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United Telecom joins BPO bandwagon

Priya Ganapati in Bangalore | November 10, 2003 17:11 IST

Business Process Outsourcing indisputably remains the hottest segment in the information technology industry with new BPO outfits starting up operations even at this rather late stage of the hype circle.

The latest to throw its hat into the ring is United Telecom, one of India's biggest business houses.

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United Telecom has invested $5 million to build a sleek 2,50,000 square feet building in a seven-acre campus at Whitefield in Bangalore. For telecom and other equipment, it has invested $7 million, taking its total investment into the BPO venture to $12 million.

Initially, United Inter-Active Center Limted, as the BPO venture will be called, is to begin operations with about 100 seats. In about 3 years, it hopes to ramp it to 4000 seats and become the second largest BPO company in India, after GE.

"We have laid out the capacity. If our current contracts fructify then there is no reason why we can't ramp up to our full capacity," says Rajat Ohri, chief executive officer, UICL.

Currently, UICL is in advanced stages of negotiation with three clients, two major telecom companies in the US for which it will offer tech support and the third is a travel company that is listed among the Fortune 50 companies.

Extremely low-profile United Telecom is one of India's largest business houses with over 20 companies in areas like telecom, electronics and banking under its stable.

Its telecom arm has implemented projects like the Andhra Pradesh State Wide Area Network or the APSWAN, which was the state government's e-governance initiative, the smart cards and computerised driving license projects for Andhra Pradesh, the entire CDMA network on an all India basis for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, the GSM network for BSNL in seven states and the Gujarat State Wide Area Network or GSWAN, which is considered the largest IP based network in Asia.

United Telecom group also owns the Dhanalakshmi bank and a number of electronics manufacturing companies.

UICL has identified six verticals for its BPO business: IT and telecom, travel and hospitality, utilities, healthcare, HR, retail, and banking and financial services. An advisory board drawn from United Telecom's other businesses will advise the BPO venture.

"We have formed a core team of 40 people who should join by the end of November. Our advisory board consists of experts drawn from various domains in our group who will advise us on our BPO projects," says Ohri.

UICL hopes to begin operations by the first week of January. Recruitments for it will start in full scale by December. The first phase of training will also begin next month.

As part of its blueprint, UICL will start with 100 seats and add 250 seats every 60 days in a measure ramp-up procedure.

Ohri says that his company is not too late to the BPO party.

"We have got into this at the right stage. The industry is in the process of stabilising and it is only now that the US companies are looking to outsource in a big way. The interest in outsourcing is at its peak now," he says.

Ohri also hopes that UICL will score over others in terms of the domain expertise that it brings to the table.

"Our parent company, United Telecom has implemented some of the biggest telecom projects in India. We also own a bank. So we have gone through all the stages in the telecom and banking sectors in-house and we have the domain experts who can help and advise us," he says.

Apart from clients in the US and UK, UICL also plans to target domestic companies for its BPO services.

Ohri reveals that UICL is talking to a major financial service provider in India to offer its BPO services to them.

"A lot of companies, even in India, are looking to outsource their non core areas. The domestic market is getting big and it certainly cannot be ignored," he says.

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