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Taking your business elsewhere

BUSINESS Process Outsourcing (BPO), as Chong Nee of `Accenture' defined is simply -- Contracting with an external organisation to take the primary responsibility for providing a business process or function.

A people centric segment

The recent global meltdown has forced most corporates to plunge into massive cost-cutting, flab-shedding and core business-focus modes. This scenario was a fertile ground for the growth of the people centric segment. Thus emerged the Indian BPO Industry. In a BPO, the outsourcing provider takes the primary responsibility for ensuring that the process works, interfaces effectively with other company functions and delivers the desired outcomes. Initially, organisations outsourced only non-core activities to save costs and allow the management to focus on more strategic issues. Today, things have changed. The Indian BPO industry is projected to encompass complete process services. Clients can thereby achieve their strategic business transformation.

A recent study undertaken by a leading newspaper suggests a great demand for BPO services in functional areas like finance, marketing, sales, human resources and administration in the coming years. By year 2007, Indian BPO companies would have generated about 600,000 jobs and be a $17 billion industry by 2008. Opportunities in the BPO industry are abundant, however, care needs to be taken while opting for a career in BPO vis--vis long-term career plans.

Irrespective of the level at which you wish to enter this area, the first prerequisite is excellent written and spoken English skills. The state governments of Karnataka ("BPO Skills Assessment Tests (BSAT)" and AP have introduced career oriented courses and training modules to assess a candidate's communication skills, accent, clarity and grammar besides his personality and aptitude. They determine a candidate's suitability for the BPO sector.

The BPO basket!

Call centre agents, or process executives: Graduation with excellent spoken and written skills in English are mandatory. To be a team leader, good leader ship skills are required. Apart from placement services many agencies offer training for call centre jobs. Salaries range from Rs.6-10,000 depending on the process and the organisation. The individual may also be required to attend special orientation programmes after joining the organisation.

Medical transcription: A graduate in science or medicine with at least three months training in medical transcription, as offered by many call centre training institutes. A two-year experience is an added advantage. Freelancers are also paid handsomely. Medical transcription involves conversion of an audio recording into a text file. Accuracy is critical since it involves medical terminology. Compensation may vary from Rs. 6,000 for a normal graduate to about Rs. 12,000 for doctors.

Legal transcription: Similar to medical transcription except that one needs to be a law graduate. Pay scales range from Rs. 4-7,000.

Network system administration: A network administrator is imperative for any BPO operation, since these activities depend on telecom and other networking infrastructure. Basically, any software professional with a course in CCNA or equivalent is eligible. The average pay is around Rs.12,000

Business risk analyst :It is a specialised activity and involves the use of highly skilled, professionally qualified and experienced individuals. Typically, a CA or MBA from an IIM would be required. Pay scales vary but are certainly in the high-income bracket.

Financial process executives: The job includes credit card related transactions, loans, mortgage, payment of utilities etc. Any person with a finance degree is eligible. Pay scales are likely to be around Rs. 9,000 depending on the type of organisation.

Insurance processes executive: Involves soliciting clients for insurance, claim processing, verification etc. A graduate/post graduate in commerce is adequate.

HR Process Executive: An MBA in HR would be ideal as the job involves handling the entire HR process of a client. Pay scales range from Rs.7-9,000.

Team leaders and managers: All of the above mentioned jobs could mature into a more senior position. The criteria though, would depend on the organisation's policies. Pay scales too would be higher and performance related perks would boost the pay package.

Most of the job opportunities are at the entry level and provide ample scope for graduates, who would otherwise have had to wait for a post graduation and a specialised skill before landing a job. However, the promotion prospects are not too bright and a negligible few will make it to the next level. Also one needs to weigh the option of starting early on a job vis--vis pursuing post graduation or an engineering degree.

A job in a BPO is taxing to say the least, however, employers like HSBC, GE do their best to help employees beat the stress through innovative and creative activities, besides rewarding good performers richly.

Are you the right choice?

The BPO industry is here to stay and for those who want to make a career out there, it is best to start early. They need to pick up on their skills and qualifications simultaneously to match their job profile, so they could rise up the BPO ladder.

The following questions can help in the decision.

Do you like to perform repetitive tasks, without getting bored?

Are you a people person, meaning do you like making new contacts, conversing with new people etc?

Are you a patient listener, unlikely to get hassled if the person on the other end is rude or aggressive?

Do you want to start earning early and plan for a mid-career break to pursue higher studies?

Are you an independent person with strong family ties and enjoy good support from your family?

If the answer is yes to at least four of the above queries, you may consider signing up with a BPO.

Flash news!

The current recruitment trends in India indicate that one of the steps large BPO firms are taking to beat the high attrition rates is to hire retired people, which include housewives and those in the 40 to 55-age bracket. A new avenue for those desirous of rejoining active service after a long break or even retirement!


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