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Buoyed by unrealistic projections by the Nasscom-McKinsey

Report, which foresaw $17 billion revenue from the IT-enabled services sector in

India, by 2008, many set up their international contact center shops, blinded by

the lure of dollar. Some of them who started their centers, amidst much fanfare,

are on the verge of closure. As they do not have any business. Hundreds of seats

are lying vacant, infrastructure is unused, trained manpower is without any

work. Companies even resorted to mass layoffs. With the entry of the world’s

top contact centers like Convergys, the business plans of some of the Indian

operators are bound to get a beating. It is in this backdrop that domestic call

center companies grabbed the opportunity to set up domestic centers, to offer

services to the consumers in India.


As customers in India become more demanding than ever before,

companies vie among themselves to reach out to them, resulting in immense

opportunities for the domestic contact center operators. The Indian customers

have tasted blood, thanks to their exposure to the real world of customer care.

The expectations of the Indian consumers have risen considerably. Days of 9 to 5

customer care are numbered, as customer expectations are rising day-by-day and

is heading towards a 7/24/365 scenario.

How Big Is the Market


The market is huge, given an increasing focus, the companies

are paying to reach out to customers and retain them. According to Sam Chopra of

Cybiz "Today, domestic contact centers serving captive clients account for

about 5,000 seats, and the third party centers which are still in their infancy,

account for about 1,000 seats. This is just the tip of the iceberg". Shyam

Sunder of Magus, one of the oldest player in the field says, "The domestic

contact center is still in its infancy. There is a need to educate most users of

this service". That gives an idea of the scope that is there. There are not

many prominent players in the field. Delhi-based Orion Dialog, which started its

operation in 1993 has now a national presence with seven centers.

Captive Centers Will Soon be Passe?

Shyam Sunder, CEO, Magus

Shyam Sunder, CEO, Magus


More and more companies intend to concentrate on their core

competencies and outsource their job of handling customers to the outside

centers. Companies like Microsoft, Bose, Satyam Infoway, Living Media, AirTel,

and a host of others, have gone in for outsourcing their customer-support

services. If the domestic players are to seize the opportunities, they ought to

convince the banking and financial institutions in particular, about the safety

and security of their valuable customer database. Indian banks like ICICI have

gone in for the captive ones, on the lines of the multinational banks like

Citibank. According to Srikant Shastri, managing director of the Delhi-based

Solutions, an upcoming player in the domestic segment, "Sensitivity of the

data inhibits several companies from outsourcing their customer-care activities.

Mostly. tele-marketing jobs are outsourced, as the database is not so crucial,

and no value-added services are provided".

Is it Lucrative?

Srikant Sastri, CEO,


The billing per seat in domestic as compared to the

international contact center, is not so attractive. But still, the margins are

good enough to sustain on the basis of generating volume and by offering a range

of value-added services. Investment per seat costs about Rs 50,000 initially,

with just a PC and a phone to answer simple queries. This can be upgraded to IVR,

etc, and the cost increases, depending upon the requirement of the client, which

costs about Rs 4-6 lakh. Billing on an average is 10,000 per agent per month,

for one shift for basic services, to 30,000 to 35,000 per seat in the center

which provides technical and value-added services. Needless to say, it will be

the volume which will drive the business. According to Sam Chopra of Cybiz

"Industry analysts generally focus on the international contact center

industry, without realizing that there could be an equal opportunity in the

domestic market, in terms of employment if not revenue. There are vast

differences in the domestic contact center industry, which has equal scope for


Human Resource is the Key as is Marketing

Ishita Swarup and Tina Sapra, of Orion Dialog


In an industry which has one of the highest churn rate at

present, retention is a challenge which companies are trying to cope up with.

According to Tina Sapra of Orion, "Our people make the difference. It is

with this philosophy that we have built our HR systems and the organization

culture". She further adds, "We have put in place robust HR systems

like new joiner orientation, continuous training, quarterly performance

evaluation, work rotation, performance-based incentives, etc". As regards

to training, Ishita says, "Understanding the importance of training, we

have made it an ongoing process. There is a constant focus on developing the

employees and help them grow in terms of newer skills, attitudes and

knowledge". The domestic players have an advantage to learn from the

mistakes of their international counterparts, who have not been sucessful in

this marketing efforts, which is the key.

Threat from the International Players

What would happen if the international contact centers are

allowed to operate domestic centers and also if inter-connectivity is allowed? Most of the domestic players are of

the view that international players would not venture into domestic contact centers, in all probability, but the threat will always be there.

According to Vikram Talwar, CEO, Exl Services, "We have no intention to get

into domestic business even if it is opened for us, as it does not makes sense for

us, given the infrastructure costs are very high." Shyam Sunder of Magus,

agrees that there is a threat but he feels that this ability will be restricted

to a stronger and much more focused Indian companies.


Advantage for Paging Companies

Paging companies have taken the lead in utilizing their

paging infrastructure and human resources for answering queries for other

companies. With the number of paging subscribers decreasing everyday, this has

become a new opportunity for these operators.

DoT Guidelines for Domestic Contact Centers


  • DCCs are allowed to have inbound PSTN traffic with

    outbound banned
  • The DCC can be established on a separate

    infrastructure. However, the request for operating contact center on the

    existing private networks, will be evaluated by DoT and may be permitted

    if found in-line with the present regulations.
  • Interconnectivity of the two domestic contact

    centers of the same organizations, is permissible subject to the

    permission by DoT.
  • Interconnectivity of international with domestic

    contact center is not permitted.

    The party shall declare the indicator numbers of DEL, terminated on
    leased line for contact centers.



According to Sam Chopra, president Cybiz, "Right now,

they have manpower strength to run contact centers, some idea of customer care

and possess the infrastructure in terms of networking. Whether the present

moribund paging industry can seize the opportunity or not, is yet to be


Who Needs the Service?

Service segments that require such services are telecom

service providers, banking and financial intuitions, airlines and hospitals,

manufacturing, FMCG, and media and entertainment, to name a few important

segments. To have an idea about the size, let us take an example of telecom

service providers. Inquiry services have been a part of the incumbent operators

long before the concept of contact center became more fashionable. BSNL and MTNL

are beginning to realize the importance of setting up such centers and are

persisting with setting up their own captive centers rather than outsourcing.

The reason is not far to seek. These companies have a sufficient surplus staff,

to be utilized to man those centers. According to BR Khurana, director,

commercial and new services, BSNL, "We will set up our own centers wherever

we have surplus staff but outsource at places where we do not have sufficient

manpower". Given that number of subscribers in basic and cellular only

total to about 36 million, the opportunities are immense for the operators to

outsource, and contact center operators to provide the required services.

The Hurdles

The policy clause of not allowing outbound calls is a great

stumbling block for companies. The toll-free number is beginning to find its way

into the Indian marketplace, but being cost prohibitive, has been a big

deterrent. One can hope that once the private domestic long distance projects

are in place and the STD tariff falls, concept of toll-free is going to play an

important role in an overall nature of the Indian customer support. Also, the

decision of not to allow for interconnection of domestic with international

centers, has been a hurdle towards having a centralized operation. Most of the

restrictions are likely to go with the new Convergence Bill coming into effect,

according to the DoT officials.

Sudesh Prasad

Some Domestic Players

  • Orion Dialog Pvt Ltd

    Tina Sapra

    Agents: 200

    Clients: AirTel, Living Media.

    Address: B-134, East of Kailash, New Delhi - 110065

    Tel: 011 - 6923625;

    Fax: 011 - 6910669



  • Magus Customer Dialog Pvt Ltd

    Shyam Sunder

    Agents: 350

    Address: Magus ‘Nandi’, 1st Floor, No.56, Bowring Hospital Road,
    Bangalore 560 001.



  • Solutions Integrated Marketing Services Pvt Ltd

    Srikant Sastri

    Clients: US Robotics, Iomega, and Satyam Infoway

    Agents: 100

    Address: 3rd Floor 67-68, Chandra Bhawan,
    Nehru Place, New Delhi - 110019



  • Infovision Group

    Aditya Gupta

    Clients: Microsoft, Lufthansa

    Agents: 400

    Address: 13,Palam Marg, Vasant Vihar,
    New Delhi - 110057

    Tel: 011 - 6144593;

    Fax: 011 - 6144590




    Gurumukh Singh

    Clients: Epson, PC Zone and Kodak

    Agents: 40

    Address: T-32, Okhla industrial area, phase-2,
    New Delhi - 110020

    Tel: 011 - 6327357-59;

    Fax: 011 - 6327356


  • DSS Mobile Communications

    Pravin Kumar

    Address: C 22, Safdarjang Development Area,
    New Delhi-110016

    Tel: 011-6859985, 6969071;

    Fax: 011-6969076


  • Microwave Communications Ltd.

    Deepak Malhotra

    Address: M-7, GK, Part II, New Delhi - 110048

    Tel: 011 - 6225961;

    Fax: 011 - 6225960


  • EasyCall India

    A4/B2, Janacim House, B Cross Road, MIDC Marol, Andheri

    (East), Mumbai - 400 093

    Tel: 022 - 8352751/52/56;

    Fax: 022 - 836 2335