Not too many service providers have had a bigger impact on the world of Business Process Outsourcing in recent years than General Electric’s former offshore captive, Genpact. And much of this rapid growth to a billion dollars of revenue and a global delivery network, can be credited to one individual – the tenacious “Tiger” Tyagarajan (simply known as Tiger to anyone who knows him). And what an apt name for the wee fellow.
I can recall, just a few short years’ ago, when Tiger was fronting Genpact’s US business and taking on the major incumbent BPO providers such as Accenture, ACS, HP and IBM, with tales of Six Sigma excellence and Virtual Captives; dazzling firms such as Kimberly-Clark,
Wachovia and Cadbury Schweppes in the process. And when he’s not absorbed with cricket statistics
, or studying human behavioral patterns (don’t ask..), Tiger now spends his life on a plane somewhere en route to (or from) New Delhi, as COO of the firm.
I managed to pin Tiger down recently in a roof-deck bar in steamy downtown Chicago, where we engaged on some key developments in the BPO industry….
Phil Fersht (PF): Tiger, you’ve been in the F&A BPO industry since its inception – how has the industry changed over the last 5 years? How has the introduction of offshore delivery changed the dynamic?
Tiger Tyagarajan (TT): The overall Business Process Outsourcing Industry has changed dramatically in the last 5 years and within that clearly F and A has been one of the lead “engines “ of that change. I would characterize this change along 4 dimensions :
1. It is now part of every CFO’s thinking vs being a discussion only in select companies , this includes almost every industry , every geography and companies of radically different sizes
2. Global delivery is part of every such discussion , be it from China , Latin America , Easter Europe , India
3. The motivations have also changed from being just cost to leveraging talent , bringing in new expertise , domain knowledge and best practices , accelerating the journey to best in class
4. There is desire and vision to think well beyond just simple transactional work to complex work like Financial Planning , Pricing , Tax , Treasury and Closing and Reporting etc to name a few
PF: Do you see India continuing its dominance as the prime offshore provider of F&A, or do you see China, Latin America and other regions getting more in on the game in the future?
TT: Just in terms of “share of wallet “ India will continue to dominate amongst offshore delivery locations for F and A driven by 2 reasons :
1. English will be the dominant language needed and India has just an abundance of supply that no other country can match
2. Given the scale and maturity of F & A delivery and capabilities, India is in an advantageous position to deliver more higher-end decision making and analytical F &A work, and hence typically transactional will go with that. However, as globalization continues one of the interesting dynamics is not dominance driven by scale but “criticality for Global delivery “ and here I think China is hugely important …. How can anyone claim global delivery and a global solution unless they are really strong and robust in China , particularly as Asian economies grow faster than other parts of the world and China continues to become an even more important player in the global economy
PF: What does the BPO industry need to do next to improve, both from the client and service provider standpoint?
TT: The single biggest issue the overall industry both providers and clients are grappling with is moving away from just pure cost as a single metric to being able to measure true effectiveness of processes and delivery and being able to create a roadmap and a journey to dramatically improve this effectiveness and outcomes of processes .
In some sense everyone is missing the "forest for the trees". Creating that shared vision, partnering on that journey and having the tools and methodology almost the “Science of processes “ is what is needed to get there
PF: We all understand the benefits sourcing advisors bring to the table when helping clients find a service partner, but can they change their approach to help their clients, beyond getting favorable contract terms for their customers?
I really believe it is important for the more progressive sourcing advisors to step back and rethink their role and the value they are supposed to bring to the table. Some of them tend to narrowly focus on short term favorable contract terms for their customers , but this is a business where impact is created through a long term partnership , through a journey to drive continuous improvement and most importantly through a roadmap to drive Process Effectiveness - not just efficiency. How can the advisors facilitate a process between a buyer and a provider in creating the right partnership model that makes it a long term Win Win for everyone. How do they tie some of their incentive structure to actually some of these goals being achieved ?
PF: Do you really see this merging of application and BPO delivery to create these “platform BPO” offerings, or is it more of an attempt by the ITO vendors to gain a foothold in the BPO market? How should the experienced BPO service providers approach hosting financial applications for their clients?
TT: My view is that “platform BPO “ is another jargon of the industry. Of course it is used as a way to compete by ITO providers , they have to compete that way they don’t have an option. However, the reality is that so many IT implementations have failed because the functional specs were wrong , or the process was broken and created defects , or people just bypassed the technology .
There is no question in my mind that the world and corporations have grossly underestimated the “Power of Process “ and for too long assumed that technology is the panacea of all evils. Sure, if those who handle a process also host the application then you can offer different pricing models such as “pay by the drink “ etc . But my point is that if the people implementing an Oracle or SAP or some other ERP know what causes suppliers to send bills in late , why customers sometimes do not pay their bills on time , what typically causes unreconciled accounts to buildup …. That is where value and success lies in that deep insight and knowledge around process knowledge
PF: Where do you see the industry moving next? Is KPO/analytics a reality in the near-term, or do you see the focus more on getting the basic processes right for a while longer?
TT: I believe that the more evolved providers are already using data and analytics to change the way processes and businesses run. We don’t call it KPO or analytics as we believe that it needs to be part of the process. Every day there is data flowing through that has the capability if analyzed of throwing up insights that can drive real business impact
Would it not be “cool “ to know the moment I have a customer invoice sitting unpaid as a receivable the following 3 things:
1. What is the probability that this customer will pay without a call
2. After how many days if he has not paid should he be called about it
3. What trends in the customer receivables and portfolio is one seeing in terms of risk and credit quality deterioration
And use all this insight to drive DSOs down and cash flow up
PF: And finally, your rise to the pinnacle of the BPO industry is unquestioned. What pearls of wisdom can you share for young executives today looking to build successful careers in BPO? Any specific training/experience they should look to get?
TT: Thank you , Phil you are being too kind !!
While it may sound clichéd, I am a passionate believer that to grow and be successful in this industry you need to have a real passion for the customer. You need to truly believe and start with the premise that they are always right. You need to find a way to weave this into your fabric as an individual, team and company.
The other recommendation I would have is that there is no question that you have to “be global “. Have you spent substantial time in Global assignments? Have you managed global teams ?
Finally, at some level you need to be an expert in some “domain “ , expertise area , industry . You have to be a thought leader . The earlier in your career one does it the faster one will rise later !
Tiger, thanks for being a good Horse - I am sure everyone hear appreciates your time to share your views on the industry. Good luck with the cricket - just lose to England for once (please...).
NV "Tiger" Tyagarajan (Pictured) is the Chief Operating Officer of Genpact. He is credited as one of the pioneers who transformed GE Capital International Services (now Genpact) into a high-end business services and technology solutions company with over $1 billion in revenues, which serves global enterprises in the banking & finance, insurance, manufacturing, transportation and business-services sectors.