Quatro BPO Solutions’ chief HR officer, S Varadarajan, 42, is a seasoned executive with a well spread experience across diverse sectors and companies – the Tatas, KPMG, PwC, American Express, Spectramind. Starting with American Express, Raja — as he is fondly called — is also a BPO industry veteran, having worked in the sector since 1994. Now an active member of NHRD network, BPO HR forum at Nasscom, Raja is helping Quatrro grow exponentially – in two years the company has added 1,800 staff, snapped up three companies and is expanding into a range of specialised BPO businesses. The XLRI alumnus spoke to Malini Goyal about the BPO industry, the challenges it faced as it evolved and some lessons he has learnt managing Gen-Y. Excerpts:
How do you see the perception of BPO industry evolve since the 1990s?
Initially, nobody understood what BPO was. Our biggest concern was to ensure that nothing wrong was happening during the night shift. Middle-class parents were very worried about sending their ward. I remember instead of me taking interviews, I gave interviews to these parents. Today, BPO industry is quite misunderstood. Companies have not made an effort to make their employees understand what BPO sector could offer in terms of career growth etc. Media hasn’t helped much either.
From then to now, has anything changed about attracting talent?
For us there’s some change. Since now we have been growing into specialised BPOs like automobiles, analytics that entails lot of value addition it’s relatively easier than hiring for contact centers.
After working closely with youth, tell us about the mistakes and lessons?
First was on compensation — longterm benefits don’t make any sense to them. Cash in hand is what works with them. Second, since they are young and energetic they often try to do things faster than their predecessor and we have had to rejig performance parameters. But its not just about business deliverables, their maturity to handle people and become supervisor is equally important to consider. Third, expectations management is very important. At a manufacturing firm I worked, if you didn’t get back on their demand, staff presumed it isn’t happening. Here you need to get back with yes or no. Never let it simmer. They want an honest answer. Fourth, its better to have guidelines, not policies. We realised what is valid today need not be valid tomorrow. Guidelines help us create boundaries around which they can work flexibly.