Call centres fuel growth of Indian IT industry

Headhunters in India’s Silicon Valley are jumping onto the IT-enabled services bandwagon by providing contract workers and software engineers to foreign firms for “back-office” operations.

“There is a huge demand now for English-speaking graduates and basic programmers in the IT-enabled sector,” said Gautam Sinha, chief of TVA Infotech, a recruiting firm headquartered in India’s IT capital of Bangalore.

Sinha, who set up his company two years ago, said several foreign firms looking to cut costs had set up base in Bangalore in the past year.

Several foreign airlines, credit card companies and banks have shifted their “back-office” work to India which has the world’s second largest pool of English-speaking computer literates after the US.

“Because of the call centre business and other back-office operations (being run out of India) I expect our business to double to two million rupees (41,666 dollars),” said Sinha who poaches IT workers for Nokia, Motorola and Sun Microsystems.

Typically, a call centre in India has a computer-literate graduate handling a banking or insurance query for an American or European customer who would not even know that his call to a US-based firm was being directed to India.

Call centres range from simple customer inquiry services to revenue-generating businesses with highly-trained personnel who can sell additional products or services.

At the peak of the IT boom two years ago, headhunters trawled pubs and private parties to hunt for talent required by dotcom firms.

Soon Bangalore’s headhunters were left in the lurch with dotcom firms going bust and technology companies laying off hordes of engineers.

But with call centres mushrooming headhunters say their business is looking up again. India’s English-speaking IT workers take home wages that are roughly one-third that of international software professionals.

To reap the low-cost advantages global firms like Dell Computer, HSBC, General Electric, Citibank and others have set up Indian subsidiaries.

“Over the past year the business process outsourcing subsidiaries of renowned firms such as HSBC and others have recruited more than 10 000 people,” said B Sheaker, co-founder of CRV Consultants.

“All the global firms have realised to grow and sustain themselves India is a good option,” said Sheaker, whose company recruits people for IBM, Dell, Oracle and Wipro. “Due to cost pressures they are moving into India.”

He said the job market favoured skilled engineers with over five years experience.

CRV Consultants’ revenues took a 20% beating last year to 40-million rupees.

“This year due to increased revenues from IT-enabled services we are hoping to touch the 50-million-rupee mark,” said Sheaker.

India’s premier software body, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, said IT-enabled services were an engine of growth for the industry.

The industry segment, which includes call centres, experienced 70% growth in the last financial year ended March 2002, generating revenues of 41-billion rupees ($850-million).

Leading headhunting firm, Ma Foi Management Consultants, said it expected its revenues to double every year with the new opportunity.

“The backbone of the growth comes from IT-enabled services,” said Santosh Joseph, principal consultant at Ma Foi.

“For various call centres and payroll accounting firms in Bangalore Ma Foi has placed 2 015 people last year. We expect this number to cross 5 000 this year,” Joseph said.

“These companies outsource all the human resources work such as employees welfare, provident fund, taxes, accident and insurance cover. We recruit our own staff to the work for them,” he said.

Bangalore has more than 1 000 infotech firms and accounts for 40% of India’s total software exports. - Sapa-AFP

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