Intelenet in the Spotlight
Rakesh Sangani: Can you give us a brief overview of Intelenet?
Bhupender Singh: Intelenet is one of the top 5 Indian BPO firms. Our current revenues are at $300 million, but we are hoping to become a $500 million company in the near future. We currently operate in India, Philippines, Poland, Guatemala, Mauritius and are planning our entry into China.
Current Financials: 20% is owned by the management team, and 80% is owned by Blackstone, our private equity partners. 25% of our work is voice related (i.e. customer contact centers), 55% is integrated back office that may have a voice component and 20% pure back office.
In terms of industry split: 45% are banking and financial services, 20% travel, 20% telecom and 5% healthcare; and in terms of geographical split: 30% is focused on the domestic Indian market and 70% on international clients (30% US, 35% UK, 5% Europe and 2% Australia).
RS: So how would you sum up the company in three words?
- Great place to work: We are the top employer in BPO space and have won HR awards to signify this.
- Flexibility: We are flexible on client engagements and aim to develop long-term partnerships.
- Creating impact for a client: We guarantee savings for our clients
RS: There seems to be a lot of private equity in the market with Genpact, WNS and Sutherland being part-owned by the likes of General Atlantic, Oak Hill Capital Partners, Warburg Pincus and Oak Investment Partners. How does the relationship between Intelenet and Blackstone work?
Bhupender: Like any other private equity investor, they support the Merger & Acquisition work. A lot of companies go to Blackstone when they are considering selling off, and they kindly pass on their details. They do not interfere with the operational management, which is progressed by the management team (who are also minority shareholders). Blackstone provides the board oversight, and so far, I can tell you that the relationship works well – we have had no issues!
RS: You obviously win a lot of sales with Blackstone companies. Do you worry that these contracts will disappear when Blackstone finally sell off?
Bhupender: Interestingly enough Blackstone companies make up 22% of our total revenue to date, and by the end of the financial year this is likely to grow to 28%. We see this as an opportunity for growth rather than a problem – we sign contracts with these companies that will last from 5 to 7 years, we then have to prove to the clients that we’re worth it!
RS: Given Intelenet’s current position today, what is the strategy going forward to compete with the big boys in the BPO business?
Bhupender: Blackstone came in 3 years ago when HDFC and Barclays used to own a quasi captive which was Intelenet. We were then achieving $100 million revenues on the top line and were very much India centric. All business was delivered out of India and focused on banking and financial services - 75% of that business was voice based.
At that stage, we reassessed and agreed that we needed a global delivery network. We could not compete with the big global players without a global footprint. We set a 3-year strategy in motion to deliver:
- Global footprint – We now have a footprint which is almost global. We aim to add China to the list of delivery center and at that stage be satisfied with the ability to provide services across the globe.
- Growth in other verticals rather than just banking and financial services – we now provide services across 4 verticals and provide services in more than just voice.
- Capability in other services – we now provide consulting and technology services which is 5% of our total revenue.
RS: What now? You’ve made some impressive progress, but there is still a long way to go!
Bhupender: In the short term (1–2 years), we want to have developed a capability to provide services in China. We want to increase our technology service offerings to clients, without becoming an ITO provider. We are not competing with the likes of TCS, Infosys and Wipro when it comes to IT but want to be able to provide the right IT tools that compliment and enhance the business process. We also want to provide business process consulting at a larger scale; we see consulting and technology as our growth areas.
In the medium term (2–4 years), we would like to have a strong partnership under a joint venture model with an ITO company, or have acquired that capability. Blackstone is currently reviewing options to acquire that capability with a strong presence in the domestic market. We are almost where we need to be from a delivery standpoint, we need to strengthen our Philippines presence, and then increase the footprint in China.
Rakesh: Now the difficult questions, in your view, who is the leading BPO player in the market and why?
Bhupender: Given that you have told me not to answer Intelenet, I would have to say if I were choosing out of the other providers; I would view Genpact as the leader in the BPO industry.
Rakesh: When would you tell a client not to outsource their functions?
Bhupender: Two cases: The first case is that I would never recommend a client to outsource mission critical processes that are core to that client. For example, marketing is a core function for Apple, and for that reason it would never be a good decision for Apple to outsource its marketing function.
The second case is for functions that may be outsourceable but there is a lot of other "change" in the function and organization. In this instance, it may make sense to outsource but we would recommend a delay given the environment.
Rakesh: What does risk and reward mean for Intelenet?
Bhupender: We believe we are in the processing business and so our revenues can not be highly volatile as in a trading business. Typically, we request that our clients let us recover our costs (or significant part of it) from the base fee, then we are happy to share risk and reward on contracts.
Rakesh: My final question, what are the key challenges that Intelenet face in today’s market?
Bhupender: To summarise the top 3 challenges for us:
- Brand – We are currently in the top 5 Indian BPO firms headquartered out of India and we want to grow to challenge the leading providers. To do this our brand needs to compete with the likes of Infosys, TCS, Genpact, Accenture and the IBMs of this world.
- Managing Attrition – We are well known for our people strategies but we need to attract the right talent and keep that talent
- IT and BPO offering – On occasion we do lose bids because we do not offer the combined capability of ITO and BPO. We will find a solution for this.
About Bhupender Singh:
Bhupender Singh manages Strategy, Planning and Corporate Risk at Intelenet. Prior to Intelenet, Bhupender was the CEO of Travelport India Operations, which was acquired by Intelenet in 2007.
His prior assignments include Strategy and M & A for Cendant TDS in London where his remit encompassed a $2bn turnover business spanning 38 countries in Europe, Middle East and Asia – Pacific.
Bhupender was also part of the founding team for ICICI OneSource, a leading offshore BPO company with special focus on the UK market. Bhupender has also worked with two top-tier international strategy consulting firms, McKinsey & Company and Booz Allen & Hamilton, for over six years.
Bhupender has an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and a B-Tech from IIT Delhi. He was awarded gold medals at both IIT and IIM for his all-round performances.