Small-, and medium-sized enterprises in Europe can finally start reaping the benefits of business process outsourcing to highly specialised companies in low-cost India. Two internationally renowned knowledge centres have joined forces to make this possible in an agreement signed this weekend in Amsterdam. Business process outsourcing, or BPO, covers activities such as call centres, finance and administration, data processing, research, back office processes, document management, human resource management and many others.
NASSCOM, India’s largest branch organisation for this sector, will work together closely with the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries, the CBI. Together the two institutes have set up a unique export development programme which offers SMEs in the European Union unique opportunities. The agreement means the days when BPO to low-cost countries was something only big-budget enterprises with plenty of outsourcing expertise could afford are definitely over.
While large buyers and suppliers in Europe and India have no trouble in finding each other, the distance is still too great for many SMEs. The Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI), which has gained renown across the EU as a leading centre of expertise in the field of trade with developing countries, is changing this situation, together with NASSCOM. The two organisations will on the one hand make their BPO expertise available to European SMEs. On the other hand they will help selected Indian IT companies with proven quality to access European markets.
A highway for SMEs
“This agreement offers us a chance to create a highway for SMEs where until now there was not even a footpath”, said CBI managing director Ton Lansink on signing the agreement. “For European buyers the CBI and NASSCOM will be on hand as knowledge centres to help them formulate exactly what their outsourcing demand is and to help them find a perfectly matching partner. Indian entrepreneurs can count on us to provide maximum assistance exporting to Europe. It’s a double-edged sword from which all parties will benefit.”
“To us this is an important agreement”, confirmed NASSCOM president Kiran Karnik. “The success of India in the fields of IT and IT-enabled services is considerable, but we wish to see more European firms, particularly SMEs, become stakeholders in that success by entering into sustainable partnerships with our companies. In India, too, SMEs have until now not been able to fully share the success of large enterprises in the BPO sector. So this is a win-win agreement for SMEs in the Netherlands and Europe as well as in India.”
NASSCOM and the CBI
NASSCOM, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, was set up to facilitate business and trade in software and services and to encourage advancement of research in software technology. With over 950 members, 150 of which are multinationals with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, the EU, Japan and China, NASSCOM is the largest and most important trade body for the Indian IT and BPO industry
The CBI, an agency of the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs, is a leading centre of expertise in Europe in the area of trade with developing countries. For over the 30 years, the institute has developed successful export development programmes aimed mainly at helping SMEs in developing countries to access European markets. The CBI’s programmes cover a wide range of industrial sectors, including BPO and IT. The CBI selects promising companies in developing countries and offers them intensive, long-term training and technical assistance in order to prepare them for the rigours of the European market.
The export development programme for the BPO sector was launched last year in India and two other countries with promising industries in this field, South Africa and the Philippines.
More active than ever
As the CBI’s counterpart in India, NASSCOM will be responsible for the practical organisation of the CBI programme. As such, NASSCOM will select promising Indian suppliers to be trained and assisted by the CBI in exporting to Europe. Over the last year, nine Indian firms have already been selected and have entered the programme as fully qualified partners.
In addition to training exporters in India, South Africa and the Philippines, the CBI is also actively working the European market, helping SMEs recognise the huge advantages of business process outsourcing and assisting them in finding Indian partners who understand their needs and can stand up to European market requirements. “The CBI has proven its competence in the area of capacity building among exporters in countries like India as well as in the area of export marketing. We have the knowledge and the techniques. On top of that, we’re reaching out to European SMEs more actively than ever to help them find reliable partners in India and other outsourcing destinations”, said Lansink.
Karnik is excited about the results of working with the CBI. “Signing an agreement is nice, but not if it stops there”, he said. “What pleases us specifically is that the CBI is a strong organisation that like us intends to back this agreement with real, grounded and result-oriented activities that will benefit the industries and economies of Europe and India. The image of India has improved greatly in the past years, but we are still a country that has much poverty. Through agreements like this one we can cause the success of the IT and BPO sectors to drip down from the major industrial cities to smaller cities and towns and after that perhaps even into rural areas.”