November 21, 2010

BPOs seek doctors, lawyers, CAs, engineers, PhDs, MBAs

For nine years now, Dr Neel Deep Singh Sarvaiya, a family physician in Andheri, has been training young professionals in medical terminology.

However, the people he trains are not medical students, but those looking for careers in business process outsourcing (BPO).

Dr Sarvaiya works with CBay Systems, an Airoli-based BPO engaged in medical transcription, in the mornings and treats patients in the evenings. He says BPOs have opened up a completely different avenue for doctors and other professionals. “So many people with diverse backgrounds want to make careers in a BPO.”

Once associated mainly with college students looking to make a quick buck during vacations, BPOs today employ people with degrees such as MBBS, BSc Nursing, PhD, MBA, CA, BE and BPharm.

“The perception that the BPO sector is not knowledge-driven and is merely a stop-gap career option no longer exists,” says Sanjiv Kapur, senior vice-president and global head, Patni BPO.

According to Manuel D’Souza, chief HR officer, Intelenet Global Services, the need for highly specialised people is because BPO service offerings have widened to include transaction processing, consulting, customer care, technical support, research and analytics, compared with mostly voice related activity earlier.

BPOs service sectors like travel, insurance, banking, financial services, retail, logistics and healthcare, which require highly skilled people, says Keshav R Murugesh, group CEO, WNS Global Services, which has 18,000 people in India, including a large number of doctors, MBAs, CAs and lawyers.

Raghavendra K, vice-president and head, HR, Infosys BPO, which has about 19,300 people, says most entry level profiles are sourced from science, computers, philosophy and theology backgrounds.

“Research, consulting and other such activities now constitute nearly 40-50% of the total BPO sector. So we need CAs for finance, MBAs/engineers for consulting and so on,” says D’Souza.

Kapur says doctors and nurses are needed as BPOs work on behalf of insurance firms to manage medical care of elderly citizens.

“An offshore team of doctors and nurses is involved in reviewing medical records, ensuring if medical check-ups are done in time, timely administration of medicines,” says Kapur, explaining that patients’ medical assessment sheets are sent to the BPO in India, where medical professionals analyse patient details and the information is then sent to the insurance company, and based on this assessment, future diagnosis is done.

Raman Roy, chairman, Quatrro BPO, points out that the sector had even felt the need for PhDs when the human genome project started.

For actuarial work (calculating insurance risks and premiums needed to cover the risks and designing insurance policies) in the area of pensions, property and casualty, etc, science and math graduates as well as actuarial students are needed.

Moreover, BPOs are engaged in activities like medical writing and clinical data management for pharmaceutical companies, which requires doctors and pharmacists, say industry experts.

“All these skilled professionals get international exposure, stable career and good salaries, which is chief attraction,” says Roy.

Also, for doctors who would ideally need a gestation period of 3-4 years to establish practice, BPOs provide them with an opportunity to utilise their knowledge and earn decent money, says Dr Sarvaiya.

In terms of salaries, starting salaries of specialised graduates would be 3-4 times higher than those of plain commerce/arts graduates.

“These factors conjure up to provide professionals with good career growth. We have so many employees who have completed more than 10 years,” says Sanjay Shanmugaum, vice president, HR, CBay Systems.

With demand for specialists growing, the $12.4 billion BPO sector, which currently employs more than 750,000 people, plans to more than double the proportion of such professionals in the next two years.

Roy says the high-end business in BPOs, requiring specialists, is growing at 30% per year. “Currently, we have 600 specialists who make up 20% of our total employee count and that percentage will keep increasing due to the demand.”

D’Souza says from about 10-15% (of total employee base of 33,000) at present, the percentage of specialised professionals will reach 30% in the next 2-3 years.

The staff strength of 6,200 would increase to 10,000 by the end of 2010, Shanmugaum says, adding, “80-90% of our staff have MBA, MBBS and other professional qualifications.”

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