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From BPO to BPM

The Indian Business Process Management industry has experienced key transformations over the past few years, gaining experience, maturity, and gravitating towards higher-end services and global competitiveness.

Knowing, understanding and spreading awareness about this changing landscape has remained a big challenge for the industry and its stakeholders. The stakeholders, including customers, academia and the nation in general, need to understand the enormity of the change. While customers must be told about the enhanced value proposition offered by service providers, academia needs to prepare and motivate the workforce that delivers these services. News methods need to be found to communicate the news about this transformation.

One subtle, yet effective way is to refer to the industry as the Business Process Management (BPM) sector rather than the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) segment.

The re-branding of the industry will give it the identity of being a full-service value provider rather than an industry that plays only in the lower-end of the services spectrum. At the same time, the Indian industry needs to leverage the low-end skills available in other emerging destinations, while itself moving up the value chain.

This will give India a seat on the high table, even as it broadens the ambit of the services that the BPO industry currently provides. It no longer matters whether those services are outsourced, shared, managed, collocated or captive. All these are simply the different delivery models that customers can continue to choose from. Today, the industry has a more strategic and intellectual role to play.

The BPM model will continue to evolve and drive the sector, which has since its inception in the early 1995, been tuned to a dynamic global business landscape. Changing perceptions is a crucial step in that evolutionary process, so the sooner it begins, the better it is for the industry’s growth.

The Indian knowledge industry has, from the very beginning, been very cohesive in its thoughts and actions. This is what has made it strong and unshakable. Identifying and looking for collective opportunities in newer services and newer business models is something that the industry has traditionally done. Long before the murmurs began, the industry had already shifted gears, from providing pure-play call centre and process outsourcing services to more serious, sophisticated and mature offerings.

Shifting gears

The industry has seen a steady movement from cost, quality, and productivity in early 2000 to specialisation, process reengineering and technology-enabled platforms in 2012. The industry now provides platform multi-tenancy, non-linear growth, and a business outcome-based revenue model instead of following the earlier model of achieving operational service level agreements (SLAs). There is an increased depth and breadth of services with multifaceted offerings, which include data analysis and real-time processing and more end-to-end services like consulting, business transformation and optimisation. The industry is also providing value-added, domain-centric solutions with process optimisation, process engineering, specialisation and technology-enabled platforms like cloud computing, social media, mobility, etc.

In this way, the industry has matured, providing 360-degree services that have resulted in its increasing its sphere of influence among clients.

A differentiated position

Where does the shift in the approach place India in comparison with the new BPM hubs? This is the logical next question considering how some of the emerging destinations of the BPO industry are aggressively marketing their countries. Sometimes India is pitted against East European countries, while at other times it is clubbed with its Asian neighbours like China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and others. While it is true that several of these countries are making a huge effort to garner an increased share in the growing global BPO market, India, with its intrinsic and core strengths and buoyed by this changed approach, can continue to remain ahead of the curve.

This core strength approach is what differentiates India and other countries from each other. Some of the emerging destinations are leveraging the quality of voice service, others are looking at English speaking capabilities and focusing on their younger and aspiring population to present their countries as an alternative destination to India. Other are leveraging favorable time zone differences, a vibrant social life tuned to American culture, government sops to BPO companies in terms of tax breaks, establishment of a separate department for skills development, subsidies for skilling and so on. Last but not the least, these countries have a very supportive media that is also marketing their respective companies actively.