Uncle Sams routine posturing on the contentious outsourcing issue may spook the weak-hearted in Indias business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. But for Kaushal Mehta, founder and CEO of Motif, ranked among the top 10 preferred BPOs in India by industry surveys, its just a movie I have watched three times since I set up Motif in 2000. He goes on to add, tongue firmly in cheek, Such statements made by American politicians once every four years around the time of the Presidential elections have changed nothing on ground which is evident from the fact that none of my American clients have mentioned the issue even once in so many years.
Undeterred by the vacillating political stands in the US, Motif has grown from a 15 seat software company which was set up by Mehta and his spouse Parul way back in 1998 to a 1,500 seat customer-centric boutique BPO and KPO service company, headquartered in California with global delivery centres in India, the Philippines and Costa Rica. Among the highly specialised services it provides are customer support, back office processing, research and analytics, and online fraud prevention services to Fortune 500 companies and niche market leaders. Its clients include a top US online travel agency, a leading US online retailer, a top US life sciences database provider, the top UK online auction company and the top Asian travel agency. Motif is a PCI-DSS and ISO/IEC 27001 certified company and its India delivery centre was recently rated at PCMM Maturity Level 3.
Tracing back his journey, Mehta recalls how, following in the footsteps of his father, he decided to pursue academics and gain some work experience in the US on completion of his Bachelors degree in engineering and communications from Ahmedabad. Both me and my wife, also an engineering graduate decided to move to the US for higher studies, he reminisces. After completing their Masters degrees in computer engineering, they headed for Silicon Valley. While Kaushal bagged a job with Sun Microsystems, his wife found one at Intel as a design engineer in Santa Clara CA and was involved in the design and development of projects related to the Pentium series of microprocessors.
A decade in the US proved to be an invaluable learning experience. Not only did we hone our skills as professionals but learnt how the US market operates, says Mehta. It is these insights that helped shape Motif when the Mehtas finally bid adieu to the US and headed home in 1997.
Motif was incorporated in 1998 in California and simultaneously Confluence Software was floated by the husband-wife duo in India as a 15 seat start-up software company. At that time, outsourcing was still a scary word in the US so Motif was started as a front company to inspire confidence in our American clients that the company they were dealing with was physically present in the US, reveals the Motif CEO.
The experiment proved successful with Motif securing clients and outsourcing work to Confluence. Its at that time that they took the first major step towards reinventing Motif. What also helped were the changes taking place in the IT industry in India in the year 2000. While the dotcoms were going bust, the government deregulated the internet market paving the way for ISP players and the mushrooming of the BPO sector.
But taking on the Big Five namely Infosys, HCL, TCS, Wipro and Cognizant which, between them, control 80% of the BPO and KPO market, was no easy task. Moreover, upscaling a 15 seat software company to a scale of a 200 seat BPO required funding. In the year 2000, the Mehtas returned to the US, to garner funds. We were able to raise $4 million with which we set up Motif as a BPO in March 2000. We put in our personal money too to put to rest any speculation on what is your skin in the game
Apart from raising the finances, the Mehtas also retinkered with the conventional BPO format. From the inception itself, the idea was to have a small and nimble set-up which could be customised to the needs of its clients. Further, as a deliberate strategy, Motif positioned itself as a niche player with a clearly defined role of service provider to its clients.
The model seems to have worked beautifully for Motif. As Mehta puts it, Companies like companies which are more responsive and less bureaucratic. Thats one of the reasons why we have managed to retain our clients for the past 10-12 years, a rare phenomenon in our industry. The model has also ensured robust growth and an impressive 100-fold increase in scale from a 15 seat company to the present 1,500 seat.
Motif has also followed a carefully calibrated growth model of controlled growth, absolute profitability and zero debt. After our initial fund raising, we have never resorted to raising any more funds and have survived on our internal accruals and profits alone. Though Mehta cites the non-disclosure clause both for his impressive clients list as well as Motifs financials, industry sources reveal the companys turnover may be around R90 crore or more.
Mehta also cites his employees as a unique differentiator. In an industry where attrition is rampant, our employees are loyal and have put in years with us. This is beneficial as it gives them expertise with clients processes.
An unabashedly huge admirer of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy, Mehta has also walked the extra step to instill a sense of belonging among employees. With employees owning 22.5% stock equity of Motif, Mehta claims this is perhaps the highest in the call centre industry. In my own way, I have tried to create a mini Infosys as Narayana Murthy is my personal idol, he confesses candidly.
With three global delivery centres ensuring location redundancy, Motif will soon have a centre at Delhi as well to be followed by one in Europe to make it a truly global and financially stable service provider. Already ranked among the Top 10 BPO companies to work for in India, for three consecutive years, by IDC-Dataquests Employee Satisfaction Survey and rated among the Top 100 ITO and BPO companies in the world by NeoIT and Global Services, for two years in a row, Motif has also been ranked the best BPO/KPO company of state of Gujarat in 2011 and 2012 by GESIA, the leading IT and ITeS trade organisation of Gujarat. Success seems to be a recurring leitmotif in this story.