Life Cycle of Captive Business Process Outsourcing Units

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1 Life Cycle of Captive Business Process Outsourcing Units The divestiture of General Electric Capital International Services (later the name was changed to the acronym GECIS) by GE to let General Atlantic Partners and Oak Hill Partners take the majority stake has been a case worth study. The case points towards the life cycle of a captive business process outsourcing (BPO) unit. Gecis (formerly GE Capital International Services ) began in 1997 as a customersupport center for GE, a diversified technology, media and financial services company that first entered India in In 2003, Gecis earned US$15.6 billion on revenues of $134.2 billion. Gecis has 11 global businesses. Gecis takes an approach that is governed by speed, simplicity and service, and a constant quest for Six Sigma quality. The company is known for its commitment to both high quality and low cost, global delivery capability, wing-to-wing processes, proven transition and engagement models, and process re-engineering skills. In November 2004, GE announced it had entered into an agreement with two leading private-equity firms, General Atlantic Partners and Oak Hill Capital Partners, under which the firms would take a majority stake in Gecis and reposition it for global expansion. Subject to customary approvals, the transaction is expected to close during the next six months. Gecis forecasts 2004 revenues of well over US$400 million, which would make it the largest business-process organization headquartered in India. Whereas the divestiture of Gecis can prove to be one-off case, it has indicated a pattern in the development of captive BPOs. The life cycle of a captive BPO can be divided into four distinct phases based on the equity participation of the parent company. These phases can be named as: Start up phase: In this phase the parent company starts off with making investments for infrastructure and for hiring people. The motive for the parent company to go abroad and establish itself off shore is Cost-reduction. Cost reduction comes from lower cost of labor and lower infrastructure costs. Tax incentives given the local governments also make the destination attractive with regard to cost reduction. The scale of operation is generally small as the parent company does not have indication about the success of operations. The companies generally start of with parallel processing of work. A team works in tandem with off shore delivery center on pilot projects to assess the capabilities. The focus of start ups are training and task-oriented skill development. Scope of work is limited to ones that are highly rule bound. In most start ups, business acumen may not be required even from the team leaders and managers. The strategic and sometimes even tactical decision making is done by leadership from abroad, who might be located offshore for the time being. 1

2 Human resources utilizations remain low, at about 30 to 40 percent. The reasons can be lower levels of skills, lack of confidence of people in the parent company, operational problems, lack of proper support structures, high employee turnover and lack of proper management. However, with time and proper feedback mechanism, the system stabilizes and starts to produce good results. The start up phase may last from 2 to 5 years. Goldman Sachs has stared off with its offshore unit in the third quarter of The operations of Goldman Sachs at the current stage can be put in this stage of captive BPO life cycle. According to the Independent newspaper, Goldman's chief financial officer David Viniar made announcement in July 2004 to this affect stating that it would enable the firm to reduce expense base significantly and permit redeployment of critical resources to other functions across the organization. Value addition stage: Most companies land offshore for cost advantage but they soon find value additions coming from the contributions from such establishments. A service that could not have been possible due to budgetary or resource constraints, can be delivered to the customers leading to client delight. The value addition in terms of additional work deliverables, higher quality of work due to increased attention on review and large back up research and development make for the parent companies to continue investment in offshore unit, even at a brisker rate. Motivations for investments remain cost reduction and include value addition. Scale of operation is large and the parent companies go for a hiring spree, if only the economic conditions remain more or less stable. However, an economic downturn might make the investment look burdensome, although an offshore unit helps cost adjustments smoother for the parent company in an economic slump. Human resources become stable as the employee turnover is reduced and outgo is outnumbered by incoming staff strength. Focus on training and skill development is partially shifted towards development of managerial capabilities. Managers in the offshore units, however, do not have in their job profiles most of the contents that their counterparts in the parent company have. Their work involves managing the floor, managing infrastructure and managing time and resources. Performance management and rewards schemes are still the prerogative of leadership from the parent company. Utilization levels go higher up to an extent of 60 to 70 percent. Some of the outfits may boast of even higher percentages. Utilization figures depend on the level of comfort between employees offshore with those of the parent company who are responsible for packing off parts of their chunk to offshore. This phase may last from 2 to 3 years and fade into the next phase. 2

3 HSBC Electronic Data Processing (India) Private Limited (HSBC EDP), through its offices in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Visakhapatnam provides data processing / customer service facilities for the HSBC Group's overseas operations. HSBC Group being one of the biggest financial services conglomerate has made HSBC EDP a hub of its back end operations since the year 2000 when it started its operation. HSBC has silently ramped up its operations and has attained a scale of 5,000 plus people. Its revenue, estimated by Dataquest, is close to Rs 239 crore. It has four facilities in India-two in Hyderabad, one in Bangalore, and one in Vishakhapatnam. The company mainly handles processes like account opening, account maintenance, and customer support and has now added high value jobs like research and analytics. HSBC's back-end work here typically involves software development, audit, financial reconciliation, and training among others. With such scales of operation HSBC EDP can be mapped to the second stage of captive BPO life cycle. Competence accumulation stage: In this stage the captive outsourcing unit is matured and self managed. The talent pool acquired from the years of operation keeps itself self indulgent in streamlining the processes, making shifts from small chunks of task oriented works to high end process oriented works. Leadership from the parent company passes on responsibilities of operations and tactical decision making to capable people in the offshore unit. Competence levels of offshore human resources rises to a significant level. Resources progress in their analysis and knowledge. Knowledge management becomes an essential process and focus shifts from training to career development. An offshore unit smoothly transforms to a knowledge center and a talent pool whose capabilities match the staff levels of the parent company. The bits and pieces of managerial works that is off shored give them a strategic picture of the company and its operations. However, strategic decisions are taken from the parent company. A matured organization that the offshore unit evolves into has capabilities of tremendous value addition. The deliverables are of much higher quality and go to the clients of parent company even without review since the quality assurance function is also performed off shore. Scope of operations is widely enlarged and scales are enhanced as well. Utilization of human resources rises to all time high of 75 to 85 percent. Work flow is smooth. Operations are seamless and well managed by people offshore themselves. Human resource focus remains at managerial development and to a certain extent, entrepreneurship is also encouraged. Innovation and creativity are highly recognized and suitably rewarded. The phase lasts for about 3 to 5 years. Most of the captive BPO units that have been operational for periods exceeding 7 to 8 years can be broadly classified in this group. Such units have peaked in 3

4 performance and reached optimum level of cost reduction and value addition. They might continue being part of the larger group or the parent company, but it would be better if they are prepared for the next stage in the life of captive BPO life cycle. Third party service stage: This stage marks a departure from all the three previous stages in respect that the value addition plateaus for the parent company and investments dry up. The high end work that the parent company performs can not be off shored due to various reasons human resource, legal, customer related, business model related and others and stage of evolution of off shore unit stagnates. The offshore unit acquires the critical mass and required capabilities to shrug off the umbrella of parent company and explore business opportunities in the local environment or with third parties. The managers at the higher levels long for taking a shot at strategic decision making as they are aware of the capabilities available with their teams. Utilization levels lower down to 70 to 80 percent due to higher levels of performance and efficiency. There is a lull which the parent company does not have the capability to fill effectively. And divesting for making the offshore unit available to serve third parties makes sense. The parent company may still want to hold a controlling stake if it views work deliverables critical. However, if that is not the case, it might exit the operations and act as customer to the offshore unit. This reduces the cost for the parent company but keeps the quality intact. Meanwhile the offshore units goes to other hands, sometimes goes independent, and services are made available to third parties to benefit from the low-cost-highquality work products delivered by such units. From the human resource perspective the managers mature to take on the entrepreneurial challenge and get the strategic decision making powers, which gives them higher satisfaction. This transition stage from a offshore unit held by a parent company to a third party service provider may take place in 3 to 4 years. Gecis is an example of this stage. Gecis started off its operation in 1997 and it has been about 8 years since then. After the sale of majority stake by GE it has seen the advent of the fourth stage of captive BPO life cycle. e-serve International Ltd., formerly known as Citicorp Securities & Investments Ltd., is another example of captive BPO in this stage. e-serve is an established provider of IT-enabled services. Having begun this activity in 1992, e-serve focuses on providing sophisticated IT-enabled solutions to the Financial Services industry, supported by cutting-edge technology and robust infrastructure. e-serve IT Enabled Services represent a comprehensive suite of Transaction Processing solutions, Customer Care solutions and Technology Services that are offered to companies engaged in Banking, Insurance, Capital Markets, Mutual Funds & e- 4

5 Markets. e-serve's clientele is global, and Citigroup entities from several countries feature prominently in the list. The exhibit shows the relationship between equity (or investment levels) of the parent company in an offshore unit and time. Equity Phase I Phase II Phase III Phase IV Time Exhibit: Relationship between equity and time. The pattern of life cycle of a captive BPO may not always have these phases separated into water tight compartments and may not be distinguishable. Sometimes the phases may last longer than expected. But a study of such offshore units of large multinational corporations to understand the dynamics of business will definitely give an insight into what future holds for them, in general and for such businesses in particular. 5

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