Along with IT services, working from home might be a new normal for the business process management (BPM) firms too as more clients warm up to the idea. All thanks to COVID-19.
But for it to be long-term regulatory hurdles have to be sorted, says, Keshav R Murugesh, CEO, WNS Global Services.
“One of the best things that has happened is that the whole world faces the same situation at the same time,” Murugesh told Moneycontrol.
“It wasn’t the case of only the providers going to the clients and saying we need to operate in a different model,” he explained and added that for both service provider and clients, it has become the new normal.
WNS, one of the largest business process outsourcing firms and employs 44,000 employees, is now operating at 80 percent of client’s required capacity and is ramping up every day.
“At the same time we are working with few of our clients who have still not given approval for WFH from security point of view yet,” he added.
Client permissions were hard to come by
However it was not an easy path for the firm, given that the company handles customer’s live data and clients’ were uneasy granting permissions.
Unlike IT services, shifting to WFH is lot more challenging for BPM firms that employ close to 11 lakh people. Most of the firms had struggled initially to enable WFH for employees due to client concerns.
Murugesh explained BPMs handle client data on minute by minute basis and hence security is of utmost concern. To address this, WNS has co-created WFH solutions with clients themselves.
However things changed slowly as COVID-19 intensified.
Murugesh said, “When all of us started, a number of our clients’ countries assumed that COVID-19 will not be of high impact to them. So some clients said that they will wait it out.”
The idea was to keep some of the processes within their country. But as weeks progressed, most of the clients came back and wanted WNS to continue the work. “They said that you have much better facility and capability to help service their clients. So they started giving their approvals,” Murugesh explained.
According to Murugesh, at least some part of it could stay. Murugesh said, “After we have experienced two months of WFH, I think it becomes apparently clear to clients and others as well that there are certain processes for which we really don’t need to have the people in the office.”
“This includes processes that need less bandwidth and that are easier to do. You can operate them from home. For other over a period of time you can make a call on what will happen,” he added.
There are still challenges though. For instance, connectivity is a major issue.
Murugesh said, “When you WFH, Wi-fi sometimes is unstable. From productivity point of view your ability is limited. You can get almost 80 percent and sometimes it impacts voice process,” he added.
“Also in order for large part of the people to work at home, current exemptions that we have in India from different departments such as telecom and SEZ need to continue,” he said. DoT has relaxed Other Service Provider (OSP) license till July 31.
OSP and SEZ challenges
To enable thousands of employees to WFH, the company should apply for OSP license to the Department of Telecommunication (DoT). The company applying for license should pay a bank guarantee of Rs 1 crore per office. If the company has 76 offices, it should pay Rs 76 crore as bank guarantee. In addition, the access to network will be given only through virtual private network (VPN) provided by the telecom service providers (TSPs) such as Airtel.
This is a challenge since companies use corporate VPN for security reasons and TSPs do not have the solution right now. This could take 2-3 months for the TSPs to implement. While larger companies can afford to get these licenses, cash-strapped smaller firms might not be able to.
As per SEZ norms, working outside the campus is restricted. Currently the government has relaxed the norms. This too has to be changed in order for larger workforce to WFH.
If the regulatory issues and client permissions are sorted, Murugesh said WFH could become a new norm. While there is not much clarity on regulatory issues, he reasoned, “I’m pretty certain that clients will be comfortable with the larger percentage of people WFH and we as service providers will also enable that pattern. All of us are investing significantly in digital models and innovation,” he added.