I was asked by a reader, “so why do you think you will win your bet with Benny
?” Most of India’s strengths are self-evident and have been widely written up. Here are a couple of thoughts on why I still believe I will win the bet:
- Be careful what you wish for, or in other words, how China may fall victim to its own success: The Chinese government tends to think big and right now it is trying to start 1000 BPOs by 2010. 1000 is a large enough number that it attracts attention (which by the way is what I think the government was trying to do) but it is too large a number of companies in too short a time for them to learn how to compete smart. If they can’t compete smart, they will compete hard which means they will undercut each other on price and overbid each other on paying workers. Pretty soon they will face the exact same problems India is facing: high employee churn rates, wage inflation and lower margins. The Chinese government has to help Chinese BPOs grow smart rather than just grow fast and that can’t be done by spending money alone.
- When it comes to quality, perception is as important as reality: While the Chinese BPO industry has existed for years, they have very little experience serving US and European customers and dealing with their quality expectations. The newer Chinese BPOs also tend to have less extensive quality management experience and technologies. [There are exceptions to every rule: I have met some Chinese BPOs who are investing quite heavily on their quality, while others seem to have very few if any quality experts on staff.] Furthermore, often the definition of quality in BPO engagements is quite subjective. If US customers believe that China has a quality problem, they will perceive lower quality in the processes run by Chinese vendors. Indian vendors addressed this quality perception problem by aggressively adopting CMM and reaching CMMI certification levels that were often higher than their customers’. [Look out for an upcoming post on why CMMI is not sufficient for BPO as opposed to IT outsourcing. But the reality is that the market broadly perceives it as a quality certification.] Chinese BPO vendors can’t follow that exact same strategy. The leading Indian BPO vendors have already invested years in reaching the highest levels of CMM. Even after spending years, the Chinese BPOs can at best match the Indian vendors in CMMI certification, not beat them at it.
Labels: BPO, China, India, outsourcing, quality