.

Coming to the cannibalizing of the BPO market, (RPA) willmost certainly cannibalize the BPO market in the coming years as it will not only reduce the cost but improve efficiency by removing repetitive and manually intensive tasks. Mature BPO providers have, of course, been automating back office processes for some time now. However the ever-increasing sophistication, and consequent application of RPA in the BPO domain is now swelling a virtual workforce as never before.

Q: What are the verticals you feel will be the big movers and why? Within BPO what are the kinds of services these verticals and sub-verticals will require?

A:  In terms of verticals, we believe BFSI, healthcare, travel and hospitality, logistics and retail including e-commerce sectors will see a lot of traction. While this front office and back office BPO is still significant, progressive outsourcers over the last few years are investing time, training and resources into Vertical BPOs. There is a huge opportunity to help clients with more complex, industry-specific work that goes beyond the traditional front- or back-office engagement.

While there are several industries that can benefit from the vertical specialization, let me explore one in greater detail—the financial services industry. Ask any banker what's keeping him or her up at night and you'll get the same answer: regulations. For banks that are already operating lean and using legacy core systems, regulatory compliance has the potential to bring them to breaking point.

Vertical BPO can play a significant role in helping institutions deal with these new compliance needs like integrated systems that seamlessly extract the needed data and create the appropriate compliance reports at a fraction of the bank's costs. For investment banks, the vertical BPO can create an industry utility in the trade settlements and clearing processes that will encapsulate best-of-breed processes on a state-of-the-art multi-tenancy platform that will serve to reduce operational costs while improving accuracy and turn-around times. As elucidated by the examples above, these are just some of the services that the Financial Services vertical will require. Like this, a vertical BPO for travel and hospitality can take care of Contact Center work for Reservations and Booking, Fulfillment, Baggage Inquiries and Tracing, L1-L3 Technical support, GDS Helpdesk, B2B Support for Agencies, Revenue Management, Settlements and Reconciliations.

Q: In terms of outsourcing, what are the models (remote offshoring, nearshoring, balanced shoring etc.) that customers are preferring today? What is the delivery model that you have adopted to sustain competitive advantage?

A: Businesses prefer a scalable approach to global delivery and outsourcing that combines quality, efficiency, talent and collaboration. They require business and technology solutions that will enable seamless service delivery at reduced costs and enhance growth.

Our client portfolio is varied and this has prompted us to offer a combination of onshore, nearshore and offshore service support depending on the demand and requirements. This is mainly because of the kind of support each of them require, for example some clients would require good local language support, others would want better price points, etc. We make use of a combination of the above delivery models to reduce operating costs and streamline processes. This has also given us the opportunity to innovate new tools and technologies to address market requirements.

For example, in the Middle East, we are the largest pure play BPO with a total of about 3,000 employees. About 1,500 of these are on-shore, within the Middle East markets i.e. in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar and 1,500 are in India making it a balanced combination of on-shore, near-shore and off-shore support. Due to the fact that there is a large expat population in the region, there is demand for support in the English language or certain Indian vernacular languages. Some of the English language support is provided from India. For Arabic we take support from our on-shore centers either in the UAE or Saudi Arabia, or near-shore from Jordan, which gives us better price point as compared to the UAE or Saudi Arabia. Going forward, we intend to continue with this strategy—a combination of ‘onshore – nearshore – offshore’, which the market is demanding.

Q: Would you agree that flexibility on the part of service providers is critical in engagements?

A: Today, flexibility on part of service providers plays a vital role in the majority of engagements. Companies are now coming up with a plethora of innovative and cost effective ways to engage with customers that are not only quick but also highly efficient. In this day and age. customers are familiar with retrieving and sending information within seconds. This is enabling them to share feedback quickly through social media like Facebook and Twitter using the mobile.

Going mobile has also become an essential pre-requisite when it comes to customer engagements. Various sectors are recognizing the benefit of mobile devices and are leveraging mobile capture technology to enable customers to contribute information directly. The customer has quick access to the information from the point of origin of the message. This is helping the engagement level to rise and leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Q: How important is sustained innovation/process innovation to the Indian BPM industry? What are Indian companies, including Intelenet®doing to stay on the innovation treadmill?

A: Sustained innovation and process innovation are now a critical ingredient for the success of the Indian BPM industry. This is because globally companies are no longer just competing in the market for operational efficiency but also trying to channelize their focus towards customer-centricity which can act as a keydifferentiator. Enterprises are now looking for solutions in line with the latest technology trends to reduce costs and deliver processes that focus on customers and their expectations. To this effect, they are additionally looking to develop tools in house that differentiate and drive the customer experience.

Intelenet® has always tried to stay ahead of the industry curve and embraced the majority of the technology trends at the right time to deliver the best to its clients. Of late, we have been focusing a lot on Digital technology and tools. The company has set up separate R&D departments that focus on developing innovative solutions for clients across sectors/verticals based on their current and future requirements. As mentioned earlier, we are also developing and deploying various in-house tools through specific industry solutions that improve the complete service delivery lifecycle. We have around 120 different technology products and applications which are in different stages of deployment. Further, all our processes are strengthened with Lean, Six Sigma and transformation capabilities to provide the highest level of quality service.

Q: How has contract structuring changed over these last few years and how are BPO services providers getting creative to land the big deals?

A: Earlier, the primary goal of any BPO deal was to make sure that the client got every bit of margin possible out of the provider. The deal were structured in such a way that the services to be provided were based on the costs that were calculated on the basis of the client’s current environment. That said, a stern approach to structure the contracts for the BPO market is imperative and essential in the interest of both the provider and clients. As business is evolving, needs are changing and with technology becoming more accessible, strictly structured contracts are becoming a major challenge. However, I am of the opinion that future agreements should be re-structured to accommodate and deal with the realities of the business scenario. A successful contract is one that changes and evolves.

That said, the battle to win contracts is getting fierce due to the cut throat competition between the service providers. BPO providers will need to get creative to land mega-sized, multi-year outsourcing deals. Innovative contract terms will include up-front payment for purchase of a client’s assets such as hardware, software, intellectual property and the transfer of workers.

Q: What is the importance of security in BPO engagements? How do you help customers securely manage their structured and unstructured data?

A: At Intelenet® Information Security is a non-negotiable business requirement. Security is of paramount importance and it is our corporate culture. We have zero tolerance for security lapses and there is a total transparency in our deliverables to our customers. We treat the information of our customers with due care and train our staff to securely handle it. Security directly impacts the brand image of the organization and a lax attitude can put the business in jeopardy. Management commitment and a top down approach to security is crucial in establishing the security culture of the organization.

There is no one size fits all for information security. Our solutions are customized for our clients and are integrated with security and privacy controls built at the design phase. Our security practices cater to both structured and unstructured data by building layers of security controls for people, processes and technology. Attestations and certifications to standards like ISO27001, PCI-DSS, HIPAA and Hitech, SSSAE16 demonstrate our controls. We ensure both adequacy and efficacy of our controls. Rigorous security controls at all levels and a continuous effort to raise our own standards have enabled us to sis always our endeavor to successfully deliver our business.

Q: How are BPO companies navigating the new reality of SaaS and the private Cloud? What is the strategy that Intelenet® has adopted?

A:  As companies shift to SaaS, on premises software deployment is declining rapidly. It is expected to drop from 34 percent to 17 percent by 2017, according to Gartner. However, because of security concerns, CIOs are increasing advocating adoption of private Cloud more than public. Experienced BPO providers are navigating this new reality, looking for opportunities to offer organizations BPaaS (Business Process as a Service), RPA and secure private Cloud infrastructure.

Intelenet® has adopted the hybrid Cloud infrastructure which enables part Cloud access for data over the Internet. At the same time, hybrid Cloud also provides the benefits of secure data within the four walls of the data center without going over the Internet. This strategy allows clients to leverage the flexibility and the cost-effectiveness of the public Cloud without exposing critical applications and sensitive data to external resources. Intelenet® has deployed several internal tools and related information on the hybrid Cloud.