Protectionist measures have not impacted the outsourcing industry: WNS CEO

Keshav Murugesh
India’s back-office industry has undergone a shift with technology playing a major role in executing customer service and, in turn, retaining large clients. The sector, which positions itself as business process management (BPM) industry, currently faces dual stress from protectionist policies in chief markets, such as the US, and rising automation. To tackle this, the skills of the future will be around domain specialisation, Keshav Murugesh, chief executive officer of WNS, tells Romita Majumdar.


Edited excerpts:


While chatbots and automation poised to change the BPM sector, how are job roles evolving? What are the future skill requirements going to be like?


The information technology (IT) and BPM industry in India continues to grow. We have created 600,000 jobs in the past three years, while 170,000 jobs were generated last year alone. Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently said India would become a $1 lakh-crore digital economy by 2022. In the coming 4-5 years, around 2.5 million additional jobs would be created in the IT sector, the minister has said.


Robotic process automation (RPA) offers great results in mundane and repetitive jobs, leading to a higher turnout and customer satisfaction due to zero errors. Hence, jobs are moving towards judgement-based roles, where different level of skills is required. The skills of the future will be domain specialisation, data analytics, data visualisation, and business skills such as selling, negotiation, communication and critical thinking.


How has the rise of a large domestic e-commerce market changed the demand for BPM and IT services?


Consumer expectations from retailers go beyond operational basics as shoppers are now looking for an improved experience on their mobile devices, better decision tools, personalised experiences, the ability to check inventory, and add-on services such as same day delivery.


The IT and BPM industry are the backbone of the e-commerce industry. IT and BPM companies are offering design, development, testing, and quality assurance processes for web and mobile applications, thus taking the load off the IT teams of e-commerce firms.


Multi-channel contact centres that allow e-commerce companies to extend their service footprint across traditional and digital channels enable timely response to consumer queries and requests, thus increasing customer satisfaction. Analytics is the other area where BPM companies help e-commerce customers gain insights into consumer-buying patterns, preferences and consumer behaviour, which can help them serve the customer better.


Is protectionism a big challenge for this sector?


Protectionist measures have not particularly impacted the outsourcing industry. On the contrary, many companies have grown their business globally. Last year, WNS acquired two companies in the US — Denali and HealthHelp. These acquisitions have greatly enhanced our capabilities.


Is the current hype around lack of skilled professionals to serve the digital drive an overstatement?


With the nature of work changing and technology getting more sophisticated, professionals need to continuously upskill themselves to stay a step ahead. The need will be acute for certain skill sets such as data analytics. WNS, along with NIIT University, has co-created an MBA course in business analytics. It is a one-of-its-kind work-integrated, full-time, residential programme at Neemrana, Rajasthan. Students get a flavour of both academic classroom learning and practical experience.


Around five to 10 per cent of existing jobs are expected to be automated in the next 10 years, leading to significant changes in existing skills across job functions. NASSCOM estimates that 60-70 per cent of the existing workforce will need to be reskilled to meet future needs.  Employee re-skilling efforts will centre on newer technologies such as cloud, big data, analytics, design thinking, digital marketing and DevOps.

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