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PLEASE FORWARD THIS E-MAIL TO THE VP-CUSTOMER SERVICE



Please forward this e-mail to the person responsible for overseeing customer service, technical support or your call center.  Please consider FirstRing, Inc. as you explore ways to maintain your high standards of customer service in the face of rapidly increasing growth.
 
FirstRing has established a call center in India to provide general customer care and technical Help Desk solutions for companies in North America.  FirstRing's India call center agents have the capacity to handle voice communication to and from North America, process e-mails, engage in interactive chat, process faxes and mail, and provide data entry services. Because of the large pool of technical talent available in India, we can deliver very high quality technical support as well. In fact, our Vice President for Call Center Operations in India managed a 500 person technical support center for Dell Computer Corporation before relocating to India to head our operations there.
 
By using state of the art technology and access to a highly educated English speaking work force in Bangalore, India, FirstRing is able to deliver higher quality service at SIGNIFICANTLY lower costs.  Savings of up to 40-50% over internal call centers or major domestic outsourcers can be achieved.  Moreover,employee turnover rates are a fraction of what call centers in the U.S. experience, leading to better retention and consequently, enhanced service quality levels.  Here is a recent article from Voice and Data Communications Magazine which discusses the growing use of Indian work force to service North America.It mentions HealthScribe, the medical transcription company we started prior to establishing FirstRing, and discusses the expected growth of call centers in India.
 
Sincerely,
 

Sat Want S. Khalsa
Vice President
FirstRing, Inc.
Suite 200
22570 Markey Court
Sterling, VA 20166
 
703-480-8000 main
703-480-8013 direct
703-480-8113 fax
www.firstring.com
 
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REMOTE PROCESSING: Enter India
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A host of new business and employment opportunities await as India becomes the hotbed for offshore remote processing.With distance being almost dead and geography all set to become a history, India is poised to develop into the largest offshore remote processing centre in the world. The global trend among companies is towards outsourcing non-core areas.This has spawned a whole range of outsourcing of remote processing services to India. Services include medical and legal transcription, data processing, HR, remote customer interaction (call centre), data digitization and GIS, back-office operation, revenue accounting, insurance processing, and animation. This has opened a huge employment opportunity in India besides the valuable foreign exchange that will accrue to the national exchequer.        
 

Why India?
 
The unbundling of the largely labour-intensive activities is driven by cost advantages, making India the hottest outsourcing destination world-wide. Setting an offshore remote processing centre in India and executing the project involve a cost savings of about 40 percent. India has the additional advantage of being the second largest English-speaking IT manpower in the world.The improved satellite-based telecommunication network, which has enabled almost instantaneous high-speed transfer of voice and data, has been one of the contributory factors. In most of the centres, the operations are being run on a round-the-clock basis. The time zone difference is also in India’s favour. Above all, the removal of trade barriers has added the needed impetus to the offshore outsourcing services.
 

What Future Holds for India?
 
According to a recent Nasscom-McKinsey report, over the next eight years, India could corner about 12 percent of the projected $142 billion global market for IT-enabled services. The study projects that India could be making as much as $9 billion from these services by 2004 and by 2008, it could be earning $17 billion a year. Addressing the recently concluded IT Asia conference in Delhi, Prof. Dertouzos of Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that the total manpower that can deliver quality back-office work or information services in India is around 50 million. He has taken into consideration the emerging new services in the field of education, native medicine, and counseling.
 

The Players
 
Some players were quick to realize the potential and took a plunge at the right time. These include Innodata Corporation, GE Capital Services, Healthscribe, Techbooks, and Bechtel. The late entrants include some Indian players as well-Usha (ITIL) and LNJ Bhilwara group, apart from MTC International, iDLX, NY-Dox, and Air Infotech. As these remote processing services were new to India, getting experienced manpower was not easy. Initially, most companies started off by providing the training themselves. As more and more companies started setting up their operations the need for trained manpower was felt. This has resulted in the mushrooming of training centres catering to the specific requirements.
 

Medical Transcription
 
Medical transcription services were one of the firsts to take root in India. Unlike in India, physicians in the US, Canada, and other European countries,  are required by the law to maintain a computerized records of patient information. Physicians dictate the patient information, which is converted into a voice file and is transmitted to offshore centres via satellite links. It is transcribed and the document is conveyed back to the hospital. In the US alone, the medical transcription industry is worth about $6 billion and is growing at the rate of 20 percent annually. As there is a shortage of medical transcriptionists (professionals who listen and transcribe the document), companies are setting up their facilities in different parts of India. The pioneer in this segment is Healthscribe India, a 100 percent subsidiary of US-based Healthscribe Inc., which set up its facility at Bangalore in 1992.  Currently, it employs about 1,000 people. Ohio-based Heartland Information Service (HIS) is another important player in this field. >From one centre, the company, in association with Indian partners has expanded to five centres across the subcontinent employing about 3,000 people. Says Jacques Bourgeoise, vice president, HIS, "We are determined to make Indian subcontinent the largest transcription centre in the world." The company has also set up a centre in Kathmandu. MTC(India) expects an additional revenue of $10 million in the next five years from its data division. It also plans to offer other services like turnkey IT solutions and business processes re-engineering.
 

Call Centre
 
Currently the most happening segment, which has taken India by storm, is call centre. Call centre is a customer interaction service center where the agent answers customer queries from all over the world. India is set to compete with Ireland and Brazil, where a majority of these call centres is located. As there is no need of a physical interface between the customer and the agent these centres can be set up anywhere in the world. GE Capital Services was the first to realize the huge potential and set up the most-talked about centre in India today. The Gurgaon centre also manages payroll accounting for many of GE’s units besides processing mortgage loans and insurance claims. It employs around 1,000 persons and has also opened a centre in Hyderabad. iDLX, also based in Gurgaon, has about 200 people and plans to expand it to 1,000 by the end of the year. The latest entrants are Air Infotech and Netlink who have a tie up with Cincom. The managing director of Air Infotech, Rakesh Gupta, says, "We have 300-seat capacity and plan to expand to 1,200 by the end of year which will make our centre the largest in the south east asian region." Jaydev Raja, erstwhile chief of Coca-Cola and Iridium India, is back in the news with his company, Commence Concept. Com. He has tied up with DCT Systems of the US for a call centre project in India.
 

Data Processing
 
Data processing is also making its presence felt in India. This involves the electronic conversion of source documents (newspapers, magazines, journals, etc). This is done through physical data entry or through computer assisted data capture using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) technique. After conversion and quality analysis, data is transmitted back to the client’s computer overseas.  NASDAQ-listed and US-based Innodata Corp. with a turnover of $30 million is a pioneer in this field. It provides Internet and online data conversion and content management services. It also has an internal software development cell, which caters to corporate needs. The Noida centre employs around 1,200 people.  According to Ranjit Basu, general manager (human resources) Innodata Corp., "Ours is the largest facility in India and we are planning to employ about 4,000 people in the coming months."  Techbooks and Apex Information Services are the other major players in this field.
 

GIS
 
India has also become a centre for data digitization and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) services which is a computer-based technology that captures, stores, analyzes, and displays information about places on earth’s surface. Hyderabad-based Indian Resources Information and Management Technologies (IN-RIMT) generates information on natural resources and provide management solutions using advanced technologies such as Remote Sensing GIS.  It has tie ups with several overseas agencies including Geospace Satellitenbilddaten GmbH of Germany, Jodian System & Software, Inc. of US. According to P Subba Rao, managing director, "We provide total solution to our clients. In this process we extensively use remote sensing and GIS as important tools to deal with spatial data sets. Thus, our solutions encompass areas such as natural resources management, infrastructure development, and environmental engineering." IN-RIMT, with a turnover of Rs 600 lakh, plans to build up clients in Africa and South East Asia. Delhi-based Ridings Consulting Engineers headed by Sain-Ditta Baveja, does ground survey and digital mapping capabilities through adoption of latest digital cartographic techniques. His clientele includes British Government, Infoways (US) besides several Indian agencies. The company did a business of about Rs 90 lakh last year.
 

The Other Side of the Story
 
The going was not so smooth for many companies in the beginning as the kind of jobs that were offered was new to India and job seekers were reluctant to embark on a career that had no precedence in India. Recruitment thus became a difficult task for most of employers and finally when they did manage to recruit, training became a major bottleneck. Some of the companies had to close their shop after massive investments on recruitment and training. Los Angeles-based Informatix Inc., which was one of the first players in medical transcription and had set up its swank facility at Noida Export Processing Zone, had to close down after spending crores of rupees for three years. BLS Infotech’s similar project ran into rough weather before actually taking off. MTC India, which had planned for 300-seat transcription centre has managed to recruit only 30 persons in the last couple of months. ITIL managed to hire about 100 persons. The "rumour" that there is huge money involved in remote processing has led to the mushrooming companies-big and small. Medical transcription is the most glaring example.  From about three to four players in 1992, the number today is somewhere between 200 to 300, most of them being concentrated in southern India. Only time can tell, how many will survive over the long haul India becoming a major offshore centre for corporate around the world for its remote processing or backoffice work, has a social angle to it which cannot be ignored. The remuneration given to the personnel manning these transcription centres, call centres, and data processing and other units is far from satisfactory when compared to their counterparts in the other parts of the world. They are paid a starting salary of as low as Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 depending upon the nature of work. The data entry personnel are lowest paid of the entire lot. Call centre agents and trained medical transcriptionists are paid in the vicinity of Rs 7,000 to 8,000. (In the US, these personnel get paid somewhere between $15,000 to 20,000 a month).  Ranjit Basu of Innodata, however, feels that the fact that people are carrying on in the profession for the last three years is an indication that they are professionally satisfied. The salary, he feels, is in keeping with the work that these professionals are doing. Virginia-based Apex Information Services, had to close down its Delhi centre, employing about 200 people due to labour problems. However, if these companies who are cashing in on the new opportunity provided by India have a long-term strategy, they will have to create assured career paths and continuing education for the employees. According to the Nasscom-McKinsey report"If India aims to become an IT-enabled services hub and compete with Ireland, Singapore, etc., it has to bridge skill gaps and further improve infrastructure". This the report says require action on two important frontsenhancing location attractiveness by improving infrastructure and increasing people strength by building the skills.
 
- Sudesh Prasad
 
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