Bring in the expert

Written by Diksha Dutta | Diksha Dutta | Updated: May 14 2012, 06:45am hrs
Forward-looking BPO firms have got a productivity boost by hiring specialists from BFSI, automobiles, FMCG and retail sectors at the top and middle level

Generalists to specialists is the mantra for business process outsourcing (BPO) firms today when it comes to hiring talent above the middle level. As freshers continue to do the day-to-day work at the bottom of the pyramid, BPO firms now believe in vertical heads who bring in years of experience from other sectors like automotive, retail or manufacturing. Take the case of Mamta Bhargava, who joined Indias largest BPO firm Genpact last year as vice-president, manufacturing segments from WW Grainger, a Fortune 500 industrial supply company. This was at a time when Genpact was restructuring its verticals and was focusing on having industry expertise. Bhargava brought in 15 years of experience in industries such as automotive, food processing, transportation and other manufacturing verticals.

Piyush Mehta, senior vice-president, human resources, Genpact says, Genpact has hired approximately 35 to 40 people at the vice-president level last year and many of them were from other sectors like BFSI, manufacturing, automobiles, FMCG and retail. As verticals are gaining importance, companies like us need industry expertise and is thus hiring specialists from other sectors and not just BPO.

Genpact president and CEO Tiger Tyagarajan explains the whole scenario, You run a business not saying what size you want, but what capabilities you want. Today our fastest growing business is consumer packaged goods, retail and pharmaceuticals. Genpacts leadership team comprises 20 people. If one includes owners of key verticals and sub verticals, it stretches to 50-60 people. A lot of sales people in all verticals were inducted last year. There are people we have hired from pharmaceutical and retail industry who are now in client-facing roles. Thus, we are hiring a lot of people from other industries as well, not just from the IT or BPO industry. If you go back and see, the reason why we are good in financial services is because we have people from that industry. And we feel this trend will happen in other verticals too, he adds.

Other industry experts who joined Genpact last year were Mike Haley, vice-president ,business development pharmaceuticals. Mike comes with almost 20 years of broad-based experience in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and insurance industry. His previous stints include ten years at Merck and Marion Merrill Dow, a US pharmaceutical company in various leadership roles and ACS (Affiliated Computer Services), where he led a large team as vice-president of sales and business development, responsible for all sales in their insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Even HR experts feel that top honchos from other sectors are demanded in BPOs. Sunil Goel, director, GlobalHunt, an executive search firm says, At senior and mid-level, BPO companies are looking at people who have worked for 10-15 years in their respective domains, who are subject matter experts, those who understand real-time challenges different industries confront. This creates a win- win situation for BPO companies and customers, wherein BPO companies are able to optimise skilled resources with multiple services from same industry verticals.

Keshav Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS Global Services s too feels, Hiring professionals with domain specific knowledge from various industries has been a key part of our overall verticalisation strategy. Also, in past one year we have expanded our sales force by 45%, which includes a number of professionals who have joined us from the specific industry verticals such as shipping and logistics, insurance, retail, healthcare etc, who bring along y ears of experience and deep domain industry knowledge to expand our operations and revenue stream. In addition, as a part of our client partnering approach, we have formulated a highly experienced management team, that represents the best in the industry leaders with average of over 20 years of experience in diverse industries, geographies, processes and practices.

BPO firms like WNS Global Services, who are strong in the travel vertical, have been hiring a lot of talent from this sector as well . As a recruitment policy, we also hire laterals from allied travel BPO or travel sector like airlines, GDS and other relevant travel domains, notes Murugesh.

Mohan AVK, executive vice-president and global head of human resources, EXL Service feels, In line with our business strategy to be a category killer in our select industry we have been hiring subject matter experts at senior and middle management levels from other sectors. This is to deliver better business value to our clients. Such professionals include CAs, CPAs, insurance professionals, doctors, nurses, mathematicians, statisticians and lawyers.

Broadly, it is not just the BPO sector which is seeing this trend. There are other companies too who believe in hiring from other sectors. Prashant Bhatnagar, director, hiring at SapientNitro (the marketing and advertising company of Sapient) in India shares, Out of the total 6,000 people in Sapient Nitro approximately 3% to 4% are at vice-president level. In the past, we have been hiring 80% generalists and 20% specialists at this level. But now as we are catering to different sectors, the ratio is 60% generalists and 40% specialists. Now the recognition of getting people from other sectors is more. Whether it be retail merchandising experts or business analysts with sector expertise. Our idea engineering team has people from anthropology, branding companies and technology background.

Thus as BPOs are now looking at hiring from other sectors, the existing staff at BPOs will have to pull up its socks.