Herald: BPOs in Goa fail to meet potential

BPOs in Goa fail to meet potential

21 Jul 2018 05:48am IST

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21 Jul 2018 05:48am IST

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BPOs are scattered all over the country in major cities and growing towns. Goa with its unique culture could have catered to the Portuguese speaking market. AJIT JOHN takes a look at the situation as to whether there were plans to set up BPOs focussed on the Portuguese speaking market

It is a business that has generated millions of dollars in revenue and created tens of thousands of jobs in the country. It is not unusual to see young boys and girls going or returning from work in a BPO.  According to National Association of Software and Services Companies estimates, the Business Process Management industry in India is a global leader with revenues of over USD 28 billion annually. That is really big money and it is from an industry which did not exist twenty years ago in the country. There are several BPO’s operating all over the country so is it any different in Goa? 

A majority of the BPO’s in the country interact with the English-speaking world. During that period did any BPO’s in Goa focus on the Portuguese speaking world. With a certain percentage of the population eloquent in that language it made business sense to tap that advantage.

The BPO industry in the country and world over either answer inbound calls or make calls to individuals from data bases provided by clients or created in house. There are different teams that handle two distinct functions. In Goa there were four major players. First European Infotech was one of the first to set up base in the State. It focussed on airline ticketing in the sense, executives had to answer queries and book flights for interested individuals from anywhere in the UK. 

Sanjiv Nadkarni who used to be in charge of running the facility and is now a consultant said, it was a very interesting assignment but like many things in Goa there were some serious challenges. 

Nadkarni said “We needed to ensure that a certain number of executives be present for each shift. This meant if I had to ensure 100 executives per shift I would have to have 105 on call. The problem being, they are usually very young, many of them have not completed their education or have dropped out and their sense of responsibility may be a bit awry. It would not be unusual for a person to not turn up for his or her assignment despite being chalked in for that time. They would not bother to call or worse they would never return. Attrition was always a problem.” 

There was also a marked reluctance to work in the night shift. Another problem was the reluctance to work in the industry in Goa but a marked preparedness on the part of the employees to work in the same industry in Chennai and Bengaluru. 

Nadkarni  said “In Goa, there is no pressure on them. They have a house and a family who does not exert pressure on them but when they go out of the state, they have to take care of themselves, pay the bills and take care of themselves. The importance of responsibility is learnt then.” 

Employees in Goa would earn anywhere between Rs 9000-12,000 plus a commission on tickets closed. They would earn much more in Chennai and Bengaluru which was also an added advantage.  

Another company that operates a call centre in the State is Smartlink. It makes routers and other   communications equipment that are sold around the world. Its call centre would answer calls from all over the world. Nitin Kunkolienkar who used to head that organisation said cost was always the principle motive for the setting up of a BPO in countries like India, the Philippines etc.    

Kunkolienkar said “India took advantage of the cost benefit in comparison to the North American market. If in America, one had to pay Rs 3 lakh to employ an executive, the same would be done here at approximately Rs 15,000. It was a huge saving. We also had a large enough percentage of population that could speak English and so it all came together and the industry boomed.” 

Another benefit was the timing, ie when it was night in India, it was day in North America and so ambitious young boys and girls made the most of this industry.

With regards BPO’s offering services to the Portuguese speaking world, there were several problems. According to Kunkolienkar, cost was a huge problem. Many of the economies in the Portuguese speaking world were in a mess. Portugal, he said could not generate business to sustain a domestic BPO industry.  It was just not viable for a unit in Goa to look for business in that part of the world. The returns, he said were just not there. Then there was the problem of the clock. India, he said was around 7 to 10 hrs ahead of say a market like Brazil which meant when the time came to make calls, the agents in Goa were either planning to leave for home or sleeping. In addition, those who spoke Portuguese were much older and were not interested in doing such jobs. The few who were ok said they would do it perhaps at the most twice or three times a week. The younger generation either could not speak the language or were just not interested.    

Sanjay Kulkarni said “It is a very good industry to provide jobs for the youth which make a very large percentage of the job market. But then nothing has happened.  The BPO market is migrating up the value chain and the kind of skills required are growing in sophistication.”

India’s BPM industry accounts for 37 percent of the global sourcing market, and, by 2025, Nasscom projects that its revenues will increase to $50-55 billion. Between 60 and 70 percent of this will come from ‘digital streams’—BPM services that involve digital solutions-based work like intimating an airline passenger about lost baggage on her smartphone app. This should give everyone an idea of the growth prospects of this industry.

Perhaps in time a more robust BPO industry will spring up in the state and as economies recover from excesses, perhaps BPO’s targeting the Portuguese market will emerge. Time will tell.


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