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KPOs: Big bucks, more benefits
Kirti Pande |
February 03, 2006
What will you do if you are offered a job with a business process outsourcing company?
Shudder at the thought of night shifts?
Say no, because you feel your health and safety will be affected?
Refuse to tweak your English to suit firang sensibilities?
What if we told you there are no night shifts, no calls from irate Americans/ Britons to deal with and no safety issues involved?
Outsourcing firms that give you all the benefits of a nine-to-five job with added incentives and more than double the salary are all set to take India by storm. Better known as Knowledge Process Outsourcing companies, KPOs are BPO firms that deal in domain-based processes and business expertise rather than just process expertise.
What is a KPO?
In layman's terms, they are firms that provide services based on specialised knowledge of a certain industry. For example, you need a doctor to be able to diagnose a medical condition, or a chartered accountant to handle the financial aspects of a business, or an MBA to track the marketing trends of a certain product.
The legal team of any company requires a lawyer to draft the papers for any deal or lawsuits. Similarly, scientific research needs a qualified scientist on board. Not all of these require highly experienced professionals to do the job, but 'domain knowledge' or knowledge about the concerned field is still a prerequisite. This knowledge is what KPOs offer.
The different processes handled by KPOs include intellectual property or patent research, content development, R&D in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, market research, equity research, data research, database creation, analytical services, financial modelling, design and development in automotive and aerospace industries, animation and simulation, medical content and services, remote education, publishing and legal support, among many others.
George Albert, the co-author of Offshore Outsourcing: A Path to New Efficiencies in IT and Business Processes, says, "One example of a KPO is GE's Jack Welch Research Centre in Bangalore. Others like Infosys Technologies' Progeon, Reuters, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, IMS Health, Ipsos, AC Nielsen, and several others already have KPO arms in India. More are likely to follow."
This means a boom in jobs that give you the same opportunities as an Indian firm would, but with better salaries and global exposure.
KPOs mainly offer research and backend work. Unlike BPOs, which need its executives to be involved with customer care, KPOs use their employees' expertise to carry out high-end processes like valuation, research, investment researches, patent filing, legal and insurance claims, medical diagnoses and reports, and many other profiles depending on the industry the KPO caters to.
Typically, these industries include pharmaceuticals, biotechnology companies, data integration and management services, financial services, research and analytics, technology research, computer-aided simulation and engineering, business research, legal services, financial analysis and management consulting.
As a result, the KPO industry looks out for professionals like MBAs, lawyers, chartered accountants, postgraduates in the various sciences, biotechnologists, paralegal and paramedical specialists, doctors, engineers and a host of other professionals.
"Typically, you will have the same kind of job you would be doing if you were employed with an Indian company. Like, a doctor would diagnose conditions based on test reports, a lawyer would do legal documentation and research on cases and so on. The difference, however, is that in KPOs you have to know about global practices and understand the relevance of any work done in the country your client is located in," says Albert.
Are you eligible?
If you are interested in working in the KPO industry, you would need the professional qualifications suited for that particular industry. A legal KPO employee would have to have a law degree, like a scientist would need a post-graduate degree in the field the KPO caters to.
Chartered accountants, CFAs and MBAs would probably be the most required professionals as many financial KPOs are expected to set up base here. However, just academic skills are not enough. You need to possess soft skills too; they are as important as domain knowledge for such companies.
"Besides good English skills -- both written and spoken -- you also need the ability to apply your academic knowledge practically," says Nasha Fitter, CEO of Fitter Solutions, a BPO communication and training company.
The ability to structure data well and gain insight into it is also a requisite.
"American English is different from British English. It's important to remember that while catering to US clients. Here, you are dealing with professionals. Knowledge of their language and mindset, as also the industry in that country, is important," adds Fitter.
The KPO advantage
"KPOs charge their international clients much more than BPOs. So, obviously, there is a vast difference in salaries. In addition, it is better than working for Indian companies; not only do you get a better pay packet, you are also exposed to global best practices," says Fitter.
Salaries are three to four times higher than BPO companies because the qualifications required are higher. "Against the starting salary of about Rs 15,000 for BPOs, KPOs pay you anything from Rs 30,000 onwards, depending on your experience and requisite skills," Albert says.
Another advantage is KPO jobs generally follow the 'nine-to-five' routine. This means that, unlike BPOs, you don't have to deal with night shifts and haywire body clocks. You will also get the benefits extended by multinationals to their employees. So you can expect a swanky office, a good canteen and recreational facilities. However, forget about the pick up and drop. Since it's a day job, this benefit isn't extended to KPO workers.
The biggest advantage of working for a KPO is that it exposes you to the global industry and makes it easier for you to get a job abroad if you so desire.
The work culture in a KPO is much more serious than a BPO. "Many times, foreign delegations are visiting and it is important to look professional. It will be a suit and tie culture and you can't turn up in office in jeans the way you can in a BPO job," Fitter says.
Also, the work atmosphere is more professional because adhering to deadlines is very important when catering to international clients. Due to the difference in time zones, a small change in the schedule may cause a deadline to jump by a considerable time.
According to industry experts, a lot of low-end BPO work will move to countries like Philippines and China and high-end outsourcing work will come to India. A country known for its huge bank of professionals, India can ride the wave successfully.
Think you can too? Take the plunge!
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Don't want to do night shift in a BPO?