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Second National BPO Summit held in Gurugram

TT Correspondent | 31 May 2019

The second National BPO Summit was held at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Gurugram yesterday. The conference was convened by CMAI Association of India (CMAI), Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (TEMA), BPO Council of India with Microsoft as its technical partner and law firm Khaitan & Co as an exclusive knowledge partner for the event. The conference was attended by several stakeholders, including current and former members from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Telecommunication Engineering Centre (TEC) and C-DOT, along with representatives from various imminent companies.

The objective of the conference was to recognise the importance of BPO sector as the largest employment and technology showcase opportunity for India, contributing highest to the economic growth. The Government already has plans to increase the BPO seats from 42,000 to 1,00,000. Accordingly, there is need for developing the skills of younger sections of the population for handling the requirements of this sector on urgent basis.

The conference was aimed to identify issues that are currently impacting the BPO sector in India and to provide a forum to discuss ways to reduce the impact of these issues in order to maintain India’s position as a global hub for outsourcing services. These discussions had kick started during the last conference, held at Vigyan Bhavan on 13 May 2019. Importantly, TRAI is also currently undertaking a consultation process with respect to the terms and conditions applicable on other service providers (OSP) and therefore this was an opportune moment to have this discussion.

Prof. N.K. Goyal, President CMAI, in his introductory address emphasized the importance of the BPO sector for India and the necessity to preserve it. He also welcomed the attendees and felicitated the chief guests Shri Shekhar Dutt (Former Governor, Former Dy NSA, Former Defence Secretary), Shri Ravi Kant (Ex-Member-Services, DoT), Shri  Vipin Tyagi (Executive Director, C-DOT), Shri Vinod Kumar (Joint Advisor, TRAI), Shri Shakeel Ahmad (DDG, NE LSA), Shri R. Shakaya (DDG, Security, DoT), Shri A.S. Verma (DDG, TEC), Shri Pradeep Gupta (Chairman & MD – Cyber Media India Limited), Shri S. Chandrasekhar (Group Director, Government Affairs & Public Policy - Microsoft India),Shri Harsh Walia (Partner, Khaitan & Co)and other dignitaries who were present for the event.

Mr. Harsh Walia made a presentation on regulatory terms and conditions of the existing OSP guidelines that are impacting the OSPs in India. In particular, Mr. Walia presented that there are ambiguities in the applicability of the guidelines owing to the definition of ‘application services’. He emphasized that there is an urgent need to simplify the guidelines and do away with restrictions on interconnection of OSP centre and conditions relating to ‘work from home’ (WFH). Mr. Walia also discussed possibility of permitting various service models using cloud based EPABX for OSPs and elaborated on how security concerns can be addressed through technological solutions.

In his address, Mr. Vipin Tyagi pointed out that technological advancement is necessary for the industry in the longer run. He stated that one of the major hurdles in the current OSP regime is the requirement for “infrastructure differentiation”, which entails high costs. He also suggested that various technological models such as Fibre to the Desk (FTTD), deployment of soft-switches at the OSP centre, ‘Internet of Things’(IoT), Artificial Intelligence, etc. can be considered by OSPs.

Mr. S. Chandrasekhar from Microsoft commented that the objectives for which the OSP regime was introduced in the first place are no longer relevant in the present day. Concerns relating to toll by-pass have subsided over time and the statistical record of OSPs maintained by DoT is not accurate. He also remarked that there was a need to digitize the entire process, including the process of filing Annual Returns. In his views, there is a need to relax conditions relating to WFH, to allow more flexibility to employees. He also said that the focus of regulation should be to “remove friction in doing business”.

Representatives of various companies also raised their concerns. Many representatives suggested that they encounter problems due to inconsistent interpretation of OSP guidelines by officers of different TERM Cells across the country. They also emphasized the need for issuance of standard operating procedures and frequently asked questions to minimize this inconsistency.

Several present and former officials of the Government including Shri R.K. Aggarwal, Shri N.K. Gupta, Shri  S.N. Gupta, Shri G.P. Srivastava and Shri A.K. Sinha and other dignitaries provided their views on the present OSP regime and acknowledged that concerns of the industry need to be factored in while formulating the new regulatory framework. The need to simplify the framework was discussed, especially considering that India (along with Bangladesh) is the only Country that has such a regime. It was also remarked that many companies are looking at other countries such as Philippines, Thailand and China for outsourcing services. Therefore, according to them, the prime focus should be on promoting ease of doing business and to ensure that regulatory framework facilitates growth of the sector in India.

One central theme emerged out of the two conferences held at Delhi and Gurgaon, that the regulation of OSPs started basically for statistical purposes and to avoid toll by pass. OSPs are primarily users of TSP’s resources and all the requirements/security/monitoring etc. are satisfied by TSPs as usual. Therefore, there is hardly any need for additional requirements for OSP, as user of services of TSPs. The second central theme was that in the present day, many OSPs are moving from a ‘capex’ intensive model to an ‘opex’ intensive model. The third central theme was that other countries are making inroads in this sector and there is severe need for India to remain its position as a global leader and thereby, emphasis should be on promoting ease of doing business and introduce light touch regulation, if needed at all.

In his vote of thanks, Prof. N.K. Goyal expressed gratitude towards the guests, speakers, industry members, volunteers and event partners for their participation. A similar event will be held in Bengaluru in the near future.