WNS Global's Group CEO Keshav Murugesh talks about how disruptive artificial intelligence for the industry and the company, and much more
Mumbai-headquartered business process management (BPM) firm WNS Global Services doubled its profits last fiscal year, helped by growth across key verticals, services, and geographies.
Profit during the year rose to $86.4 million, compared to $37.8 million in the previous year. Revenue rose 25 percent to $758 million.
As analytics and artificial intelligence become more mainstream and more lower-level work gets done by software, WNS Global's Group CEO Keshav Murugesh talks about how disruptive these changes are for the industry and the company.
Q: You posted very impressive results last year, with profit more than doubling. How has WNS achieved this and how has the business changed?
A: The most disruptive and perhaps the most impactful of all changes that WNS brought in, over the last few years, was the introduction of an end-to-end vertically aligned structure.The industry that had started out with providing horizontal-specific offerings such as contact center, back-office services and Finance and
Accounting (F&A) services was disrupted with WNS' new approach of vertical-specific service delivery.
WNS has re-structured itself into end-to-end verticals and each vertical now operates as a 'strategic business unit'.
Not only that, WNS also created a model where revenue growth and headcount were de-linked. Our strategy of moving away from the traditional people-based model to a more outcome-based has steered us towards a steep growth curve.
We have incorporated a robust delivery model which is powered by AI, automation, machine learning and advanced analytics.
Q: What about your localisation strategy? How has it helped business?
A: Another strategic move that has worked well for us is growing beyond the shores of India and creating assets across the globe. Today, WNS has presence in 13 countries with 53 offices, and that has enabled us to offer clients scalability and best of talent from every part of the world.
As a result, in fiscal 2018, our industry-specific revenues grew by staggering 52 percent, increasing as a percentage of company revenue from 29 percent to 35 percent.
Q: Where do you see maximum growth opportunity?
A: Business disruption continues to be the key driver for both existing and new clients looking to improve their competitive positioning in their respective industries.
As a result, clients are increasingly turning to BPM partners to help reduce cost, increase operational efficiency and flexibility, generate actionable insights, increase revenue sources, drive digital transformation, and improve the end-client experience.From demand perspective, the industry is still at a very nascent stage and
under-penetrated. There are lot of new clients who are still dipping their toes in this model for the first time.
On the supply side, the BPM industry has moved away from its traditional focus on labour arbitrage to providing strategic value to clients by way of high-impact, high-skilled services led by technology and analytics.
Q: How much of the WNS business is voice based, and what are the other areas you are now focusing on?
A: I would like to highlight that the dynamics of the Voice business has changed dramatically, and it has transformed itself into customer interaction services (CIS).We have recently created new, niche offerings for our CIS clients which leverage artificial intelligence across natural language processing
voice bots, e-mail solutions, and mobile apps as a service.
Our CIS solutions are now designed to provide centre of excellence-led approach to customer journeys; personalization-as-a-service and multiple digital interfaces. This year, CIS has contributed to 26 percent of our total revenues.
Q: Which verticals and geographies is the company focused on?
A: Today we have vertical-led solutions in the areas of Insurance, Banking and financial services, travel and leisure, manufacturing, healthcare, media and entertainment, retail & consumer packaged goods, consulting and professional services, telecom, shipping and logistics, and utilities.
Insurance is the largest vertical for us, followed by travel and leisure and healthcare.
We are also witnessing an upsurge in demand for our tech-enabled, AI/ analytics-led solutions, as we heavily invested in creating these platform-based offerings, much ahead of the rest.The North American and European markets will continue to be the largest
consumers of our services. Having said that, we are seeing a rapid growth in new geographies in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.
Q: How is automation working to the advantage of BPM providers?
A: Automation has a growing yet specific role in the IT-BPM business. In the case of the BPM industry, companies are using robotic process automation for repetitive, low-end tasks that do not require human judgement.
Some of these activities are document processing, responding to customer queries, reading and organizing data, or making relevant suggestions based on records of previous queries.
Let me give an example here, airlines are estimated to lose around one percent of their total revenue due to leakages in their systems, including during fare auditing.
Manual fare auditing is again prone to errors that affect the amount of recoveries airlines make. Using RPA-led tools, WNS has created a proprietary platform called Verifare Plus SM . Through this platform, we are now automatically fetching airline and passenger data, conducting validation checks and capturing the complete audit trail for any future reference.
All these processes are done without any human intervention. Besides improving the efficiency of their processes and eliminating errors, we are now using human resources for the revenue recovery.
Q: How has the skill profile at WNS changed with the onset of automation?
A: We have a large number of specialized talent including, doctorates, lawyers, doctors, data scientists, CAs/CPAs, MBAs, linguists and others. For instance, we have over 8,500 finance and accounting professionals.Our analytics division has a strength of over 2,500 data professionals.
We are focused on developing ‘Specialists’ as opposed to ‘Generalists’. WNS runs a domain university, called The Gateway that offers domain training and certifications.
Apart from this, WNS has co-created an MBA program in business analytics, along with NIIT University.
Q: What would you say are the main reasons for the growth of BPM sector even as the larger IT business grapples with slower growth?
A: BPM companies have been quick and agile to respond to the changing business environs at the client’s end.
The industry invests heavily in technology, analytics, gaining domain expertise, and upskilling employees.The themes that rule the industry today are domain expertise, process re-engineering, analytics, high-end technology and innovation.
The second factor is creating an end-to-end business delivery model by expanding its shores beyond India. Today, most of the leading BPM companies have presence in multiple countries.Third, the industry is still at a nascent stage, with an under-penetrated market.