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More likely one of our employees would've delivered an Amazon packet: Ajit Isaac

Interview with CMD & CEO, Quess Corp

Raghu Krishnan  |  Bengaluru 

More likely one of our employees would've delivered an Amazon packet: Ajit Isaac

Quess Corp, the nine-year old firm backed by Indian-born Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa is preparing itself for a public issue. Last week, it got the SEBI nod for an IPO. Ajit Isaac, chairman and managing director and CEO of Quess Corp, among the pioneers of temp staffing in India, says the best is yet to come for the company as it looks at growing its share in the SG&A expenses of Indian corporates.

"In the gold rush in the United States, most money was not made by the gold miners, but the transporters. Those were the services guys and (here) we are the services guys," says Isaac in an interview. Edited Excerpts:

How different are you from TeamLease?

Only one fourth of our business resembles TeamLease, three fourths is different. We are different company than a payroll company. If you want people that you want to employ, with TeamLease you transfer them on their payroll. We do lot of hiring, we charge a fee and our business is therefore much higher in profitability with different set of services in spite of the fact that we both are human resources company . Out of 121,000 people we have got, 85,000 people are in temp staffing, TeamLease has around 100,000 or so. We make little more money than what they do. This year, in first six months, revenue was Rs 1530 crore and an Ebidta was Rs 74 crore and at the margin level, we are at around 5-6 percent. It is a whole different game. In recruiting, we have 300 recruiters and we will be among the top three recruiting business separately.

What is the other three fourths business?

We maintain steel plants, power plants and large industrial equipment and have over 4,000 engineers. We are India's largest industrial asset management company. We have a facilities management business - with over 150 million square feet of real estate assets such as malls, public utilities and hospitals. We maintain part of Delhi airport. We have 20,000 people in this and it is an essential services business. And global tech solutions, which is the core solution for property and casualty business in insurance.

Aren't you in diverse businesses?

We want to do more and get more of the sales, general and administrative (SG&A) expenditure of a company. As much line expenditure of a company, we want to be in all of them. Globally, there are such as Serco, Interserve and Sodexho who have built large businesses.

What happens when they become aggressive in India?

We have a head start. We have a well crafted strategy of offering hard and soft services. We offer only 30 million square feet of pest control of the 150 million sq ft of assets we maintain. For outsourcing you can't put boundaries. It is as much as you can do.

When we started with Samsung, they had single digit market share and 300 people. Now, there are 8000 people from us who are working for them. We are such an integral part of Samsung mobile phone success story in India. Samsung builds great phones, more applications, smart chips. Customer services we handle and look at what they have achieved.

You also have presence in e-commerce?

We have 8000 people working for Amazon. It is more likely one of our employees would deliver if you ordered goods on Amazon. will build merchandise, branding and technology, we are good at last mile delivery. We have a (service level agreement) SLA culture in the company. New guys have to build everything from scratch. We do 25,000 parcels a day and if we will double that by the end of the year, we should be in great shape. We do it for 4-5 e-commerce including Urban Ladder. Dependo logistics, is running that part of the business. We can set up distribution network and have a very as asset light model. In e-commerce, we have 12-14,000 people.

But can you continue to be frugal considering that Private equity/VC backed can compete and buy market share throwing cash?

Our biggest assets is not the company is $ 230 million with an Rs 74 crore of Ebidta. That is not what makes our company, the biggest thing that makes our company is the culture. It takes years and years to build the culture, it takes minutes to give it away. If you start competing with the guys with big fat cheques from private equity guys by throwing money, you have lost the plot. The best way to compete with them by running your operations more efficient, treating your people well and build sustainable model of business.

That is what I think set sets up apart. We have managed to do this in each of business we are . We have higher margins which is growing. In an economy, which has been growing 6% , we have grown 65 per cent CAGR. with a margin expansion of 2 to 5 per cent. Our DSO has dropped to 60 from 90.

How much of the wallet size of customers you have been able to tap?

It is very difficult to aggregate the SG&A expenses of all your companies. So, in my sense, we are not dealing with not more than 2-4% of the SG&A expenses of corporations. That shows the headroom for growth. In the people business, the organised players don't have 15% market share of the entire industry. The Indian economy saw three phases of growth, 1991-95, the telecom growth and banking licenses; 2000 - internet, telecom and technology and then came retail and insurance, today lot of e-commerce industry. In each wave, there were a set of services that grew with the core industries. In the gold rush that happened in the United States, most money was not made by the gold miners, but the transporters Those were the services guys and (here) we are the services guys.

First Published: Sun, May 08 2016. 22:06 IST