Sramana Mitra: Interesting. I have heard a lot of different perspectives on that one. There is a serious interest in having work done closer [to home]. Of course, maybe there is a bit of difference between pure BPO work and more development-oriented work; the time zone issue is more significant and so forth. But I guess there is one point that’s coming up quite a lot in my interviews. What is going on with the call center industry in India? What is your sense in that? Specifically, a couple of things, there seems to be a fatigue of working through the night. Is that a serious issue that you are seeing in your workforce?
Manish Dugar: Given the number of graduates who enter the workforce every year and the talent pool that keeps getting into BPO, it’s not the same talent which is working year on year to lead to fatigue. But [you have] to look at the voice business in two parts. One is the customer relationship management, and the second is the technical help desk. I would say the former requires a lot more empathy than the latter. We have seen that some locations like the Philippines score a lot higher on empathy than India does. And that is one of the reasons why you will see that a lot of customer relationship work has started [going to the] Philippines. Probably less of that would happen from India. But when it comes to technical help desk, the availability of talent outside of India is very limited, We see that as one of the key areas for all voice businesses to be, delivering from India. But specifically to your point on fatigue, that is not my observation in terms of what it would be. It is a different thing that players like ourselves, we don’t want to be only in the call center business. If you look at our business over the past five or six years, we have moved from being primarily a voice business. You know, 85% of our business used to be voice. Today we do more than 50% of business in the transaction processing area, which includes back office, which includes vertical specific processes, billing, end-to-end processes with IT implementation.
SM: Yes, and the 50% that you have still in the voice business; what percentage of that is in technical support compared customer relationship management?
MD: I would say 50%, if not more of that, is in the technical side, which is clearly aligned with what we do on our IT side. This help us provide technical support from L1 to L2 to L3 to L4.
SM: Right. You are not in the Philippines, however, right?
MD: No, we are in the Philippines. There are many thousands of people there.
SM: Now, does the Philippines have [a big] enough workforce to service the capacity that the world is asking from them?
MD: One center in Philippines may probably not grow as [large] one center in India. We are talking about 5,000 or 6,000 people from one center, but until now we have not found a challenge in getting the talent. At least, the little that I have seen of our company as well as [others], they have scaled up significantly.
SM: What is your impression of what’s happing in Africa? Do you have anything inAfrica? Are you seeing any trends inAfrica?
MD: In the recent past, activity levels have gone up significantly. I guess some organizations have already taken a plunge. It is a very diverse continent. You have French-speaking areas and English-speaking areas. Then there are [nuances] and issues around a company having its own rules and regulations. Looking at the whole of Africa as one region poses its own challenges because you have to understand the inter-country transactions. You have to understand the financial environment that each country is in. Then you have geopolitical risk, the risk of people security. So, those are the issues that I guess people are grappling with at this point; however, activity levels have already increased. You would have heard about the Zain-Airtel deal as the large BPO deal in Africa. It’s getting delivery from various parts of Africa. Many more companies are getting interested because of the availability of talent and nearness to, let’s say from a time zone perspective, from a distance or flight distance perspective, it’s much nearer to them than India is. So, if one is able to find the solution to the issues that I just spoke about, I guess its looking like an interesting prospect, at least from the perspective of where it’s being delivered from. For Africa as a market, if you were to look at it, I guess there are only few industries which are at this point look interesting, those being either telecom or oil.