India Inc’s Services On Tap 

They’re all over the cities, the numbered Sumos packed with young men and women, in Gurgaon, Vashi, Noida, Bangalore. Usually at odd hours of the day and night. Their shifts (and their accents) depend on the time zones of the places they work for–US, Europe, India. They’re the call center people.

Nasscom says they exported services worth over Rs 850 crore last year. Voice & Data estimates the figure to double in this ‘slowdown year’. GE pioneered the large-scale model, handling call center and other functions for their global operations. Now, the big call center folks, Covergys and Sitels, are here. 

Not bad, considering how strongly dependant on IT and telecom infrastructure this business is, the areas India is the weakest in. Partly, it goes to show what can be achieved with the right focus and support: IP leased circuits were allotted on priority for export-oriented tech parks and call centers. 

The domestic outsourced call center business is under Rs 100 crore, with a handful of customers such as HP and Videocon outsourcing sales and support calls to DSS Mobile, Easycall, et al. Not counting the rapidly-growing number of in-house call centers, from cellular service support to pizza and telemarketing.

This is all good employment news. The formal outsourced call center services business employed over 15,000 last year, with many more in the domestic and in-house support ops.

It’s not quite staggering revenues yet, just over 3% of the $6-billion-odd that software exports grossed last year for India. Dataquest doesn’t include IT enabled services into IT industry revenues, though Nasscom does. But it’s clearly a visible and growing chunk.

But this is the tip of a large iceberg–of a range of services that can be offered and deployed over the Internet.

Some extend (or predate) the call center idea. Tech support has for long been centralized, with companies such as IBM and Microsoft handling email-based support out of Bangalore. HLL runs the IT operations for Unilever Asia-Pacific out of

Transcription may be dying, but what about other medical services over the Net? Those that leverage intellectual property to get better value? Specialists could offer consultation to other doctors across the globe, aided by expertise and databases culled from a billion patients. 

With the Internet removing geography and visa barriers, the possibilities are endless. Thousands of talented designers could offer design services over the Web. Vast amounts of editorial services could shift to bureaus in India.

There are few limits to what can be done in the IT-enabled services arena, with the right people, ideas, capital and infrastructure. We have the first two, and we’re getting there in the rest.

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