Indian business process outsourcing sector calls for rebranding
Increasing popularity of the Philippines as a destination for business process outsourcing (BPO), and the somewhat slower growth of the Indian BPO business have shown the Indian market that it requires a serious rebranding.
Business process outsourcing originated as a call centre function, but over the years has changed to a high-value, knowledge-based industry supporting global clients across multiple industries. Those who originally only lent their voice to the industry are now domain experts, specialists and analysts, turning BPOs from stop-gap options for employees to fully-fledged career choices.
Yet, the industry feels these changes have not been fully appreciated or understood, both in India and overseas. "With global competition for BPO work hotting up, India needs to re-brand the industry, to make it attractive to prospective employees and more importantly to college teachers and parents (since they exert significant influence on children's career choices)," says Keshav Murugesh, group CEO of BPO company WNS.
The Philippines government has done this, and it is now the world's leading contact centre destination and is also now a preferred career choice for young people.
Aman Mustafa, country head of ACS, a Xerox company, says many US clients feel India is the ideal destination for high-end data services. "Some clients who came to India for data entry work are suddenly realising that we are good at cutting edge analytics. Every BPO leader will have many such stories to share. But no one advertises for Indian BPO. Even our small and medium towns have enough talent that can take up high-end knowledge processes," he says.
V Bharathwaj, who has over 10 years of experience with the BPO industry, says in the first 10 years, the industry focused on growth and scale but this growth has now tailed off. "Only a perception correction can propel the next level of growth. Since 2009, the Indian BPO brand has been diminishing in its equity and image," he says.
A few years ago there were plans to rebrand the BPO business and companies were asked by industry body Nasscom to contribute up to a $1m to fund the initiative. But some feel Nasscom has done little so far in terms of lobbying or brand building.
KS Viswanathan, vice-president (industry initiative), Nasscom, agrees the industry has not yet communicated the kind of work they are doing today to the external world. "Employees too continue to perceive the old paradigm. We are looking at focusing on better communication. Customised communication is required to reach out to each and every stakeholder effectively. All the 35 members of the Nasscom BPO Forum are in favour of creating a new branding perception,'' he says.