Partha DeSarkar, CEO of Hinduja Global Solutions, speaks about how the digital world has dissolved borders, why his company is focusing on data science, and how data can help drive meaningful outcomes.
The Business Process Management (BPM) industry is growing through immense change. It began with an era of quantity and thrived for two decades, but in the last decade, clients are asking for outcomes. Data is being looked at much more closely than ever, and - thanks to AI and machine learning, and the power of the cloud - gathering and getting insights are becoming faster and better.
These are the bets being taken by Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS), which weds technology-backed services in automation, analytics, and digital with domain expertise that focuses on back office processing, contact centres and HRO solutions to offer clients “transformational impact”.
HGS CEO Partha DeSarkar wants to partner, work with (startups), and continue to acquire several companies to make data science the core business of its Payroll and CRM businesses. The future, Partha tells us, is about customisation for the customer. Edited excerpts of an interview:
YS: How has the BPO industry evolved and what are the opportunities today?
PDS: In the early days we interacted with customers and solved queries. No insight was gathered with all that data generated. Now, by creating insights out of data, we are into demographic profiling, creating spend patterns, and customising queries. The last seven years have seen huge advances in data sciences. Data lets you drive better marketing and increase sales spends. It took the industry 10 years to prepare for this insight-based approach.
Knowing your customer better has to be deeper today; you have to recognise patterns and then figure outcomes. Speech analytics is new and that’s an opportunity because it is largely becoming accurate. A few years ago, speech technology would not offer clear insights; today, the algorithms are better and offer valuable results. There is a lot of working behind this technology. We are also investing in understanding unstructured text to convert it to meaningful outcomes.
YS: Are you expanding your business in this new world of algorithms?
PDS: Shaping customer experience in the digital world is the future. The digital world has dissolved borders and we have to solve problems for a customer very quickly. Customers can be very discerning these days; if a product or brand does not live up to their service, they can very quickly take to social media and express their qualms. That’s where we come in and solve the problem. We had a customer who found glass pieces in a set of diapers and ensured that we managed that before problem escalated. We are the modern-day PR agency; we manage the reputation and the image of the brand we serve. This is only possible if we are able to gather digital information fast and be alert. You need to be alert to serve consumers in the digital world. We created a chat bot to manage the image of a client. This was a challenge because the brief was to set up a reputation management engine and we did it in 24 hours.
YS: Businesses are going digital. What are the opportunities and challenges you see?
PDS: In healthcare, for example, we managed a WhatsApp group on behalf of a client, who - because of regulation - could not promote its service on a digital platform. It was a subtle form of brand management. We are going to work with several companies to offer virtual reality experiences. The world of serving clients has already gone digital and we will explore several partnerships on this front. These are new ways of serving clients, which will create new jobs and opportunities. I am hiring 4,000 more people this year and investing over Rest 150 crore each year. Data empowers clients and our associates. In healthcare, we can use our teams to push out radiology reports fast for markets like the US. AI can tell the radiologists what they have missed and keep track of all problems.
YS: The future is being influenced by AI. How do you see it making an impact?
PDS: AI is about data. In healthcare, AI can help in population mapping and action can be taken on how certain populations suffer from a particular type of disease. Based on the population’s health and an individual’s healthy living, premiums can be dropped. This is just a healthcare example. AI can help in many ways; it can help in preventive maintenance instead of breakdown maintenance.
A lot of companies in the Fortune 50 space have been following the Blue-sky thinking theory where reputation management has gone digital; they want their customers to have multi-channel experiences and want to focus on the millennial generation. We are reimagining the way customer service will happen. We need to invest in people with domain-specific skills, with engineering and data science merging. But HGS will never build a product because it is not our core business. We will partner with someone who can come on board as a vendor (those with technical expertise like startups) when we serve a client. Today, India is only 15 percent of our business. There is a lot of optimism in the economy and I believe that growth is back globally.