Evalueserve has two offices in Guragon, and as luck would have it, we reached the “other” office only to do an instantaneous about-turn and reach the “right” office. A bit more research on the venue on our part, should have been par for the course. Nevertheless, Manu Dangi, the Country Head of Evalueserve was extremely accommodative about time, and we got down to scripting a really good story.
Ms Manu Dangi joined Evalueserve way back in 2002, when the firm was a year old. In the earlier years, the company witnessed a whopping 100% y-o-y growth in a near monopoly-like situation. Her growth story is archetypal, one of rising up the ranks to reach the top in a matter of 14 years; embracing and heralding change in process. In 2005, as the footprints spread across the regions of APAC, Europe and US, the onset of high-calibre teams had begun, driving higher levels of aspiration. Subsequently, a small financial research office was set up in Shanghai, and one in Latin America was soon to follow.
Back in 2002, Evalueserve was a pure play KPO and its key strength lay in cost arbitrage. Ms Dangi remarked, that the cost differential was substantive, easily in the range of 25 – 30% or thereabouts. Secondary research was commonly adhered to, with standard parameters defined, a norm which would soon change radically. It was around 2004, that the first shift happened. By then, Research Practice had grown more complex in nature, and was seen to be veering towards the next level of maturity - one of trends and insights, diverging towards a more futuristic outlook.
Slowly but surely, the world started becoming more intensely connected. Geographies could no longer remain insular and a certain occurrence in one part of the world would almost certainly have its impact in other economies as well. In that sense, the interlinkages between India and US grew only stronger. It was also around this time (beyond 2005) that language competencies were developed and the concept of Global Delivery Centres began to take shape. Shanghai turned out to be a strong centre, priding itself over unique capabilities. Around this time, the company started hiring local talent to increase its foot on ground.
Roll forward 2016. Unarguably, the strengths of the past still continue and is not likely to go away (cost, global delivery model) but in addition, we have Big Data, Analytics and similar technologies to cull out deeper insights. The constant challenge is to remain competitive, not be commoditized, and be disadvantaged like many who did not pay heed to the winds of change. With time, the client’s expectation has grown manifold, which necessitates innovative thinking as well.
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A tag-line which was scripted last year, has come to define the culture. The brand positioning has been done in a way to create an imagery of interplay between the human mind, and algorithms and technology. Routine and repetitive processes are getting mechanized, and human ingenuity has to be a step ahead to create further value, continually. Increasingly, the range of competencies that clients require are impossible to develop all in-house, rendering the outsourcing model a snug fit.
Automated specs that redefine processes, help save time and reduce team size as well. If you look at it one way, there is an element of cannibalization, and yet, Evalueserve has been able to pass on the benefit to the client. A sure enough confidence building measure, that has resulted in increased and improved revenue streams for Evalueserve, and offset the effect of cannibalization. Robots cannot eliminate humans, but what it can do is free up time which can then be used productively to usher in enhanced learning. Technically speaking, the shift has been palpable, from MS platforms to dashboards, cloud interactive platforms and such other, it has been a steady movement. Ms Dangi briefly touched upon “InsightBee by Evalueserve”, a pay-as-you-go online platform that delivers high quality custom research and analytics and has recently won an innovation award for the Best Lead Generation Tool in London for its Sales Intelligence platform . The moot point being, passivity has no place anymore. Insights have to be continually improved upon, as greater efficiencies are brought about by newer solutions through innovative ways of thinking.
Challenges that the industry is facing
The business environment is volatile today. Business cycles always existed. Typically, cycles that stretched up to 10 – 15 years earlier, have now been crunched into 2 – 5 year time frames. The changes from a regulatory standpoint have been equally rapid. Moreover, interlinkages between markets, as mentioned earlier, are much stronger now. We have gone way beyond the point where we can draw succour from very long-term strategies. Now, even a one-year time frame can be transformative. Inasmuch, the average age of the workforce is on the decline. The millennials have to be constantly motivated through challenging work; they are not averse to taking risks and loyalty (long tenure) is not something which necessarily appeals to them. The policies have to progressively include these people. Again, as mentioned earlier, the initial years were about secondary research which has evolved to include analytics and other digital technologies to build on strong linkages. Over the years, the change in mind-set has been significant, she said.
Impact of digital strategy on the workforce
“It has been very positive”, Ms Dangi remarked. This new strategy has freed up employee’s time which is now helping them to chart out their careers more meaningfully. Upskilling and undertaking of certification courses have become quite common to help employees stay ahead of the competency curve. We asked her, “Which is more challenging – managing business or people?” The response was quick enough – people! Business, she said was about client relationships, which was heavily dependent on how employees are able to carry it through.
Message for middle-management
It’s all about managing relationships based on honesty. This is true both internally and externally. She also emphasized on EQ and its significance in building long-term relationships. People have to be trusted and given adequate responsibilities which they can discharge independently and take pride in. It is about showing them respect and having faith in their competencies. People do want to experiment as they go about their jobs, and the organization should be able to provide an environment where the learning curve is steep.
Finally, we came to that all important aspect of business – talent. The HR policies are well in place, but always in a state of evolution, given the dynamic environment we live in. It accentuates the need to have a look at policies every few years and constantly measure the impact on employee engagement. She cited some of the common-enough best practices which have proved to be very effective: Leave donation; work from home; building a culture of collaboration; flexible work options; job rotations, career enhancement opportunities and a very strong focus on diversity.