Mr. Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS Group

Replying to Jasmine Kohli of IIFL, Keshav R. Murugesh says, "Capex for 2010 is expected to be ~US$15mn and a lot of it will be invested in new centers in India."

Oct 04, 2010 10:10 IST India Infoline News Service

Mr. Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS Group, holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Commerce and is a Fellow of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He is also on the IT Sub Committee of the Institute. He joined WNS on February 19, as CEO and member of the Board. He has most recently served in the same role at Nasdaq listed Syntel Inc, a global provider of custom outsourcing solutions in a broad spectrum of information technology and information technology-related services. In his earlier role as Syntel's CEO, Keshav R. Murugesh was responsible for the company's global IT services and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) businesses. Prior to being named CEO, he served as COO, President and CFO, during which time the company's global work force, revenue, EPS and market capitalization grew significantly. Keshav at WNS is fully focused on top line growth, customer centricity, operational and financial metrics, and driving innovation across the enterprise.

WNS Global Services began as the British Airways back office operations way back in 1996 in Mumbai with less than 300 employees. In 1999, WNS set up its operations in Pune. WNS went from a captive BPO to a third-party BPO with Warburg Pincus acquiring majority stake in WNS in 2002. The new WNS not only looked at deepening its focus in the travel industry but also put out an aggressive growth strategy to enter new businesses. Growth was either organic or inorganic. WNS grew immensely from 2003 till date and today proudly showcases a wide portfolio of BPO operations in businesses such as Travel, Logistics, Finance & Accounting, Research & Analytics, Banking, Finance & Insurance, Retail, Healthcare, to name a few. From 300 employees, WNS is at 21,000 employees today across 21 global delivery centers and servicing 200+ Fortune 500 companies globally. WNS is a leading global business process outsourcing company. Deep industry and business process knowledge, a partnership approach, comprehensive service offering and a proven track record enables WNS to deliver business value to some of the leading companies in the world.

Replying to Jasmine Kohli of IIFL, Keshav R. Murugesh says, "Capex for 2010 is expected to be ~US$15mn and a lot of it will be invested in new centers in India."

What made you join WNS Global Services as a Group CEO?
The opportunity to refresh and recreate myself as a BPO’s CEO was the success of growing and turning around well known IT Services Company as its CEO. My team and I had delivered the highest revenue, profit and global head count in the history of that Company just before I left for WNS. The fact that WNS was a pioneer in the field, had a well established brand, had a great set of people and clients and needed someone to introduce strategic orientation and performance orientation while focusing on growth was very attractive for me.

It meant I had the opportunity to do this at two Companies in my lifetime while most people don't get even one opportunity to be part of a turnaround and growth story all through their lives. These kinds of challenges have always excited me.

What road map do you have for WNS over the next five years? 
WNS is a very solid operations led company. My focus with the team is to create razor sharp sales focus, invest in the right businesses, bring in much more domain specialism and client centricity and leverage our outstanding people and global delivery centers to build a high growth BPO Company which will lead the industry in chosen areas.

Leadership in chosen verticals and horizontals, choose clients carefully, focus on non linear models and build a very client centric and engaged work force is the path to success for WNS.

Creating a global delivery footprint and onsite delivery capability is critical and we are enhancing our capability in these areas.

With this level of strategic focus, the right leadership team and choice of businesses, geographies and business models, it will be the most exciting company for people to build their careers in.

How is WNS able to compete effectively against other Tier I BPO Companies? 
WNS is already one of the leaders in the BPO space and in its category. A very engaged team of people at every level, Knowledge Leadership in chosen verticals, a very client centric approach, a global footprint for delivery and a very flexible engagement and financial model customised around each client are our key differentiators.

If a client wants to deal with a nimble, flexible, right sized and innovative Company that delivers robustly but also focuses on ways to grow the client’s top line and bottom line, they come to WNS. If the client is ok with a non-customised "factory approach," and a "take it or leave it" attitude, WNS is not the partner for them.

Is WNS looking at Tier II and Tier III cities for expansion? 
We have already created a center at Nasik and just this week were delighted to receive the Maharashtra state IT award from the Chief Minister, for the success of that centre.

The future of this business will be taking work to the people as opposed to taking people to work. Tier II and III locations will be a key part of our long term strategy as we look to add capability. We are very pleased with our experience in Nasik and are discussing rural BPO and other models as well.

Tell us about WNS’s investment focus? Is M&A a focus in the company? 
Our core area of investment now is in sales and new verticals. We are separating hunting from farming on the sales side and introducing a robust client partner program globally. We are following a sub-vertical strategy so we build inch wide and mile deep capability within each domain.

We are also creating two new dedicated verticals that are like white spaces in the market and are very excited about this. The biggest area of heightened investment is in Talent Management which covers the gamut of domain, leadership, soft skills, general management, succession planning, performance management system, etc.

While we are already very people centric, the focus is on enhancing all talent management programs so our people can live up to our new Mission statement, "We enable our clients to Outperform with our passion for service and innovation." New delivery geographies, onsite delivery centers and programs to enhance client centricity are key areas we discuss.

We are always opportunistic about M&A and keep that on our radar but currently feel that we should focus more on organic growth at least in the short term.

What are the new growth areas for WNS? Also mention about the existing verticals for WNS? 
WNS is an established leader on the Travel and Insurance verticals as well as Banking, Utilities and F&A and Analytics areas. While introducing more sub verticals within each area we are also creating two new and very exciting verticals in the Healthcare and Logistics domains.

How does WNS attract top talent, in an extremely competitive marketplace? 
By presenting the message that we have a clear strategy for our business, have a strong set of values are building a fast growing business and are constantly investing in people, processes and innovation.

Based on all of this, the head room for growth in the industry as well as the reality that we provide the best environment for learning and growth, this is the most exciting place to work in the industry.

For leadership positions, the proposition is very compelling as WNS is a place where leaders are recognised, contribute to growth and are well rewarded professionally and financially based on their performance.

In your view, does China pose a threat to India’s dominance in BPO? 
China can be a credible delivery centre in the long run and many Companies are creating beach heads here. However, in the short run it will be more relevant to people who want ‘Korean’, ‘Japanese’ and ‘Chinese’ language skills. English is still a problem in the country and in that area as well as the ability to introduce large scale, India will continue to maintain its leadership.

India must however focus on more innovation, non linear BPO models and creating more "employable" graduates if they must maintain long term leadership. For me, focusing on creating "employable graduates," should be driven as a National program by the Prime Minister himself just like Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi drove Sam Pitroda and DOT to put a telephone in every village. This will be transformational and ensure long term global leadership for India in the BPO area.

What are your expansion plans in India? What do you see the major challenges? 
In 2010 our capex is expected to be around US$15mn and a lot of it will be invested in new centers in India. We are taking calls on our India business as of now and thinking thru how best to address the huge demand that is emerging with the great global capability we bring to the table. WNS is a global Company and India plays a great part in our overall growth aspirations from a leadership, people, infrastructure and sustainability programs.

The biggest challenge will be changing mindset of people and navigating through the political rhetoric that we would expect to hear from geographies where unemployment rates are on the rise. However, one must understand that with client geographies and even sovereigns in financial stress, this is actually the best time for a credible BPO player like WNS to position itself for long term growth. Everyone has to reduce cost, build efficiencies and garner greater client conversion, all areas of strength for WNS.

How does WNS position itself and bring "value" to new and existing clients? 
We position ourselves as a nimble, flexible, right sized and innovative player that is client centric and customizes solutions and a relationship around the client. This is resonating very well for us as clients see that we are nothing but an extension of their enterprise in every way but providing much greater efficiencies.

What are the management principles you are following?
Create a strategic focus for everyone to be aligned to, be responsive, and remember the client is the only reason you exist as a Company, take decisions quickly and surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. Thereafter work hard like everything depends upon you and pray hard like everything depends upon God.

What is your expectation on the global business and economic outlook in the medium to long term? How well is WNS placed to face them?
Companies and sovereigns continue to be stressed and irrespective of when the recovery in global economies takes place, clients will continue to count the paper clips. In this environment WNS is well positioned as a High Values, credible partner that has knowledge leadership, is constantly investing in itself and is focused not just on reducing clients costs but on enabling their top line and bottom line.

How prominently will new service offerings figure in your growth plans?
We have to constantly invest in our growth and creating new offerings, sub vertical strategies, new business verticals and new models of engagement are par for the course for us. All of it will contribute to our growth because it helps us to be the most credible BPO player in the space.

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