Centre further eases norms for business process management firms

Illustration: Binay Sinha
The Department of Telecommunication on Wednesday further liberalised the guidelines for Other Service Providers (OSPs), enabling business process management (BPM) firms’ employees to work from home and provide voice-based services in India and abroad. 

The government has removed the distinction between domestic and international OSPs, which means a BPM centre with common telecom resources will now be able to serve customers located worldwide including in India. It also means interconnectivity between all types of OSP centres is now permitted.

“In order to encourage our BPO industry, OSP guidelines that were liberalised in November 2020 have been simplified even further, offering greater ease of business and regulatory clarity. This will further reduce compliance burden and help our tech industry,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

The guidelines issued in November 2020 had reduced the compliance burden of the BPM industry.

“The BPM industry revenues grew from $37.6 billion in 2019-20 to $38.5 billion in 2020-21, despite the pandemic. This was largely possible due to the industry’s ability to work remotely and majorly enabled by the Government of India’s relaxations of WFH requirements under the OSP regime, first temporarily, in March 2020 and then complete reforms under the new guidelines in November 2020,” the Department of Telecom said in a statement.

Now, EPABX (Electronic Private Automatic Branch Exchange) of the OSP can be located anywhere in the world. OSPs apart from utilising EPABX services of the telecom service providers can also locate their EPABX at third-party data centres in India.  

It also allowed a BPM employee sitting anywhere to now connect directly with the centralised exchange of the customer using any technology including Broadband over wireline/ wireless.

The government has removed restrictions for data interconnectivity between any OSP centres of same company or group company or any unrelated company. It also removed penalties for violations.

“The remote agent to directly connect to centralised system of OSP or customer will help avoid a double hop. Inter-connectivity between OSPs will allow seamless services. Centralised internet connectivity using MPLS/SD-WAN will provide much needed flexibility. While use of third party hosted for a full set of services has not been permitted, but allowing own EPABX in 3rd party data centre or entire suite of service from telecom providers will allow industry to focus on their core work. Combined with the first set of OSP reforms in November 2020, this is a significant ease of doing business reform for the industry,” said Ashish Aggarwal, senior director and head – public policy, at industry body National Association of Software and Services Companies.

The registration requirement for OSPs has also been done away with altogether. There are some security related obligations for voice based OSP. The BPM industry engaged in data-related work has been completely taken out of the ambit of the definition of an OSP.

The issue of OSP guidelines dates back to a clause in the earlier telecom policy under which certain kinds of work (such as voice calls) could not be shifted to employees’ homes. However, last year, given the lockdowns in both India and client locations, the industry lobbied hard to have some of these guidelines simplified.

As a precautionary measure to contain the spread of Covid-19 and ensure business continuity, Nasscom had asked the DoT to relax restrictions around work from home for IT / ITeS employees, guided by the OSP regime.

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