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We depend on domain knowledge, tech more than headcount: Keshav Murugesh

Interview with CEO of WNS & chairman of Nasscom BPO Council

Bibhu Ranjan Mishra 

From Tuesday, is set to hold a two-day business process management (BPM) summit. In an interview with Bibhu Ranjan Mishra, Keshav Murugesh, chief executive of NYSE-listed BPM company and chairman of the BPM council, says while the sector moved ahead in the value chain, more changes are expected due to the increasing adoption of technologies such as social, mobile and analytics (SMAC). Edited excerpts:

With information technology starting to record good numbers, how is demand panning out for the BPM sector?


For BPM, demand is very stable and healthy. The message from such as has been received very well in the market. From the point of view of WNS, our new go-to-market strategy and verticalised approach has been received quite well by clients. This why the number of large deals we have won has risen significantly. For instance, this year, we are optimistic of winning at least six large deals, against four last year and three a year before that. For us, large deals typically provide an annual contract value of about $5 million.

How has your verticalised structure helped?

Traditionally, all business process outsourcing went to the market based on the wage-arbitrage model. This is why the sector started with call centre services, followed by services surrounding finance and accounting and subsequently, legal processes. In fact, a lot of our competitors go to the market with horizontal services. But three years ago, we (WNS) dramatically changed our model and created an end-to-end vertical structure, with an aim of aligning more with the clients’ way of thinking. This is helping us carve out deals at a time when there are no deals.

In the IT and BPM sectors, intellectual property (IP) creation seems to be the buzz word. How far has been able to capitalise on that?

IP is one of the differentiations we have driven. The second is de-linking headcount from revenues by creating more automation tools and mini-platforms within the company. So, the dependence now is more on domain knowledge, technology and higher-level intelligence, not the number of people. If you look at last year, WNS’s revenue grew 9.5 per cent, while the headcount grew only five per cent.

So will voice offering be a thing of the past?

Today, about 25 per cent of our solutions have a voice component, but these aren’t the traditional call-centre operations anymore. The quality of the conversation, too, is completely changing. In the past, it was more like a contact centre — we were focused on the lower end of services.

The adoption of the (social, mobile, and analytics) suite of technologies seems to be gaining ground. How is WNS looking at this?

We have already created solutions involving technology platforms, horizontal services such as analytics and social media, which we believe will be compelling in the long term. The whole area of analytics offers tremendous potential for the sector, and that is something we are driving. This is because we are seeing a lot of decision-making from the chief-marketing-officer side, primarily due to changes in the buyer side. But remember, even today, traditional services that are capable of allowing customers to reduce costs, helping them become much more efficient and taking them into new areas, still account for the bulk of operations.

Traditionally, India isn’t a focus area for BPM players and the work done in the domestic market is primarily for companies in segments such as telecom and retail. With the government focusing on e-governance, do you think this segment could become a focus area?

I think what the government wants to do is make the quality of life much better for citizens, and that is a very noble aspiration. It will create so many allied businesses around it and trigger a big opportunity for players like us. In period, I see a model wherein BPM players will go to the government and say ‘in certain areas, we will create solutions and charge you for every transaction; we will make all the investment’. That is a potential model we will want to look at, once the government unveils its plans.

First Published: Sat, September 20 2014. 21:39 IST
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