Category

Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

Reduced Barriers for Small or Mid-Sized Firms Building Offshore Shared Service Centers | Blog

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

Since the inception of offshored shared services, sometimes referred to as “Global In-house Centers” (GICs), the underlying assumptions were that (a) size matters and (b) the choice of functions (transactional, scale-driven processes) was a driver for gaining offshoring benefits. But the world has changed. The size and functions constraints no longer pose a barrier to entry when building offshore shared services centers.

The assumption that size matters developed because of the complexities and long learning curves in building centers offshore, including:

  • Finding leadership
  • Negotiating for real estate
  • Navigating complex tax regulations
  • Understanding cultural differences for talent management
  • Navigating the complex telecommunications labyrinth
  • Technology barriers to effective collaboration
  • Building institutional knowledge about how to transfer work at scale to an offshore party.

These complexities required a minimum level of scale for offshore shared services to justify the investment and deliver value.

In 2019, most of these challenges no longer exist or pose a high barrier for building a new shared service center as they did a few years ago. Several factors evolved to expand opportunities for building shared service centers of all sizes.

For example, sophisticated leadership is readily available. Today, in India or the Philippines, there is a large pool of executives that have successfully built and run shared service units or GICs. When you hire them, they can quickly assemble a complete team across all dimensions to equip a new shared service center.

Likewise, the complexity and difficulty in finding and securing real estate is now dramatically simpler. Offshore facilities today can rely on improved infrastructure and connectivity. Facilities are readily available and often already furnished with real estate brokers ready and able to facilitate the transactions. There is a broad market acceptance that India and the Philippines have good hotels and retail facilities, good food, are safe, and have good air transport.

Advisors now understand the tax treaties. Accountants and lawyers know how to construct the appropriate legal entities (e.g., LLPs vs. wholly owned subsidiaries) and structure them to be tax and compliance efficient. They also understand the government entities and licensing and are eager to assist new entrants.

The services industry’s current level of maturity enables successful practices based on past lessons learned for offshore shared service centers. The philosophies and methodologies to transfer work and run the work effectively are widely available with training available for the uninitiated. Today, we understand the role of the center and how to integrate it with the parent organization. Furthermore, we now have technology tools and collaboration platforms that facilitate remote workforce management.

So, the barrier to entry, which was prevalent earlier, now is dramatically lower. Today, it’s much easier and cheaper to start a new center. This results in two areas of growth for shared service centers:

  • Small to mid-sized organizations
  • Larger firms moving away from third-party services

Small to Mid-sized Organizations

In the past, companies needed to spread the learning curve and expense over a large number of FTEs and many functions. In addition, technology platforms enable better collaboration, thus dramatically reducing dependence of colocation. These factors change the return on investment or viability of small entities.

Now that the need to scale is reduced, companies can get a strong return, even for sometimes as few as 50 seats, depending on the function. They can also make a significant impact to EBIDTA for their parent companies, even at a much smaller scale.

The reduced scale factor dramatically changes the landscape in which companies can, and should, consider having an offshore facility. Until now, the prevailing wisdom was that companies sized at $50 million to $2 billion were too small to tap into having their own shared service center and must, instead, go through third parties. Everest Group’s market benchmarking reveals that almost half the new shared service centers set up since 2014 were established by small (<$1.5 billion revenue) and mid-sized (<$10 billion revenue) enterprises. Today, with the lower barrier to entry and reduced scale factor, even a small $50 million firm (depending on what the services involve) could and should confidently look at building its own offshore shared service capability.

Clearly, the economics change significantly, depending upon the function or skill set the company seeks to acquire. The highest return is in IT engineering functions and areas such as analytics. But even the threshold for corporate functions is dramatically shifting for shared services with 100-150 people.

Looking at the relative market penetration of GICs or offshore shared services in the $50 million to $2 billion marketplace, it’s clear that only a very small proportion of these firms are taking advantage of this now-affordable and high-return mechanism. The reduced barrier to entry and reduced scale factor suggests that these firms should now pay attention; as they do, we could well see an explosion of small shared service entities being established offshore.

Larger Firms Shifting Away from Third Parties

The shift in economics also impacts larger firms, leading them away from third-party service providers and opting for the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement. We’re seeing rapid growth of the number of new shared service centers as well as the growing size of the shared service or GIC communities in locations such as India, the Philippines and Eastern Europe.

The offshore shared services market is growing rapidly for companies of all sizes. The earlier constraints for entry and need for large scale are no longer a factor. In fact, the constraint facing firms today is one of mind-set, not of ability.

Video: Shared Services Talent Priorities – Three Takeaways | Blog

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

Chief Research Guru Michel Janssen shares a recap below of three takeaways from our recent webinar, “Is Your Shared Services Strategy Future Ready? 5 Differentiating Talent Capabilities“.  

Full script: 

We just completed our webinar on our shared services or GIC Talent Pinnacle Model. And what were trying to there is understand, what are those key business issues.

So the first thing we looked at is how the talent shortage is becoming chronic. And one of the statistics I used here with clients – I talk about how it used to be that executives were just concerned about the top talent – “how do I get the best talent in the organization” – so they can have an impact on the rest of the organization. But now, as we become more chronic in the numbers – and what I mean by the number is ten years ago, in the US, it used to be 700 people looking for 100 jobs. And right now in the U.S., we have 90 people looking for those same 100 jobs.

And so, what you’re finding is that there is more demand than there is supply in that conversation. But it’s a bit of a tale of two worlds. While you have shortages in the U.S. and Europe you’ve got a very different thing going on in low-cost locations, especially like India. And there, there’s not a shortage of talent, it’s finding the right talent – they’re concerned with, “how do I take the existing pool of people in and upskill them or reskill them into the needed skills for the organization to go forward.

So, what we’ve done is look at the Pinnacle Model, and we have found that there is a very dramatic cause and effect. And what we’re looking at in the Pinnacle Model – the way it works is you’ve got capabilities on the X axis, and you’ve got outcomes on the Y axis. And what you’re looking for is a nice correlation that goes from lower left to upper right. And what we’re trying to do there is establish the things that make a difference. And so, what we did in the rest of the video was talk about those capabilities that made that difference.

So we think those are impactful items, and if people were endeavoring to execute on those items, they got the results they were looking for. So click the link, and take a look.

The Three Components Your Shared Services Center Needs to Include in its Innovation Equation | Blog

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

Supporting enterprises’ innovation agendas is no longer simply an opportunity for in-house shared services centers – what we call global in-house centers (GICs); it’s fast becoming a competitive imperative. And, contrary to popular perception, cracking the innovation code requires much more than just novel ideas. Success entails boarding the right people on the bus, gearing them up with the right mechanisms to drive agile decision making, and reengineering the organization’s cultural DNA to foster innovation. We’ve developed a simple approach that will help you solve this complex problem.

Let’s take a look at the three components.

The Three Components Your Shared Services Center Needs to Include in its Innovation Equation

Process

Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure – Albert Einstein

The first element is formulation of the right mechanisms to evangelize innovation initiatives. It requires the right idea generation mechanisms to harness unique ideas from both internal (GIC and parent company stakeholders) and external (including startups, academia, and service providers / specialists) ecosystems. A critical part of this is evaluating the strategic rationale for the partnership. While some shared services centers partner with third-party providers and start-ups for talent augmentation and skill acquisition, others leverage the connections to develop domain expertise or increase the speed of innovation.

Another essential component, specifically for GICs, is the right funding mechanism. While we see most shared services centers carving out a separate fund for innovation (which is part of the overall GIC CEO budget), we are increasingly seeing them push for a global/centralized fund where the innovation team within the center operates as an extension of the global innovation team(s), and is funded by centralized global venture funds / programs. For select initiatives, we have also seen GICs securing funding from business units and driving project-based innovation initiatives.

The third component here is timely deployment of robust governance mechanisms. Shared services centers need to adopt a disciplined approach to rigorously track performance and incorporate remedial feedback on a continual basis. This not only helps to assess the effectiveness of activities, but also guides allocation process for resources, and helps assign accountability for actions/responsibilities.

People

Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have and how you’re led – Steve Jobs

Involving the right people in the right team structure is the second critical component. Leading GICs involve stakeholders from different parts of the organization, i.e., functional and business teams, central innovation groups, R&D departments, and corporate teams to invest time in exploring adjacent and transformational opportunities. This helps in cross-pollination of teams and enables development of a holistic solution in an accelerated go-to-market timeframe. While we have seen varied designs for innovation teams (based on organizational fit and business alignment), the common thread is the focused top-driven approach to creating structural changes, supplemented by continuous support from middle management to ensure smooth implementation.

Another key initiative leading centers are taking is remodeling their existing talent practices. They are now shifting their focus from hiring for specific “skills” to hiring for “learnability” / “thinking skills”, i.e., the ability to innovate. They are incentivizing innovation, and providing special recognition for outside- the-box thinking. We are also seeing strong innovators recalibrate their existing performance measurement metrics to align with the impact generated against the business objectives.

 Culture

“Innovation is not something you do for one afternoon a week, it’s got to be in your DNA” – Jasper de Valk and James van Thiel, Google

The third principal tenet to ensuring foundational success on the innovation journey is dedicated investment in developing a customer-centric culture with active CXO-level participation. Shared services centers are deploying multiple tools to reengineer their DNA and develop a culture that breeds innovation. Most successful examples include: gamification of programs and distinctive recognition for positive reinforcement; stimulation of an experimentation mindset and instillation of risk appetite; and adoption of flexible employment models, including remote working, crowdsourcing, and open innovation.

Although new technologies are path-breaking, we believe that the key to a GIC’s success is incremental innovation. They should keep testing small-scale POCs to demonstrate end-client value and build credibility. Successful implementation of pilots can help them instill confidence among parent stakeholders, and ensure adequate support and funding for much larger scale initiatives. This process also presents centers with an opportunity to course-correct early and drive/lead enterprise-wide digital initiatives.

If you’d like detailed insights and real-life case studies on how GICs have effectively driven the innovation agenda for their enterprises, please read our recently published report – Leading Innovation and Creating Value: The 2019 Imperative for GICs. And feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] to explore this further. We will be happy to hear your story, questions, concerns, and successes!

Can Indian Tier-2/3 Cities Fit the Bill for Digital Services Delivery? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers, Talent

India continues to offer an attractive service delivery location proposition for global companies, given its unique combination of a low-cost, scalable English-speaking talent pool, and the breadth and depth of available skills.

As the global digital services industry matures, and with increasing competition in the tier-1 cities, companies are looking to reduce the costs of talent and access additional untapped talent pools for digital services delivery.

Can tier-2/3 cities in India fit the bill? Let’s start by looking at the current state of digital services delivery in these cities.

Existing Landscape

Today, India is the largest destination for digital services delivery, with 75 percent of the market. Tier-2/3 cities in the country currently hold 14-16 percent of the market share, and we expect this proportion to grow by 15-20 percent in the next couple of years. Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Indore, Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, T-puram, and Vadodara are the top nine tier-2/3 locations, accounting for 55-60 percent of the digital services headcount in tier-2/3 cities.

Tier-2/3 cities are mostly leveraged to provide social & interactive (41-43 percent), cloud (21-23 percent), analytics (16-18 percent), and automation (10-12 percent) related services. When it comes to sophisticated digital technology services, such as cybersecurity, mobility, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), service providers still prefer tier-1 locations such as Bengaluru.

Major digital services Tier 2 3 blog

Now, let’s evaluate how tier-2/3 Indian cities’ value proposition stacks up against tier-1 cities.

 

What’s ahead for India’s Tier-2/3 Cities?

 Here are some of the key findings from our recently published report, “Will Tier-2/3 Indian Cities Carve a Niche in the Digital Story?

  • Tier-2/3 cities will continue to be leveraged predominantly as spokes to major hubs in tier-1 cities for the next two to three years
  • Because of a lack of skilled talent, delivery of advanced digital services such as machine learning, cyber security, and mobility from tier-2/3 cities will remain a distant dream for the next few years
  • An increasing number of enterprises will set up global in-house centers (GICs) or shared services centers for delivery of digital operations, due to increasing confidence and improvements in infrastructure quality
  • Reskilling/upskilling for digital capabilities will be paramount for companies operating in these cities
  • A few large service providers will invest in training talent, and benefit from early mover advantage by becoming distinguished employers in a less competitive market

To learn more – including the metrics around availability of talent, market maturity, cost of operations, business and operating risk environment, and implications for market participants including buyers, service providers, investment promotion councils, and industry bodies – please read our recently published report, “Will Tier-2/3 Indian Cities Carve a Niche in the Digital Story?.” We developed the report based on deep-dive discussions with leading shared services centers, service providers, recruitment agencies, and other market participants.

Upskilling and Reskilling: Is It Just Good L&D or Something Different? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers, Talent

Is upskilling and reskilling little more than a thinly disguised attempt by HR departments to rebrand Learning and Development (L&D)? The answer, as one practitioner pointed out at a conference in Poland, is “no.”

I recently presented to the Association of Business Services Leaders (ABSL) Chapter in Krakow, Poland about the talent acquisition challenges that digitization poses to Shared Services Centers (SSCs.) The argument runs roughly like this:

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is replacing human agents in transactional roles, freeing up capacity in the workforce. This can mean lay-offs at worst, or unqualified internal candidates reapplying for roles at best
  • There is greater demand for people with new skills both technological (design thinking, robotics, autonomics, analytics) and soft (pattern-recognition, complex problem solving, leadership, intuition) than can be met by simply recruiting externally
  • As automation takes care of transactional processes, organizations can enhance the value of their brands and the service they provide by having more people in roles which emphasize first contact resolution, emotional intelligence, listening, etc.
  • This new value chain focuses on outcomes: people are measured against quality of outcome rather than throughput (for instance, a shift from average handling time to CSat), which in turn requires new management thinking around staff incentives, culture, and business model.

The data in the presentation was based on the Everest Group survey of 81 SSC leaders in Poland, the Philippines, and India, published earlier this year (see “Building a Workforce of the Future – Upskilling/Reskilling in Global In-house Centers.”)

So obvious was the message that emerged from the survey that one or two skeptics in the audience questioned why retraining that part of the workforce most affected by the trend of automation was even worthy of discussion. Is it not just good L&D practice? And surely survey respondents would not admit to anything other than good practice when asked the question?

Not quite true: there were survey respondents, albeit no more than 10 percent of them, who said that they were not planning to undertake upskilling and reskilling as a means of addressing talent shortages. A small majority, 58 percent, said upskilling/reskilling was the highest priority in addressing this same problem, while 10 percent, possibly the same nagging 10 percent, said it was a low priority.

The discussion continued after the presentation. Without experience as a practitioner, I wrestled with an explanation as to why this 10 percent stubbornly refused to fit the theory. Thankfully, the HR head of a Krakow-based SSC rode to my rescue and gave the answer.

This is the group, she said, which understands that reskilling and upskilling is indeed good L&D practice but remains wedded to external hiring of permanent and temporary staff. It is the group that fails to see that existing employees must be recognized as the key pool to meet scarce talent requirements in SSCs.

Her explanation, thankfully, echoed our contention that successful application of reskilling/upskilling to talent acquisition needs:

  • Senior leadership backing to ensure adequate resource and profile within the organization
  • Implementation of a skill-specific talent acquisition strategy to identify both critical areas of shortage and those most suitable for reskilling/upskilling
  • Quick roll-out of pilots in critical areas of shortage to build confidence and to learn
  • Breaking down of functional barriers and giving employees wider exposure to functional roles
  • A combination of effective duration and appropriate method (job rotation, on-the-job training, mentoring, peer-to-peer learning, and specialist external providers)
  • Clear communication of career paths, internal opportunity, incentive, and compensation
  • Patience and persistence!

She explained further. In her experience, the real difference between reskilling/upskilling as good L&D practice and reskilling/upskilling as a talent acquisition solution is simple. The talent acquisition solution approach is not considered aspirational, “something that HR does,” or nice to have. Rather, it is a strategic imperative.

How nice to have somebody who really knows what they are talking about answer a difficult question on my behalf!

Shared Services Set-up Success: Intent is as Important as Execution | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

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

Clients considering establishing a shared services center – or what we refer to as a Global In-house Center (GIC) – to deliver services, almost invariably ask us how successful the model is and whether it delivers on the expected business impacts.

To set the stage for answering the first question – how successful is the model? – the following chart shows that the number of new annual GIC set-ups has increased from <100 centers in 2015 to 145 centers in 2017, indicating a preference by companies to join the DIY bandwagon.

Shared Services Set-up Success Intent is as Important as Execution blog - GICMultiple factors contribute to this DIY trend, including: the need/desire to take a digital-first approach to service delivery; capacity/growth constraints in onshore locations; challenges with service provider performance; increased adoption of agile/DevOps; pressure to replicate the success of early adopters; and focus on end-to-end ownership in internal delivery.

Related: Is a Bigger Shared Services Center (or GIC) Always Better Performing? Maybe Not

But that chart only tells part of the pervasiveness story. While it would be reasonable to state that the primary adopters of the GIC model are large enterprises, almost half of the new centers set up since 2014 have been established by small (USD <1.5 billion revenue) and mid-sized (USD <10 billion revenue) enterprises.  This adoption – seen across technology, telecom, manufacturing, healthcare, and BFSI verticals – reflects that small and small and medium enterprises recognize the successes the large organizations in their sectors have achieved with the model. By all accounts and measures, it’s clear that use of GICs is becoming truly broad-based.

Related: Learn more about Everest Group’s Shared Services Center capabilities

Expected Business Impacts

Here are a few examples of the business impact real-world GICs are delivering beyond arbitrage.

  • Improve Customer Experience – a European insurance firm’s GIC developed a mobile app for auto insurance customers; the app has reduced claims turnaround time from 2-5 days to 3-6 hours
  • Drive Innovation – a leading snacks company’s GIC developed an app for selling in-store displays to retailers; the app has reduced the rejection rate by 20 percent
  • Contribute to Revenue – a financial services firm’s GIC has helped increase product revenue by 17 percent through analytics on product positioning in the retail market
  • Drive Operational Excellence – a leading bank’s GIC has delivered savings of ~40 percent with substantial reduction in end-to-end delivery time for the customer by deploying robotic process automation
  • Reduce Errors – a leading financial institution’s GIC has improved the commercial lending analytical models, resulting in identification of additional US$15 million worth of deals that would otherwise have been ignored.

Getting Intentional with Business Impacts

Of course, the only way to ensure business impact beyond arbitrage is by intentionally establishing the GIC to deliver business impact.

For example, we’re currently supporting a global investment management firm through the “impact-first” approach to its GIC set-up. Instead of starting operations with low-value transactional processing, the GIC will predominantly deliver high-end technology services to build tools and systems for quantitative research. The talent model is skill-centric, not scale-centric, and geared to build high-end skills in a sustainable manner. And because a key enabler of delivering business impact is ownership, the GIC will have end-to-end delivery ownership and a seat at the parent’s table to shape its evolution journey from the beginning. All these intentional actions will give the GIC a head-start in delivering business impact, and enable it to leapfrog its more tenured peers.

Overall, having an intentional approach during set-up can significantly influence and enhance the type of business impact the GIC delivers, and how soon it kicks in. And a well-thought-out approach is more likely to keep the expectations from the GIC in check, and its performance assessment objective.

Have you taken an intentional business impact approach with your GIC? Please share your experiences with us at [email protected] or [email protected].  To learn more about how we serve GICs, click here.

Is a Bigger Shared Services Center (or GIC) Always Better Performing? Maybe Not | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

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

We recently conducted a deep analysis of the digital maturity of almost 60 shared services centers, (also referred to as GICs) across diverse industries and geographies, and disseminated summary findings through a series of round tables across different Indian cities, including Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Pune. You can read the detailed results in our recently released Digital Maturity in GICs | Pinnacle Model™ Analysis.

Here, I want to focus on a question that recurs in most of our conversations: Does the size of a GIC have any implication on its Pinnacle performance on digital maturity? Note that we define Pinnacle GICs™ as those that achieve superior performance because of their advanced capabilities.

The answer to this question is not as objective as it seems.

Related: Commercial Options for India GIC Setups

Our study revealed that scaled GICs (those with 3,000+ FTEs) have consistently delivered better impact across cost savings, operational KPIs, and even strategic metrics such as contribution to revenue growth. It also showed that small (those with less than 1,000 FTEs) and mid-sized GICs (those with 1,000 – 3,000 FTEs) have demonstrated lower improvement across all business outcomes.

Is a Bigger Shared Services Center or GIC Always Better Performing Maybe Not blog image

Does this Mean that all Scaled GICs are Pinnacle GICs? Not Really

Based on our analysis, less than one-third of scaled GICs have been able to demonstrate Pinnacle performance, while multiple small and mid-sized Pinnacle GICs (~30 percent of the Pinnacle performers) have achieved superior outcomes because of their advanced capabilities.

  • For instance, a multinational conglomerate’s GIC (mid-sized with 1,000-1,500 FTEs) delivered 20-30 percent improvement on operational KPIs such as process agility and SLA compliance. This GIC operates as the global competency center for IT solutions development with end-to-end ownership across the application development lifecycle, thereby allowing it to drive process transformation changes and yield impressive improvements
  • A U.S. food & beverages major’s GIC (also mid-sized, with 1,500-2,000 FTEs) is leveraging pricing analytics to drive competitive advantage for its parent. The GIC developed a competitive intelligence and analytics platform, which allowed the firm to view what its competitors are selling and make recommendations on the necessary price changes to its merchants. This platform is tied to a machine learning engine that dynamically prices their products.

Related: Learn more about Everest Group’s Shared Services Center capabilities

Common Threads across all Pinnacle GICs’ Journeys

We believe it is the triumvirate of the approach to demand creation, strategic focus of the digital strategy, and orientation towards cross-functional collaboration.

Demand Creation

A pull-based approach to demand creation – i.e., a proactive approach to creating Proof of Concepts (POCs) and showcasing capabilities – has not only helped shared services centers secure CXO-level sponsorship, but also increase the existing breadth and depth of services to enable end-to-end process orchestration. For instance, a European BFSI major’s GIC currently operates as the RPA CoE, and champions the end-to-end global RPA program for the enterprise. However, this was not the initial mandate for this shared services center. It proactively started developing POCs, capitalized on visits by onshore C-level executives to showcase their capabilities, and subsequently received buy-in from the parent company. The CoE now operates in a hub and spoke model, wherein the India GIC (hub) provides global governance and drives RPA for Europe through the CEE shared services center (spoke).

Strategic Focus of Digital Strategy

While other GICs solely focus on technology adoption, most Pinnacle GICs focus on using technology to enable operational improvement, which consequentially results in employee and/or customer experience enhancement. With achievement of these objectives, financial benefits – both top-line and bottom-line growth – follow suit automatically. Technology adoption per se needs to be viewed as a means to the end, not the end itself. Pinnacle GICs’ more holistic approach allows them to see both higher chances of success and ROI.

Cross-functional Collaboration

The third – and most underrated – differentiator is the focus on cross-pollination of resources by breaking functional barriers. We believe that a siloed approach to digital enablement will not work, and that shared services centers need to break silos and provide employees with wider exposure to functional roles across the firm. This will not only improve knowledge flow and increase productivity, but also stimulate innovation. For some GICs, creating CoEs for select digital capabilities has significantly enhanced the pace of adoption, and sharing of skills and best practices

All these aspects, along with dedicated enterprise leadership, have enabled Pinnacle GICs to champion organization-wide digital services delivery.

If you’d like insights on how your shared services center stacks up against the competition on the digital maturity front, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

Commercial Options for India GIC Setups | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

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

There are two primary commercial options – or export-oriented schemes – available to GICs looking to export IT/ITES services from India. One is setting up a 100 percent Export Oriented Unit (EOU) under the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) scheme. This allows operations to be carried out from any location in the country. The other is setting up a delivery center in a specified, demarcated, duty-free enclave called a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). These offer additional economic benefits (e.g., tax holiday) in lieu of positive net foreign exchange earnings from the export of IT/BP services.

Which option is best for your company? Read on to learn the differences, the trade-offs, and the variables you should factor into your decision.

The Major Differences

  • Income tax holiday: SEZ units enjoy a graded income tax holiday period that translates to significant tax savings for a large-scale setup in India. The tax holiday incentive for STPI units expired in March 2011
  • Indirect tax benefits: both SEZ and STPI schemes provide custom duty exemption on imports of capital goods. However, SEZ units are also eligible for a “zero-rated” Goods and Services Tax (GST) that effectively decreases the cost input for domestically procured goods and services
  • Location: STPI units can set up operations in any location in the country. SEZ units are restricted to a designated area.

Key Decision Variables in Selecting SEZ or STPI

  • Financial attractiveness: SEZs outweigh STPIs in both direct and indirect tax incentives. Where cost savings are significant (e.g., a large-scale setup) and need to be prioritized, SEZ is a clear choice for many enterprises
  • Access to a broader ecosystem: Many SEZs offer a complete ecosystem, with easy access to commercial, residential, healthcare, and educational options. Further, SEZs offer quality infrastructure and business continuity planning advantages including:
    • Large reputed SEZs offer a more reliable supply of utilities including electricity, water, telecommunications, and overall security
    • The office space standards and building compliances (e.g., natural disaster preparedness) are typically more stringent in SEZs
  • Access to large talent pool: Given their size, SEZs offer ready access to a large, skilled talent pool with relevant technical, functional, and managerial skills. And the ecosystem often developed in and around SEZs is a significant attraction for the talent pool to work in them
  • Site and scale flexibility: STPI units provide far more location (e.g., financial district or central business district) and scale options than do SEZs. Many small-sized GICs tend to prefer this flexibility
  • Ease of compliance: Compliance and statutory reporting requirements in STPIs are relatively more lenient than in SEZs. For instance, introduction of GST has increased the compliance and record maintenance burden on SEZ units. Exiting SEZs may involve more scrutiny given the higher economic benefits involved.

SEZ vs STPI

How a Financial Services Firm Made the Decision

Everest Group recently supported a U.S.-headquartered financial services company looking to set up a small-scaled GIC in India to deliver high-end niche IT services. Our setup advisory team used a three-step process to ultimately recommend the right facility and commercial model to meet all the client’s requirements: outlining the space, handover timeline, and proximity to the central and/or secondary business districts; assessing potential savings in operating from an SEZ; and evaluating and scoring the additional pros and cons of shortlisted sites to make our final recommendation.

When we evaluated and scored the client’s “must-haves” — scope for expansion or relocation, access to social infrastructure, lower commute time, and proximity to talent hubs – against the limited SEZ options available, it became clear that an SEZ was not the right answer for the client.

Thus, we recommended that the client go ahead with an STPI option in a large IT business park, and register the unit with the STPI to benefit from indirect tax benefits. This option allows the client to take advantage of all the business park’s large talent pool, marquee tenant profile, social infrastructure, and other amenities, and gives it flexibility for any future expansion or potential relocation within or outside the business park.

More than 30 new GICs are set up in India annually, and half of these are first-time center setups. In order to ensure their success, the enterprises establishing these centers must take the time upfront to clearly understand their objectives and requirements against the trade-offs of SEZs and STPIs.

GICs are Evolving from “Delivery Centers” to “Capability Centers” | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

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

Historically, companies have leveraged the GIC model to deliver business process (operations) and IT services. However, as the model is maturing and incremental demand for these services is declining, enterprises are increasingly looking to their GICs to build more strategic Research & Development (R&D) and digital capabilities, drive innovation, and focus more on value-added services. In other words, they want their GICs to be “capability centers,” not just “delivery centers.”

There’s clear evidence that this is happening. In 2017, there was a significant increase in set-up of such capability centers focused on R&D and digital skills, especially in areas such as design, innovation, automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and cybersecurity. Indeed, our recently released GIC Annual Report 2018 shows that the share of centers supporting R&D/engineering services – including digital services – increased by almost 150 percent during 2017, as compared to 2016. And these centers accounted for more than 50 percent of total GICs setup in 2017.

Breakdown of new GIC setups by services delivered

These capabilities are expected to be the key differentiators and success drivers for global enterprises going forward. In 2017, ~46 percent of all new centers were focused on developing or expanding digital capabilities for the enterprise. There are multiple examples where offshore/nearshore GICs have been given a global mandate to lead organizational initiatives in new and emerging areas such as automation and blockchain.

Related: Simplifying skilling in Global in-house Centers (GICs)

So, how exactly are GICs becoming the global capability centers? What are the key enablers? Another of our recent research studies shows that GICs need to take a FORCEful approach:

FORCEful approach to becoming the global capability centers

  • Foster innovation: GIC leadership needs to invest in developing a customer-centric culture, and test small-scale Proof-Of-Concepts (POCs) to demonstrate end-client value and build credibility
  • Orchestrate transformation: GICs should leverage their well-established foundation by identifying their core strengths and upshifting the value they deliver through improved operational excellence with productivity enhancements, optimized pyramids, and better managed external spend. Simultaneous focus on leveraging these new capabilities to drive both growth and efficiencies will be critical to deliver true value to the enterprise
  • Reskill and upskill workforce: GICs must radically change their reskilling/upskilling initiatives to ensure talent readiness for next-generation skills. They also need to adopt a bespoke approach for specific requirements, and undertake pilots in areas with the highest skills gaps to assess the effectiveness and relevance of the capability centers model
  • Collaborate with ecosystem: GICs should proactively leverage the external ecosystem – specialist providers, startups, educational institutions, etc. – to develop holistic solutions, increase agility, and reduce go-to-market time
  • Expand existing capabilities: GICs have a unique insider’s view that enables them to provide strategic insights to orchestrate enterprise-wide digital/technological transformation, facilitate integration between IT and operations, and break functional siloes to achieve truly breakthrough results

Related: How we support shared services centers (or GICs)

To learn more about the research behind our FORCEful approach, please click here. And if you’ve already established a capability center, or are in the process of doing so, write to us at [email protected] or [email protected]. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!