HAVING won more than half of large BPO contracts announced during past one year, leading software services firms with back-office arms are set to become bigger players in the BPO market, according to research firm Datamonitor.
Companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Cognizant also accounted for almost 80% of the total value of large BPO contracts awarded in the past one year. According to Datamonitor, 54.3% of all large BPO deals were signed by IT services vendors having BPO arms, and not specialist BPO firms. “While the BPO players did account for 44.7% of all announced deals, their cumulative contract value reflects only 19.5% of overall deal value,” said Vamshi Krishna Mokshagundam, analyst with Datamonitor India. “BPO services are being increasingly signed on as part of a bigger IT services contract.”
The largest BPO deal announced in recent times, amidst a period of financial turmoil and instability, was Citigroup’s $ 2.5 billion contract to TCS following its acquisition of Citi’s BPO arm in India. The deal is noteworthy from the point that a multi-billion dollar BPO deal went to an IT services player and also that TCS was keen on acquiring the asset despite questions surrounding Citigroup’s own financial stability. BPO deals are also coming to IT players as part of larger integrated contracts. TCS itself won a BPO piece to handle finance and human resource processes for AC Neilsen as part of a larger $ 1.2 billion contract to handle its IT and operations functions.
Similarly, Cognizant Technology Solutions, which has traditionally been strong in healthcare and lifesciences, has won a $ 95 million deal for clinical data management from Astra Zeneca — probably the largest publicly announced deal in knowledge process outsourcing. When Merck extended its relationship with Cognizant in December last, it made it a key technology partner providing applications outsourcing, IT infrastructure management and BPO.
The revenue figures also bear out the higher BPO focus of IT firms, in recent times. Number two software firm, Infosys Technologies, has grown its IT services revenues from $ 931.5 million to $ 1101 million in the twelve-month period to September 2008. Its BPO revenues have grown from $ 53 million to $ 72 million in the same period. In other words, IT services have grown by 18% compared to a 36% growth in BPO revenues. “IT firms are now seeing BPO as one of the growth engines. They have also been strong in application development and maintenance but in BPO, they haven’t yet scratched the surface, so they see it as an area with a lot of potential,” said an executive with one of the IT firms who did not wish to be identified.
In some cases, pure-play BPO firms are also seeing undercutting by a few tier 2 firms. “In these tough times, customers want to consolidate with fewer vendors, and get the best rates,” admitted a senior executive of a leading Indian tech firm requesting anonymity. “At times, some portion of back-office project is also being bundled for free execution by bigger IT services firms.”
Pure-play BPO vendors such as WNS Global Services admit that back-office contracts are becoming more IT-driven, although it is from a tools and optmisation perspective.