By guest author Tony Scott
This interview, the last in this first group in the series, is with Sitel, which describes itself as “redefining call center outsourcing.” The company offers a variety of services for acquisitions and sales, back office, collections, customer care, and technical support. I am talking with Sitel’s chief global marketing officer, Amit Shankardass, and vice president of marketing for the Americas, Andrew Kokes, who worked a number of years in the Philippines before coming to Sitel’s head office in Nashville, Tennessee.
Tony Scott: Would you introduce yourselves and explain your roles with the company?
Amit Shankardass: I am Amit Shankardass, and as head of global marketing, I run the organization that is responsible for product development, strategic planning, and typical marketing and communication tasks. I’ve been with the company for about 10 years now.
Andrew Kokes: Hi, I am Andrew Kokes, and I am responsible for marketing for the Americas. I am part of a global team and have been here for 12 ½ years in a number of roles. From about 2003 for four or five years, my key responsibility was offshore markets and the development and expansion into different markets around the world.
Tony: Great. I’d like to start with an overview of what we are doing here, and then we can get into the specifics of your company. As you probably know, Sramana Mitra and I are looking at offshoring, outsourcing, and BPO from a broad perspective. You may have seen the article she wrote about the death of Indian outsourcing. That article was basically about how the pure labor arbitrage model drives things toward the lowest-cost denominator, which is ultimately difficult to sustain.
Two of the topics Sramana and I have talked about are the transformation of successful outsourcing companies and the different models they are adopting, and how those transformations impact the way those companies work and interact with their customers. We are also interested in learning about the kind of people who are needed from the bottom of an organization all the way to the senior executive teams to be able to drive those kinds of transformations.
So, to start off, would tell us a bit more about how your company got started and how it evolved to where it is today?
Amit: Sure. I will also talk a bit about how organizations have changed and adapted as global sourcing has become more common.
I think this company is in many ways a case study of changing and adopting. This is not just organizationally but in terms of leadership, in terms of the types of people we employ, and in terms of how we had to think about our business, conduct our business, and interact with our clients.
The company started about 14 years ago as Client Logic, with one operation in Toronto. It provided a specialized call center service for insurance products. It grew from there through several acquisitions. It gained a presence in Europe and grew more in the United States, picking up a couple of other call center companies until ultimately Client Logic acquired a company called Sitel. Sitel had a much longer history – it was started in 1985, and it had grown in a similar way, organically and inorganically. It delivered services predominantly in the domestic market.
Around 2000, when offshoring became more prevalent, Sitel was one of the first companies to start doing it, not just from the United States to India, the Philippines, and other locations, but also from Europe. Andrew was one of the early people who set up operations in the Philippines and then in India. Today Sitel is in 27 countries, delivering a vast amount of business on what we call a global sourcing basis. Over 60 percent of our clients use some form of global sourcing, meaning that those clients are using a mix of Sitel’s operations in India, the Philippines, Chile, Nicaragua, Poland, or wherever, with possibly some domestic mix. By comparison, as few as 10 years ago the number of clients using global sourcing was less than 10 percent of our base.