Indians little bothered by BPO buyouts

New Delhi | Updated: Nov 15 2004, 05:30am hrs
That acquisitions and buyouts bring uncertainty is known. What is not known, however, is the fact that this level of uncertainty is much greater in developed countries than in India. At least thats what the BPO (business process outsourcing) mandarins in the $4-billion industry in India claim.

Arjun Malhotra, chairman and CEO of US-based Headstrong, told FE, The impact of acquisitions on employees would be more profound in developed countries, say in Europe or the US, than in India. He argued that given the economic and social standards of people here, labour maturity is extremely low.

Mr Malhotra, whose Headstrong plans to significantly expand its offshoring operations in the country, said, When labour maturity is low, issues like ethics, loyalty towards the organisation, etc, are not given much importance. Probably, this explains the high rate of attrition plaguing the BPO industry here. Even the human resource (HR) practices in majority of the BPO firms here are extremely weak.

While agreeing that labour maturity was extremely low here, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of GE Capital International Services (Gecis) Pramod Bhasin said, Impact of the buyout or acquisition is more profound when it is 100%. That is the time when a radical change in organisational culture, ethics, or functioning is expected to change, for better or other wise.

IBM-Daksh merger is a case in point. An industry insider pointed out that IBM brought with itself a well-defined culture, in contrast to the prevailing call centre type of environment at Daksh.

However, Debasish Das, HR head at New Delhi-based BPO firm Keane Worldzen, said that from a motivation point, these acquisitions and buyouts have brought about a high level of insecurity in the work force here. Three key issues which need to be addressed whenever such merger and acquisition activity occurs relate to culture, structural integration, and profile of people. From an HR perspective, these issues are extremely important and the HR team needs to be involved by top management whenever such activity is round the corner, to ensure a smooth integration during the entire transaction, he added.

Mr Bhasin pointed out, In our case where GE has divested 60% stake to private investors, we still retain 40% and investors have simply been brought in to speed up the growth of the company and focus on rapid expansion. So, there is no impact on organisational culture, functioning of the processes, etc. According to Mr Bhasin, thats the reason behind a low attrition rate at Gecis. Where buyouts or acquisitions do not necessarily impact the management, change in not so profound and radical, he added.

Talking in general about the BPO culture, Mr Bhasin said, there are no well-defined career paths in the industry. We might have educational institutions of repute, but what is lacking is the fact that these graduates or post-graduates hardly have any respect for work, something which is extremely well entrenched in countries like China and other Asian countries. So loyalty towards organisations in Indian BPO centres is absent, which is a big reason for high levels of attrition, he added.