Indian BPO industry fights attrition trap

DQW Bureau
New Update


With attrition rates lo-oming ahead from 30 percent to 40

percent at the agent levels and managerial levels also giv-ing these rates a

stiff competi-tion, all hell is breaking lose on the Indian BPO industry.

The biggest competition for the Indian BPOs is to bring its

house in order, not the burgeo-ning Asian cousin Philippines or the pink

elephant campaigns. Most of the BPO firms are find-ing it difficult to deal with

this monster. BPO firms are resort-ing to various strategies rang-ing from

giving luxury comforts to its employees (housing sch-eme, low rate loans, pick

and drop, attractive catering), hav-ing spouses working in the same

organization, recruiting the non recruitables (like hou-sewives and old age

people) or in some cases signing anti-poa-ching agreements to retain people.

As the BOSS syndrome hits the agents and managers akin, BPO

seems to be a stop gap arrangement for few and few find the lifestyles

inimitable. Fraught with these challenges, according to NASSCOM figures,

currently attrition is about 35 percent in non-voice and 45 percent in voice

call centers.


About 80 percent of them look for better careers within the

same industry. Agents want to become team leaders. Team leaders want to become

super-visors. Supervisors want the job of the CEO. BPOs are trying a fix-all

solution for keeping this trained manpower with itself and create a quality

manpower pool that will stick with the organization for a longer per-iod of

time. As on March 31, 2003, the sector employed 171,000 professionals. It has $

1 billion invested in it and gene-rated revenues of $ 2.3 billion in 2002-03. CEO Sanjeev Bikchandani just finished a short

study on the reasons and intensity of attrition in India. "The prime reason

is that the workforce is very young and there is a mismatch of aptitude,

aspirations and the rate of growth in this industry," he said. According to

him, not many can anticipate the biolo-gical issues and the monotony of the


"To an outsider, this job pays well and is a party, but

it is in reality a very high pressure job that requires high level of com-mitment

and skills," he added. Managing people can arrest attrition according to

him in a more proactive manner.


Manpower Inc. MD (Asia Pacific) Iain Herbertson reitera-ted

that Indian BPO would need to learn to manage its people better to escape the

stagnated growth. "India has a USP of knowledge, for which BPOs and other

industries are moving to India. They need to be mana-ged in an intelligent

manner for an accelerated growth rate to beat the other regions in the

world," he said.

Exl CEO Vikram Talwar said that with present pressures of

reducing costs and higher com-pensation levels, managing right people at the

right place needs to be fought at war levels. "Anti-poaching agree-ments,

better perks, higher compensation levels, employee satisfaction-all these tools

are being employed to arrest this aggravated attrition situation. But any affect

is yet to be seen." He says that with the constant pressure to reduce

billing rates, getting quality outputs and red-ucing the learning curve,

attri-tion needs to be under control. Exl Services HR head Deepak Dhawan feels

that managing manpower in BPOs, which is young is the most difficult task.

Hero ITES services director Anupam Bhasin feels that a

well-laid career plan is ssential for retaining an employee. "An

unstructured career path resu-lts in higher attrition. We also need to line up

better recruit-ing methods to filter the right people for right places," he



According to V Customer CEO Sujit Bakshi people can be

advantage and threat at the same time. "We invest in peo-ple to perform.

With stringent SLAs and direct interaction with customers, the work pre-ssures

are enormous for these young employees. We have to balance between performance

expectations and growth aspirations," he said.

Global Vantage VP (HR) R Pra-kash Toppo feels that attrition

is a part of a growing industry. "In a growing industry that is investing

heavily on training will have these residual effect, which will become better.

But as organizations we will have to hone our HR skills and invest in improving

the recruiting techniques and satisfying employees."

Hughes BPO Services’ Aad-esh Goyal echoed similar tho-ughts.

"To gain operational exce-llence and retain the cost advantage, we will

have to learn to manage our people situa-tion. We can not wait and watch.

Mobilizing resources is also a great concern. If this ind-ustry has to grow, it

will need quality people that can give incremental performance and in return

organizations should be able to give employee satisfaction."


Considering the general industry opinion given above, the key

directive for BPOs seems to be to manage attrition through smart people-mana-gement

tools rather than create collaborative intra-industry agreements. People issue

is important, but myopic vision might stop the situation for sometime but

industry need more than that.

Shweta Khanna

(CyberMedia News Service)