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Pagalam Rajeshwaran

The Many Languages of Asia, and the Delivery Locations Best Positioned to Service Them | Blog

By | Blog, Outsourcing

Asia has long been an important business destination, as it’s home to more than 60 percent of the world’s population and accounts for a major share of world consumption. In fact, forecasts suggest that – with increasing access to credit, low inflation, rising income levels, and a favorable regulatory environment – Asia alone will account for 40 percent of the world’s consumption by 2040. The region also accounts for approximately half (about 2.2 billion) of the world’s internet users, which constitutes an enormous pool of digital consumers.

So, it’s no surprise that many businesses have set up facilities closer to the region and that many indigenous organizations have emerged as well. Indeed, about 40 percent of the world’s 5,000 largest companies are based in Asia.

However, to truly succeed in this market, enterprises need a crucial weapon: a multilingual workforce proficient in Asian languages.

Although English is still widely accepted as the universal language for business, a workforce proficient in Asian languages brings additional value to the table. It acts as a conduit between the organization and the region by helping develop a deeper cultural connection with customers, revealing their concerns and preferences, which might not be understood otherwise.

Major Asian business languages include Mandarin, Korean, Thai, Bahasa Indonesian, and Malay, and each one provides access to a different consumer market. Thus, one key strategic consideration for enterprises selecting an Asian service delivery location is the language capabilities of the talent in the destination.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the major multilingual destinations in Asia and the value proposition they offer.

Malaysia

Malaysia ranks among the top service delivery locations for Asian languages, primarily because it lies close to source markets and is a mature destination that supports a wide range of services and languages. The country supports scaled delivery of Mandarin and Bahasa Indonesian and, to a lesser extent, Korean, Japanese, and Thai. The only challenge is the relatively high cost of operations compared to other Asian service delivery locations.

The Philippines

Another attractive location for service delivery in Asian languages, the Philippines offers moderate cost savings, breadth and depth of services, and scalable language delivery. However, the country struggles with achieving scaled service delivery in Thai.

Vietnam

Vietnam is a moderately attractive location for Asian language delivery, driven by the significant cost arbitrage it offers compared to other prominent locations. Organizations can achieve scaled delivery of services in Japanese and Mandarin but will experience challenges in scaling up service delivery in other Asian languages.

India

Although India is a key global services destination, the country falls behind its competitors in multilingual service delivery in Asian languages. India struggles to scale up service delivery in almost all major Asian languages, and compensation for multilingual service delivery approximately costs 50 percent more than service delivery in English.

With India out of the race, what’s the best service delivery location for your organization’s Asian language needs? If cost is an important consideration in setting up your multilingual team, the Philippines and Vietnam are attractive locations. But if you are looking for market maturity, scaled language delivery, and proximity to source markets, Malaysia is the clear winner. The country can comfortably cater to Indonesia, Korea, Japan, China, and Thailand – a huge belt within Asia – which combined house a population of nearly 1.6 billion.

To learn more about key locations for language-based service delivery and the primary drivers – including infrastructure, talent potential, business environment, adoption maturity, competitive intensity, and financial feasibility – that impact location attractiveness, please read our recently published report, Handbook for Language Skills, or reach out to the report authors: Parul Jain, Kunal Anand, and Pagalam Rajeshwaran.

Why Pharma Companies View their Indian Shared Services Centers as Growth Partners |Blog

By | Blog, Outsourcing, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

India is clearly becoming the “it” destination for pharmaceutical companies’ shared services centers (SSC) – or Global In-House Center (GIC) – organizations. Why do we say this? Because global pharmas with headquarters in the U.S. and Europe employ more than 11,000 FTEs employees in their India-based shared services centers to deliver not only table stakes transactional finance and HR services but also highly complex processes across all stages of drug development, including drug R&D and clinical trials.

What’s India’s appeal? There are four factors.

Established/Mature Location for Global Pharma Services Delivery

India is a time-tested, proven GIC destination for a wide range of industries. Many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies started delivering their global services support operations from India back in early 1990s. Now, pharma majors like AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, and Novartis are delivering complex, judgment-intensive services such as product R&D, biostatistics, and clinical trials site management from their India GICs. Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bangalore are the preferred locations, housing more than 80 percent of the pharmaceutical GIC talent.

Skilled Talent Pool

Talent availability, at scale, is one of India’s strongest value propositions. In recent years, many pharma companies have been able to successfully scale their delivery teams supporting diverse functions such as R&D, commercials, IT, and finance. For example, a leading pharma GIC houses 2,000+ resources providing IT services for various pharma functions. And multiple other pharma SSCs have scaled teams (400+ resources) that support R&D services, and dedicated resource groups comprised of doctors, PhDs, and biostatisticians, for complex drug R&D processes like development of computational solutions for analyzing clinical trials.

Opportunities for Cross-functional Collaboration

India’s availability of diverse talent profiles at scale allows India-based pharma SSCs to support multiple functions. And because many of them house IT resources with R&D and commercial business teams, they have multiple opportunities to collaborate on and insource IT work for drug R&D (e.g., to build IT platforms for drug development and IT services for lab support), and commercial operations (e.g., IT services for finance.) The value of this collaboration? Tighter integration of functions, better understanding of business requirements, and faster execution.

Mature Market for Digital Services Delivery

Leading India-based pharma GICs are working on digital initiatives including analytics and automation, and some are serving as global automation CoEs for their parent enterprises. Many are developing analytical tools for marketing & sales operations, competitive intelligence, and incentive planning. They are also investing heavily in automating less complex and high-volume transactional processes such as expense management, purchase order creation, offer letter generation, résumé screening, and management reporting, and deploying RPA bots to read files, extract data, and report adverse events. As part of the broader digital agenda, some centers have also started exploring the uses of artificial intelligence/machine learning to recruit patients and select sites for clinical trials, and for channel sequencing and optimization in their enterprise’s sales & marketing function.

Going forward, pharma companies not only expect their India SSCs to grow in scale and expand the scope of their process delivery, but also play a significant role in their digital transformation journeys by leading initiatives across all stages of the product R&D lifecycle. To satisfy these expectations, the GICs need to build deep domain capabilities and acquire or train talent to deliver increasingly complex, higher up the value chain services and next-generation digital initiatives.

To learn more about why pharma companies consider India their preferred service delivery destination, please read our recently published report, “Healthcare and Life Sciences – GICs in India Fast-tracking Enterprises’ Digital Agenda,” or connect directly with the report authors Anish Agarwal, Bharath M, and Rajeshwaran Pagalam.